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Missouri House votes down bill to reinstate presidential primary

Voters take to the polls on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, at Dewey International Studies School in Hi-Pointe.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Voters take to the polls on Jan. 17, 2023, at Dewey International Studies School in Hi-Pointe.

In a surprising move Monday, the Missouri House failed to pass a bill that would have reinstated the presidential primary for the 2024 election

The bill was initially approved on a voice vote last week, but failed when it came up for a roll call Monday to give it final approval — a practice that’s usually considered a formality.

“I believe we had (the results we were looking for) and I’m not certain yet what happened, why all these people suddenly reversed their votes,” said Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, the bill’s sponsor.

While the bill got 65 votes in support, 56 representatives from both parties voted in opposition, 31 Democrats voted “present” and 10 others did not vote.

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, voted against the bill even though he said his caucus thinks it’s important to go back to a primary. Merideth said his party had a problem with amendments — specifically one that changed the date of the proposed primary from March to April. That amendment was added to the bill during floor debate last week.

“(If) you move (Missouri’s election) to April, we’re going to be virtually irrelevant, because all of the winners of the primaries are already going to have been decided,” he said.

Merideth added that having the partisan presidential primary in April would conflict with the nonpartisan municipal elections that already are held in April.

Members of Merideth’s party were surprised by the result. Missouri Democratic Party Chair Russ Carnahan and Missouri Republican Party Chair Nick Myers both testified at hearings in support of the bill.

“I think the primaries are popular and, frankly, caucuses exclude a lot of people from being able to participate,” Carnahan said after the vote. “If we want more trust and engagement with our democratic institutions … presidential primaries are a way to do that.”

With so many Democrats voting “present”, Merideth said those votes are “a way of saying ‘there are things in this I really support and don’t want to vote against … but there are also things in a bill that I can’t vote for.’”

Veit said that he is considering filing a motion to reconsider the result. Because his side received the most votes, 65, the bill can be voted on again if he can recruit 30 votes to do so.

“There was a verbal commitment I had from a lot of people that I thought were in support of the bill,” he said. “I didn’t see a unified force against us.”

He said he wants to talk to people to find out what went wrong.

“Maybe what it takes is, we sit down and figure out what the story is.”

Samantha Dietel also contributed to this story.

This story originally appeared in the Columbia Missourian.  It can be republished in print or online. 

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