COLUMBIA — Missouri's presidential primary will take place Tuesday, but it won't do anything to determine the allocation of delegates for the Republican Party nomination.
Missouri Republican Party spokesman Jonathon Prouty said that in the past few years the Republican and Democratic national committees have passed new rules directing states to move nominating processes later into the year.
Republicans | Gary Johnson, Mitt Romney, Michael J. Meehan, Keith Drummond, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich. On the ballot, but no longer running: Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Michele Bachman.
Democrats | President Barack Obama, Randall Terry, John Wolfe, Darcy Richardson.
Libertarian | James Orlando Ogle III
Prouty said the parties were trying to avoid the national primary effect that emerged with previous elections' "Super Tuesdays," in which many states would hold primaries on the same day early in the campaign season.
As a consequence for ignoring Republican Party rules, which this year declared that no states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada could hold a primary or caucus before March 6, the party threatened to count only half an offending states' delegates at the national convention.
“The national party told Missouri they had to move the primary later in the year, but in Missouri the primary date is a state law,” Prouty said. “The legislative assembly had to pass a bill in order to move the primary.”
The legislature passed a bill last year to delay the primary, but Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed that measure in July based on concerns unrelated to the primary date. The primary came up for debate again during the General Assembly's fall special session, but legislators failed to act.
Prouty said the Missouri Republican Party faced an Oct. 1 deadline for submitting state rules to the GOP national committee. In late September, when the legislature still had not passed a bill to move the primary, the state party voted to get around national party rules by informing the national GOP that it would use caucuses beginning in March to allocate the state's delegates.
County caucuses will be held March 17, followed by caucuses in each of Missouri's congressional districts.
“The party’s primary objective was to protect the Missouri delegates’ strength at the national convention,” Prouty said.
The caucus system for deciding nominations has its limits, said Ryan Hobart, a spokesman for Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. He noted that about 540,000 people cast ballots in the 2004 presidential primary, compared to about 20,000 who participated in the most recent caucuses, in 1996, that were used to determine party nominees.
"Secretary Carnahan's position has been that political parties should use the results of the primary to determine nominations because many more people participate in primaries than caucuses," Hobart said.
The Secretary of State's office has created a website with questions and answers about the primary.
Hobart said it will cost about $7 million to conduct the 2012 presidential primary. That's about the same as the 2008 cost.
The primary results will count for Democrats, who are virtually certain to nominate incumbent President Barack Obama. Libertarian delegates are chosen at a state convention.
“The decision to hold the primary was up to the legislature, and they appropriated the money for it,” Hobart said.
Prouty said the party hopes to return to a presidential primary for making nominations in 2016.
“We encourage everyone to participate in the primary,” Prouty said. “It’s important because the media will look at it as a result.”
Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said she thinks an estimated 15,000 to 17,000 people will cast primary ballots in Boone County. She said the cost to the state to hold the primary in Boone County is more than $200,000.
Noren said 36,275 Democrat, 26,550 Republican, 2,650 Libertarian and 2,650 Constitution Party ballots have been printed.
Hobart said people should know that it doesn’t matter what party a person might identify with. Missouri's primary is open, which means a voter can choose a ballot from any party he or she wants.
While there are no Constitution Party candidates, voters can request a Constitution Party ballot and vote "uncommitted," as they can on each of the other three parties' ballots.
There are 10 Republican and four Democratic candidates on the ballot, along with one Libertarian. The ballots will include the names of some candidates who have formally stepped out of the race.
Voters also will notice that Newt Gingrich is not on the Republican ballot. Hobart said he failed to file his candidacy in time. Gingrich plans to compete for Missouri delegates in the caucuses, however.
Residents must have registered by Jan. 11 to be eligible to vote in the primary.
Noren said voters should check their registration and look up where their polling place is ahead of time. She said if voters have not received a sample ballot in the mail or by email, it could be an indication that something is incorrect with their registration.
Information about voter registration and polling places can be found at showmeboone.com/clerk.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.