In this past legislative session, one of the issues discussed was the Presidential Primary election cycle. One of the freshman legislators is a former political science professor, Representative Darin Chappell, District 137. I asked his opinion on the subject and the following is his explanation in his own words.
Primaries in the State of Missouri are not elections. That may be the biggest misconception of people involved in the process, but it is true nonetheless. Primaries are simply part of the nomination process for individual party organizations, which are private entities, not the government itself. Therefore, when primaries are undertaken, regardless of which party is involved, no one is being elected to anything at all. What is occurring is merely that the party is selecting which candidate will represent their party and its interests in the actual election in November. The general election is the only election of the entire process.
Now, as it relates to Missouri, we use a caucus system to select individuals who will go to represent the State at the national convention for each party. As Republicans, we caucus at the County, then Congressional District levels to choose delegates for the State Convention. It is at the State Convention that the party platform is finalized, the delegates to the RNC are selected, and the Electors for the Electoral College will be appointed on behalf of the State, should the Republican nominee win the general election for President. Having a Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) does not change any of that process. However, according to new party rules, the winner of Missouri’s PPP will determine which candidate will be supported at the RNC for the first round of voting. After that 1st round, the delegates are no longer bound by anything, and may vote for whichever candidate they see fit. This is important, because, as is often the case, a candidate having regional support in the early stages of the campaign season may actually have dropped out of the race by the time the RNC is convened on a national stage.
So, while most people will tell you that they have voted for President many times in the past, the reality is that, unless one has ever served as an Elector in the Electoral College, none of us has ever actually voted for President. What we have done is announce our collective support for one candidate over another, and, if our State is carried by one party over the other, that slate of Electors goes to Washington D.C. in the December after the general election, and votes for the candidate the State supported by majority.
I realize this is not the way people understand the system to work, but that misunderstanding is a function of us not having explained it well. Some will say that this is undemocratic. That’s true, but we are not a Democracy; we are a Republic. We are in fact guaranteed a Republican form of government by the Constitution of the United States, Article IV, Section 4. Criticizing a Republic for not being very democratic in nature is a bit like criticizing a bicycle for not being very good for use as a boat.
There are many folks, with a variety of backgrounds important to the discussion of potential legislation. Our office is always willing to put you in touch with those that may have a unique perspective of a particular subject. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to reach out. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or call Jill at 573-751-6668
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