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Graham Seeks to Repeal Presidential Primary

February 01, 1999
By: Chris Pelikan
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Columbia's Rep. Chuck Graham has sponsored legislation to repeal the presidential primary in Missouri -- passed just last year by state lawmakers.

"I think we have some real procedural problems in terms of seating the delegates, in terms of when the election is and whether it really makes a difference. I don't think the taxpayers should foot the bill for an April beauty contest," Graham said.

If current legislation withstands Graham's proposal, the 2000 presidential primary would be held in early April. "Super Tuesday," the most decisive day in the presidential primary process, is held on March 7th.

"We don't know if we're going to hold it yet in March or April and there's a division among county clerks as to which month to hold it in," said Graham.

Boone County Clerk, Wendy Noren, agreed that Missouri's presidential primary has a number of problems surrounding it.

"We could have the primary in April, in conjunction with the other elections, or have it in March. However, it's not convenient for the voters to have to vote in March and then go back and vote again in April," said Noren.

Some lawmakers have proposed moving the presidential primary to March rather than abandoning the idea.

Noren also added the primary may cause more of a headache for Boone County election officials.

"The April election has up to ten different styles of ballot with six different parties. A presidential primary only increases the potential for error," said Noren. The election in April involves a number of offices and commissions, each of which utilize different districts. Thus, the possibility exists that 60 different ballots will be necessary in April, a thought that leaves Noren weary of further complicating the election.

Secretary of State Bekki Cook has shown opposition to Graham's proposal and cites the people of Missouri as her reason.

"Whenever I held town meetings, I asked people what they wanted. I explained the situation and the majority of the time people preferred April over March and they wanted a primary," said Cook

Cook expressed surprise at Noren's concern.

"No county clerk said that they had a problem with April when this was decided," said Cook.

Cook, however, also indicated another bill exists in the Senate that would move the primary to March 7th. Despite previous statements that the people wanted an April primary, Cook said she would support the move to early March.

Former Columbia Rep. Chris Kelly voiced support for Graham's proposition and touched on Graham's call for a system of caucus.

"I think that primaries, in general, are bad. The caucus is about neighborhoods while the primary is about television ads," said Kelly, chairman of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

A hearing has yet to be set for Graham's bill, however all parties consented that they hope this issue is resolved by the end of this legislative session.