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Missouri primary will cost millions, but not matter

A voter signs in at the Briarcliff Elementary School polling station Nov. 4, 2008 in Clay County, Kansas City, Mo. This year's GOP primary won't matter when it comes to selecting a candidate.

Jeremy Hobson: Missouri is holding its presidential primary tomorrow, and turnout is expected to be extremely low. That is in part because the votes won't count, even though the primary will close taxpayers millions of dollars.

Maria Altman of St Louis Public Radio explains.


Maria Altman: Like most states, Missouri has a big budget shortfall. Right now, it's about $500 million.

Kevin Engler: You can make it $507 million.

State Sen. Kevin Engler says it's a waste to spend an estimated $7 million on Missouri's primary. The Republican pushed legislation to cancel the election, but didn't get enough support.

Engler: When you have people that stand up and rally for the right of the people and about how it's so important they get to vote knowing their votes won't matter, they should be embarrassed.

Missouri's primaries usually do matter. But this year, the national GOP said only a few states could hold elections before March, or they'd lose delegates.

When an effort to move the Missouri primary failed, the state's GOP decided to hold caucuses in mid-March.

Ken Warren: So the delegates from Missouri would count.

Political scientist Ken Warren.

Warren: But on the other hand, they haven't canceled the primary, so we're still holding a totally worthless primary.

The head of Missouri's Republican Party, Lloyd Smith, disagrees. He says the primary's winner will still get lots of attention.

Lloyd Smith: And anytime you're able to get your name out in a positive way, it will have an impact on those people who will ultimately go to the caucuses.

But, Smith says, caucus-goers don't have to go along with what happens in the primary.

In St. Louis, I'm Maria Altman for Marketplace.

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