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AP Decision Notes: What to expect in Missouri’s Democratic presidential primary

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden goes before Missouri primary voters on Saturday, and much has changed since the last time he was on the state’s ballot seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

For starters, the day after Biden defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont by 26 percentage points in the 2020 primary, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and life around the globe was upended.

Two years later, after voting and election administration issues became highly politicized during the 2020 campaign, Missouri Republicans pushed through a package of stricter voting requirements that included a provision canceling state-run presidential primaries and turning that responsibility over to state parties.

Saturday’s primary is the Missouri Democratic Party’s first party-run presidential contest since the law took effect in August 2022. The event is not an Iowa-style caucus, where participants vote by moving around the room to form candidate preference groups and deliberate with other caucusgoers. Missouri voters will show up at a voting center, cast a secret ballot and leave as soon as they have turned in that ballot.

Republicans held presidential caucuses earlier in the month, and that event more closely resembled the old Iowa format.

Biden faces a much less competitive field than he did four years ago. Both he and Republican Donald Trump, the former president, won enough delegates on March 12 to unofficially lock up their parties’ nominations.

A a look at what to expect on Saturday:

PRIMARY DAY

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. CDT, which is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT

The ballot lists Biden, Jason Palmer, Marianne Williamson, former candidate Dean Phillips and two others. “Uncommitted” is also an option. There is no Republican presidential contest on Saturday.

WHO GETS TO VOTE

Missouri voters who registered by Feb. 21 as Democrats or as unaffiliated may participate in the primary. Registered Republicans may not participate.

DELEGATE ALLOCATION RULES

There are 64 pledged Democratic delegates at stake in Missouri.

Fourteen at-large delegates are allocated in proportion to the statewide vote, as are eight PLEO delegates, or “party leaders and elected officials.” The state’s eight congressional districts have a combined 42 delegates at stake, which are allocated in proportion to the vote results in each district.

Candidates must receive at least 15% of the statewide vote to qualify for any statewide delegates and 15% of the vote in a congressional district to qualify for delegates in that district.

DECISION NOTES

The state party is expected to announce final vote results at some point between Monday and next Thursday.

The Associated Press’ winner call will be based on the state party’s announcement. If the party releases partial results before then, the AP may declare Biden, as the only major candidate in the race, the winner at the first indication that he is winning statewide on a level consistent with the overwhelming margins seen in most other contests held so far.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE

More than 666,000 voters cast ballots in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary when it was run by the state. The turnout for a noncompetitive party-run primary with fewer polling places and limited in-person voting hours is likely to be much lower.

Mail ballots are available to any eligible voter who requested one between Feb. 1 and March 12 and must be received by the state party by Saturday at 10 a.m. CDT, which is 11 a.m. EDT.

HOW LONG WILL VOTE-COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?

All mail-in and in-person ballots from throughout the state will be transported to a single tabulation facility in Jefferson City. The Missouri Democratic Party expects to release final results as early as Monday and no later than next Thursday.

ARE WE THERE YET?

As of Saturday, there will be 149 days until the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and 227 days until the November general election.

Robert Yoon, The Associated Press


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