The Secretary of State wants to do away with Missouri’s presidential preference primary (PPP), saying it would save taxpayers millions of dollars.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (right) applauds First Lady Teresa Parson in the Missouri House chamber in Jefferson City on January 16, 2019 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

Republican Jay Ashcroft made his comments about the PPP, while testifying last week before the House Budget Committee in Jefferson City.

“An election that has really no bearing on the presidential race,” Ashcroft testifies.

He tells Budget Committee members that Missouri is using a caucus system now, to choose delegates.

“You all know that we have a presidential primary, we spend $9.1 million of taxpayer money,” says Ashcroft. “And then we ignore the results and we have a caucus that actually chooses delegates to choose who goes to the national conventions.”

If state lawmakers approve Mr. Ashcroft’s call, it would not impact this year’s PPP, which will take place on March 10 across Missouri.

None of the Budget Committee members from either party had follow-up questions for Secretary Ashcroft, about his call.

Ashcroft says doing away with the PPP would save $9.1 million ever four years, plus interest.

Missouri’s Legislature adopted the presidential preference primary in 1986, for one PPP to be held in 1988. Some at the time said it was aimed at helping then-U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-St. Louis County, in his 1988 presidential campaign. Congressman Gephardt ended his presidential run in March 1988, and ran again and was re-elected for his congressional seat.

Missouri used caucuses in 1992 and 1996. Then in 1998, the Legislature approved a PPP with no expiration date. That was Senate Bill 709, which was signed by then-Governor Mel Carnahan.

The state has held presidential preference primaries five straight times: in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.

During his testimony, Secretary Ashcroft also emphasized the importance of technology, in his office and in libraries.

Ashcroft testifies his office is willing to absorb the cost of the Legislative Library, which is located at the State Capitol.

“It’s not a lot of money, but we would allow you (state lawmakers) to zero out the budget for the Legislative Library. We would absorb the cost of that into our own budget,” Ashcroft says.

Ashcroft wants to use his office’s technology trust fund to update the Legislative Library, which he says it not electronically cataloged. He tells lawmakers it would provide a better library experience for them and for their constituents who visit the Capitol.

Ashcroft’s technology trust fund is supported by business filing fees. He notes it funded a complete overhaul of what he calls an outdated Secretary of State’s office phone system. Ashcroft tells lawmakers that under the old phone system, it was difficult to transfer calls from St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield to the Jefferson City office. Many callers were cut off, because of the old technology.

He also testifies that filing fees collected by his office added $8.8 million to general revenue in the last fiscal year.

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