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Absentee voting begins in Missouri presidential primary

Hey, Missouri — don’t let Iowa claim all the presidential fun.

You can have some voice in the presidential nominating process

before

the Hawkeye state’s famous caucuses Jan. 3.

In-person absentee voting in the Missouri’s presidential preference primary actually started Tuesday. In the Jackson County part of Kansas City, voters can cast absentee ballots at the election board offices in Union Station, and other election authorities must accept absentee votes at their headquarters.

The primary is Feb. 7.

As in other elections, you must have a reason for voting absentee in Missouri. Excuses include a planned absence on Election Day, a physical disability or illness, or a religious belief that interferes with casting a ballot on the day itself. Absentee ballots can be cast until Feb. 6, and can be obtained by mail from the local election authority.

While it may provide you some satisfaction to beat Iowa to the voting booth, keep in mind that Missouri’s primary won’t have any official bearing on who gets nominated for president.

“It’s a straw poll,” said Shawn Kieffer, the GOP director of the Kansas City Election Board. Actual party convention delegates will be picked later in 2012, although some Republicans hope the primary results will indirectly influence delegate selection.

It’s an expensive straw poll at that. Kieffer said his board will spend between $350,000 and $400,000 on the election, paid for by the state of Missouri. By some estimates Missouri taxpayers will shell out between $4 million and $8 million for the non-binding “beauty contest.”

In a release last year Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, defended the primary, although she criticized the state’s Republicans for de-linking primary results from delegate selection.

“Anyone arguing an election ‘isn’t worth the cost,’ need only turn on the news to see the price those who have been oppressed, voiceless and powerless for too long are willing to pay for the right to vote,” Carnahan wrote.

Four Democrats, including President Barack Obama, are on the Democratic primary ballot. The GOP ballot contains 10 candidates — although contender Newt Gingrich missed the filing deadline and isn’t among them.

Voters can also cast an “uncommitted” preference. The Libertarian Party has one candidate on its primary ballot and the Constitution Party has none.

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