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How To Caucus, A Kansas Voter Guide

Justin Grimes
Kansans will caucus Saturday for their presidential picks.

Update, 9:15 a.m. Tuesday: this post was updated after Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced they will visit Kansas later this week.

OK, Kansas. Your turn.

Come Saturday, Kansans will have their chance to weigh in on the presidential hopefuls.

Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, called it “a presidential Saturday” because this year both parties will caucus on the same day.

Andy Sandler with the Kansas Democratic Party compared the caucus to an old-fashioned town meeting.

“The caucuses are basically democracy with a small ‘d,’” Sandler told KCUR’s Steve Kraske on Monday’s Up To Date. “It allows more direct participation.”

Here’s what you need to know.

What the heck is a caucus?

It’s basically a party election. Democrats and Republicans caucus separately in Kansas, but each party is trying to figure out the same thing: how to allocate delegates for the national conventions.

So you’re saying I have to be a registered Democrat or Republican to participate.

Yes. Republicans had to be registered by Feb. 4 to participate. Democrats, you still have time, as the party is allowing in-person registration on Saturday afternoon.

Where do I go and when do I go there?

Republicans are caucusing earlier in the day, so we’ll start with them. Registered Republicans can cast a ballot anytime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Go early if you’d like to hear the speeches.

As for where to go, Johnson County Republicans have options. Lots of ’em. Head here for the full list of locations. In Wyandotte County, Republicans should head to the Open Door Baptist Church, 3033 N. 103rd Ter., Kansas City, Kansas 66109.

The Democrats are doing things a little differently. To caucus, you have to go in person between 1 and 3 p.m. to register. The caucus will start at promptly 3:30.

Caucusing will be done based on Senate District. Go here and enter your address. You might be in for a bit of a drive if you live in rural Kansas, as there’s only 47 sites statewide.

So what should I expect?

Remember Iowa?

Yeah, well, if you’re a Kansas Republican, it won’t be anything like that.

“The Kansas Republicans are very different than what you may have seen in Iowa,” Barker said. “We use a secret paper ballot, not people walking into corners of the room and doing a head count.”

The Kansas Republican Party is staffed primarily by volunteers, Barker said, and it’s just easier this way. The party will mail absentee ballots to military personnel and people who otherwise can’t participate in-person. Request one here.

Democrats, however, have to participate in person. Here’s where all the obsessive caucus-watching in other states might pay off.

You’ll have a chance to make a case for your preferred candidate among other left-leaning Kansans, no secret ballots allowed.

“You can’t please everybody, but most people are very excited about the candidates they support,” Sandler said.

Does Kansas matter?

Well, not to trigger an existential crisis or anything, but no.

Kansas Republicans will send 40 delegates to the national convention. That’s about 1.6 percent of the 2,472 delegates expected.

Kansas Democrats will send a similar number of delegates, 37, to their party’s convention. But it’s a bigger convention – some 4,765 are expected to attend – so it works out to less than 1 percent.

Late Monday, Ted Cruz announced he will visit Johnson County Wednesday. Bernie Sanders is planning to stop in Lawrence on Thursday. The Vermont senator has already been to the Missouri side of the metro.

Depending how Super Tuesday goes, it’s possible you’ll see other candidates stopping here later this week.

Isn’t there a basketball game Saturday?

Oh good, something both parties can agree on.

The University of Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State all play on Saturday.

Kraske asked Sanders this one when he was in town last week: “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” the senator said.

OK, so maybe he hasn’t been to Allen Fieldhouse.

I’m from Missouri.

Me too! Our presidential primary is March 15. We trust you already know how to cast a ballot, so no voter guide for you. Sorry.

I can’t get enough political news.

Great! Neither can we. Stay tuned to KCUR 89.3, and follow me (@ellemoxley), Cody Newill (@codynewill) and Frank Morris (@franknewsman) for updates the day of the caucuses.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

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Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.