Politics

Sen. Rand Paul’s great experiment is finally upon us: the Republican presidential caucus.

On Saturday, Kentucky Republicans will head to the polls to vote in the state party’s presidential nomination contest, determining how the state’s 46 delegates will be split up between five active candidates.

Where to vote

Voters won’t head to their normal precinct locations, instead they’ll head to designated caucus sites that have been determined by the state Republican Party.

Most counties have one caucus site that all county participants will have to travel to. Larger counties will have multiple caucus locations. To participate, voters are required to go to their designated caucus location, which can be found on the state Republican Party’s website.

Carlisle, Elliott, Estill, Harlan, Knott, Livingston, Morgan, Owsley and Trimble counties do not have caucus locations, but residents will be able to participate in adjacent counties.

When to vote

Caucus locations are open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Who can vote?

Kentucky Republicans who registered to vote by Dec. 31.

Who’s on the ballot?

Even though only five candidates are still officially running for president, 11 names will appear on the ballot because the party has no system for altering it at this point.

Yes, that means Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has suspended his presidential campaign to focus on his Senate run, will be among the choices.

Candidates still in the race: Neurologist Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and businessman Donald Trump.

Candidates who suspended campaigns but are still on the Kentucky Caucus ballot: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

What’s voting going to be like?

Republican Party officials say voting will be pretty much the same as in a state-run election, except some counties will use paper ballots.

Unlike a “normal” election, electioneering will be allowed within 100 feet of the caucus sites. That means you can expect to see some campaigning going on right up to the caucus locations.

Turnout is usually low for Republican primaries in Kentucky. Only 15 percent showed up for the GOP primary in 2012. Counties that only have one caucus location might see fewer voters traveling from remote areas.

Also, the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team will be playing Louisiana State in Lexington at 2 p.m., right before the polls close.

What’s at stake?

According to a Western Kentucky University poll conducted last week, Trump, the front-runner, has the clear majority in Kentucky’s caucus.

Kentucky has 46 delegates that will be awarded proportionally to candidates who garner more than 5 percent of the vote.

Despite the relatively few delegates here, each delegate could be especially important this year. That’s because the Republican establishment is maneuvering to deny Trump the nomination, said Dewey Clayton, a University of Louisville political science professor.

“The only way that candidates can make any inroads and continue on is that somehow, they can begin to pull a few delegates away from Trump,” Clayton said.

Trump needs to get 1,237 delegates to secure the Republican nomination. If he doesn’t get that many delegates by the Republican National Convention in July, then the nominating process could head into a brokered convention.

That means delegates obtained through the primary no longer have to stick with their candidate, and the possibility of rallying around an alternative candidate could open up.

Clayton said that makes small primaries like Kentucky all the more important.

“That would at least give them hope that there’s a possibility on down the road that they can still stay in this thing,” he said. “But if Trump wins sort of hands down, that’s a signal to Trump and those candidates as well that that ship has actually moved on.”

Also at stake is whether Republicans decide to conduct another caucus in the future.

This year’s venture was jumpstarted by a $250,000 infusion from Paul’s campaign. Party officials say they’ll decide whether to have another caucus during the next presidential cycle.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.