2016 Delegate Selection-Part II-Democratic Rules Basics

As noted in the first part of this series,  the Democratic Party has adopted a set of rules designed to make the delegate selection process more uniform from state to state.  As a consequence, the Democratic Party’s rules are somewhat complex covering a lot of details of what states must do and what is optional.  In fact, the first rule requires the state parties to submit their state delegate selection plans to the Democratic National Committee’s Rule and By-laws Committee (a familiar body for those who followed the 2008 campaign closely) for approval.  Additionally, the rules require that the state parties have a period of public comment on the proposed plan before the state party adopts the plan and submit it to the DNC.  As a result, most, if not all, of the draft plans will be posted on-line.  (A good source for finding the draft plans is here.)  In theory, all of the draft plans should be available within the next week or two (as they are supposed to be adopted by May 4 with a minimum of a thirty-day period for public comment).

The Democratic rules recognize four different types of delegates:  1) district-level delegates; 2) at-large delegates; 3) pledged PLEOs (party leaders and elected officials); and 4) unpledged PLEOs (commonly referred to by the media as “super delegates).   Other than unpledged PLEOs, the allocation of the remaining delegates to states and within the states are, for the most part, dictated by the national party rules.  (The actual formula will be discussed in more detail in Part III.)  Unpledged PLEOs consist of:  1) DNC members; 2) current and former Democratic Presidents and Vice-Presidents; 3) current Democratic Senators and Representatives; 4) current Democratic governors; and 5) former Democratic Speakers of the House, House Minority Leaders, Senate Majority Leaders, Senate Minority Leaders, and DNC chairs.  Members of these five groups are automatically delegates to the national convention and are free to vote for any candidate at the national convention.

Except for unpledged PLEOs, the process for choosing delegates are set forth by the state party rules.  However, the sequence for electing the delegates is (except for one district states) district delegates, followed by pledged PLEOs, followed by at-large delegates.  Within each category, delegates are awarded to presidential candidates based on the proportion of the vote that the presidential candidate receives in a particular state (described more fully in Part III).  Individuals wanting to run for delegates have to declare which candidate they are pledged to support at the national convention.  (That pledge is considered to be morally, but not legally binding. )  The presidential campaigns have a limited right to veto potential delegate candidates.  In the selection process, states are required to have a gender-balanced delegation (including any super-delegates from the state).  (In other words, there must be the same number of men and women in the delegation unless the delegation has an odd number in which case the extra delegate can be either a man or a woman but the delegation must otherwise be gender balanced).  While the rules do not require the selection of minority delegates, the selecting bodies are instructed to give “priority” consideration to potential minority delegates.

Under Democratic Party rules, for most states, the earliest possible date on which a state can hold a primary or state party can hold local caucuses is March 1.  However, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina are given an exemption allowing those states to hold their first step in February (with a different date allowed for each of those four states).  The rules provide for a minimum penalty of a loss of 50% of a state’s delegation if that state violates the timing rules.  The rules further penalize any presidential candidate who campaigns in a state that violates the timing rules.  Additionally, the loss of 50% of a state’s delegates (and all of its unpledged PLEOs) is the minimum penalty, and the Rules and By-laws Committee can opt to impose additional penalties.  A similar penalty would apply if a state party did not comply with the proportionality rules.  However, the penalty can be waived if the Rules and By-laws Committee finds that the non-compliance is due to a state law that the state party has attempted to change.

In Part III, I will take a look at how delegates are allocated to the states and to districts within a state.  I will also take a look at the different mechanisms available to a state for electing delegates and the application of the proportionality rule to those processes.

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