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Tag Archives: Delegate Selection
This election is a bitter pill to swallow because everybody got it wrong. Apparently even the internal polls of the RNC in the last week of the campaign showed Secretary Clinton ahead. At the end of the day, President-elect Trump managed to avoid shooting himself in the foot just long enough during the last two weeks for Republicans who were telling pollsters that they were voting for Governor Johnson or were undecided to hold their noses and come back home. Certainly, the polls with two weeks to go encouraged the Clinton campaign to dream about states that they could go into and help Democrats in down ballot races. The perception that Clinton would win in some ways gave permission for Republicans to hold their noses and vote for Trump to keep the margin down and for Democrats to cast protest votes for third party candidates.
It’s also a bitter pill because the race got very personal. Since the election, I have gotten e-mails from local activists about the issues that the party needs to address. On most of the issues, there was a plan on that issue from the Clinton campaign. The issues, however, never got aired as the campaign focused on the flaws of the two candidates. I don’t think that the choice of the Democratic candidate mattered on this aspect of the campaign. In the primary, Trump also ran a very personality based campaign, slandering his opponents and coming up with labels to characterize the rest of the Republican candidates. Certain issues that were mentioned in the DNC WikiLeaks memos were not good issues for a Democratic primary but would have proven useful tools for the Trump campaign in the general election. Trump was such a big personality and so uniquely “not ready” to be President, it is hard to see how any Democratic campaign could have avoided the temptation to focus on Trump’s flaws and gotten the media to focus on the issues rather than the personalities.
Given the closeness of this election what needs to change between now and 2020.
While there is still plenty of time left in the 2016 election, discussion has already started about the rules for the 2020 election. Changes to the delegate selection process tends to be driven by “fixing” what the party sees as the problem in the last election cycle. For example, a lot of the changes on the Republican side (e.g., the binding rules, penalties for states violating the rules) were driven by what the party leadership thought went wrong in 2012 — Ron Paul doing better at state conventions than he did on caucus nights, states violating the timing and proportionality rules.
The two parties are at different stages of the process for modifying the procedures for 2020. For the Republicans, the process for convening the next convention is part of the party rules . Normally, the rules can only be amended at the convention. In 2012, the convention granted limited “one time only” authority to the Republican National Committee to change the process. Given the difficulty of making changes on the fly during a convention, it is likely that the Republicans might give the RNC this power again. For the Democrats, the actual drafting of the rules for the next convention is done by the Democratic National Committee after the convention. Typically, the most that has happened during the nomination process is an agreement to have a study commission to look at revisions to the rules.
As April begins to turn into May, delegate counts become key. This site has typically used the count at www.thegreenpapers.com as a good count — mostly because the Green Papers shows its work — exactly how it calculates the delegate counts. Actually, the Green Papers has four separate counts. What those different counts mean for the next two months is the main focus of this post. To explain the terminology that the Green Papers uses, the Green Papers distinguishes between hard counts and soft counts. The hard count is the actual number of delegates actually won to date. The soft count has three components — the soft pledged count, the soft unpledged count, and the soft total. These components have slightly different meanings for the two parties given the difference in the rules of the two parties. This post looks in a general sense at what these counts mean — primarily looking at the delegates from the states that have already voted — for the Republicans.
For the Republican Party, because delegates are bound by either the initial presidential preference vote or the delegate’s pledge when they ran for delegate (in certain caucus states, Illinois, and West Virginia), the hard count and the soft pledged count is, for the most part, the same for all of the candidates and differs only for uncommitted. Soft unpledged (for the most part) represents officially uncommitted delegates who have announced their non-binding support for a candidate. Additionally, for Colorado and Wyoming, the Green Papers treats the automatic delegates as “available” but for American Samoa, Guam, North Dakota, and the Virgin Islands, the Green Papers treat these delegates as uncommitted. The actual status appears to be the same for both sets of automatic delegates — because there was no preference vote, these delegates are not bound to support any of the candidates.
For the Republican Party, all that truly matters for now is the hard count. Including the automatic delegates from Colorado and Wyoming and the 54 district-level delegates from Pennsylvania, there will be 124 unbound delegates available on June 8 (128 if the original delegation from the Virgin Islands is seated by the Convention). Of those 124 delegates, 18 will be the party leaders (party chair and RNC members) from the three states and three territories that did not hold a preference vote. The other 106 or 110 will be the individual elected as uncommitted delegates in Colorado (4), American Samoa (6), Guam (6), North Dakota (25), Virgin Islands (2 or 6), Wyoming (1), Louisiana (5), Oklahoma (3), and Pennsylvania (54). In addition to the uncommitted delegates, there are the delegates won by the other candidates. As discussed last month, as best as can be determined, sixty-nine of these delegates are effectively unbound and another 44 could be released by the candidate to whom they are bound. Presumably Ben Carson will release his nine delegates, but the other 35 might be kept bound if the remaining candidates are firmly opposed to Trump. (Given the binding rules, it is hard to see how any candidate other than Trump could win on the first ballot. If it gets to the second ballot, everything is up in the air.) The key for unbound delegates is that tentative pledges by these delegates (including guesses as to which way these delegates are believed to be leaning) are not binding or set in stone. Depending upon how the rest of the campaign goes, they are free to change their mind.
In multiple past posts, I and others on this site have discussed the procedures by which delegates are allocated to the states and how candidates then win delegate slots. This post deals with the process by which real live human beings are chosen to fill those delegate slots. When the nominee of the party is settled before the convention, the actual people serving as delegates simply confirm that decision. In a contested convention, the delegates will have to actually decide the nominee of the party. In such a circumstance, who is filling those slots can become very significant.
As with the more general rules, there are some similarities between the Democratic rules and the Republican rules. There are, however, very significant differences — particularly in how the two parties assure that the delegates are actually loyal to their supposed candidate.
Now that South Carolina is over, we can turn our attention to Super Tuesday and its immediate aftermath. When compared to the Republican Party, the Democratic math is both simpler and more complex. The simpler side is that the thresholds for qualifying for delegates is the same in every state and district — 15%. Similarly, the only way for the winner to take all of the delegates is to keep the opponent beneath 15%. There are two complexities on the Democratic side. First, even in the same state, the number of delegates elected from each district is different. Second, rather than pooling all state-wide delegates together, the Democrats have two pools (except in the territories) — 1) pledged party leaders and 2) at-large delegates.
There will be eleven states and one territory voting on Tuesday, followed by three states on Saturday, and one state on Sunday. Democrats Abroad begin voting on Tuesday, but do not finish up until next week. The easy way to gain delegates on an opponent is simply to win districts in which there are an odd-number of delegates. A one-vote margin in those districts gives you that extra delegate (whether a 2-1, 3-3, 4-3, or 5-4 or larger split). Beyond that original margin, getting an even larger split or avoiding an even split in delegates in the districts with even margins requires a somewhat large margin (with how large depending on the number of delegates at issue. It can be done, as shown by the last three states, but it is not easy. This part of the delegate math is what makes it difficult for candidates who fall behind early to catch-up later. Now onto the state-by-state splits:
For a couple more weeks, the primaries are still in the one or two states per week mode. With one or two states, it is possible to do a detailed discussion of the rules for delegate allocation and to clarify the “math” of winning delegates. Once March 1 hits, with double digit contests on both sides, the battle for delegates will become a multi-front war in which even the campaigns will be trying to figure out where the battlegrounds are.
While vote totals are not irrelevant to presidential elections (especially in the primary phase when trailing candidates quickly find that they lack the financial resources to continue), what ultimately matters is not the popular vote, but winning delegates (for the primaries) and electors (for the general). The delegate math heading into the Iowa Caucuses are different for the two parties for two reasons: 1) the stage at which delegates are bound and 2) the two parties do proportional representation differently.
In this, the final part of the series, we take a look at how the other side will be doing things for 2016. The Republicans do things differently in several ways. First, where the Democratic rules are several separate documents, the Republican rules are actually part of the basic rules of the Republican National Committee (with the rules for the convention being Rules 13-20. Second, with limited exceptions (which happened in this cycle), the Republican rules are actually adopted at the last national convention. (The Democrats draft the rules in the two years after the last convention). Third, as noted, in the first post in the series, the Republicans actually have very few national rules (essentially eight basic rules) and mostly leave it to the state parties to make the important decisions that structure the selection process.
the first two parts of this series, we looked at the some background information that applies to both parties (namely the roles of the national parties, the state parties) and state legislatures and some of the basic rules that the Democratic National Committee requires all state parties to follow. As noted in the previous post, the Democratic National Delegate Selection rules recognize four separate categories of delegates — district level delegates, at-large delegates, pledged PLEOs (party leaders and elected officials, and unpledged PLEOs (a/k/a super delegates). This post will look at how those delegates are allocated to the states (and then to the individual categories within the states).
The Democratic Party begins delegate allocation with a base of 3,200 district level and at-large delegates for the fifty states and the District of Columbia. Each state’s initial share is determined by a two-part formula. The first part averages each state’s share of the national Democratic vote over the last three Presidential elections. The second part looks at each state’s share of the total electoral vote (e.g. California has 55 electoral votes out of the national total of 538, or slightly over 10%). Those two numbers are averaged together to get a final ratio. (The effect of this formula is that the more Democratic states do slightly better than a pure allocation based on electoral votes and the Republican states do slightly worse. For California, rather than the 10.2% that California would get from electoral votes, this formula gives California 11%.) When this formula leaves a state with a factional delegate, .5 or higher gets rounded up, anything less than .5 gets rounded down.
After the base allocation, the Democratic Party gives a bonus for holding primaries or the first stage of a caucus (for those states using caucuses to award delegates) later in the process. For states holding a regional primary (at least three adjoining states) on or after March 28, the states get a 15% bonus. If a state begins in April, the state gets a 10% bonus. If a state begins in May or June, the state gets a 20% bonus. The bonuses for going after April 1 or on top of any regional primary bonus.