Tag Archives: Delegate Selection

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).

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2016 Delegate Selection-Part I:Overview

Earlier this week, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas became the first candidate to officially announce for President.  For the next 11 to 14 months, Senator Cruz and others will be campaigning to win their parties nomination for president.  One of the basic principles of political science is that one of the factors that determines who wins an election is the rules for determining who wins.  The 2008 Democratic primary is a key example of this principle when then-Senator Obama managed to obtain a slight margin in the delegate count despite narrowly trailing then-Senator Clinton in the popular vote and then convinced party leaders that it was the slight lead in the delegate count that mattered.

As a first principle, in the U.S., the only truly national election is when the chosen electors meet in December of the presidential election year to cast their votes for President.  Outside of that one vote, every other election is run by the states, with the states setting the rules for the election.  For the most part, the individual states have opted to give “established” political parties an automatic ballot line on the general election ballot (with a party becoming established by receiving a certain percent of the vote in the last election).  In all of the states, state parties affiliated with the national Democratic and Republican parties have automatic ballot lines for the presidential election.   Additionally, state law (or state and national party rules) dictate that the candidates chosen for President and Vice-President by the national conventions of the two major parties will be the candidates for that party in a given state (along with the associated slate of electors chosen by state party).

Because the conventions choose the candidates, the rules for awarding convention delegates to the candidates (and then selecting individual candidates) determine who gets the nomination.  As a general matter, national law has very little to do with this process.  The main national law impacting the process is the campaign finance law which has more holes in it than swiss cheese, and it is likely that most spending in the 2016 race (even more so than in 2012) will be by “Super PACs” supporting individual candidates and operating outside of any limits (other than being prohibited from directly coordinating with their preferred candidate).

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