Friday, March 07, 2008

The Democrats and the Delegate Process

A timely reprint from January, 2007 . . .

The media attention focused on the upcoming 2008 presidential primary and the already common use of polls to predict who might win could give people the impression that the winner of the popular vote would be the winner of the presidential primary. Unfortunately, it is not that easy.

For example, following state primaries and caucuses, Delegates at the Democratic National Convention will select the party's presidential candidate through a complicated process, in which some Delegates are obligated to vote for a candidate based upon primary election results and other Delegates may vote for whichever candidate they favor, regardless of the popular vote.

Surprisingly to many voters, the candidate who receives the most votes in your state may not receive all of your state's Delegates' votes. Some are allocated based upon the percentage of votes candidates receive in primaries or caucuses.

In some states, however, the presidential primary is only a "beauty contest" or "loophole primary," a non-binding primary intended to gauge public support for candidates. Participants at party caucuses may ignore the primary vote and elect Delegates pledged to support a different candidate.

Additionally, at the Democratic National Convention, the popular vote may be ignored by up to about 20 percent of the Delegates known as "Superdelegates," a group comprised of the elected Democratic National Committee Members, elected Democratic Governors, U.S. Senators and House members, and "Distinguished Party Leaders." Superdelegates constitute a significant slice of the Delegate pie and may "vote their conscience," selecting any of the candidates still officially in the race.

Add to the mix that states do not have an equal number of voting Delegates, but instead are awarded Delegates, by the Democratic and Republican parties, based not only on population, but also on how well the state has performed in electing that party's candidates to office, and it is easy to see why a candidate who is incredibly appealing to the general public may have no chance of winning the nomination.

The whole process is something of a quagmire on both sides. Unfortunately, the only way to have an impact is to jump in and swim.

Helpful links:

The presidential primary process explained by

Explanation of the math behind Delegate allocation for Election 2008 from The Green Papers.

A synopsis of the Republican Delegate allocation process from Republican Source.

CNN article discussing the 2004 Delegate selection process.

Democratic proposal pending to coax state organizations to have their primaries later in the season by awarding extra Delegates to states who have their elections later from The New York Times Politics Blog.

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