How the National Delegates Will Be Awarded

From all the disparate reports about delegates tonight, I can see I'm not the only one who doesn't understand how the caucus and primary votes translate into delegates locally and then at the national level.

I just came across this article by L. Sandy Maisel, director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College. I have no idea if he's correct or not, but he sounds authoritative. He describes the process for Democrats as follows:

The Democrats allocate delegates in proportion to the vote a candidate receives in a primary or caucus. If Obama gets 60 percent of the votes in a state with 100 delegates, he would get 60 delegates, and the other candidates -- those who surpass a threshold of 15 percent -- will receive the rest, divided according to their vote totals. The strategic implication of this rule is that a candidate should not desert a state simply because he or she will not win it. That candidate still will pick up valuable delegates. Thus, Obama is campaigning in New York and New Jersey and Clinton in Illinois.

On Tsunami Tuesday and superdelegates: [More...]

On that day, Democrats will choose 1, 681 delegates in 23 separate primaries and caucuses, more than half of the total number of pledged delegates selected by rank-and-file voters in the entire process.

The Democratic nominee will need 2,025 delegates to win at the convention; however, about 850 delegates come from so-called Superdelegates, party leaders and elected officials seated as a result of their office and, unless they choose to state their preference, unpledged to any candidate.

On the potential significance of John Edwards:

Edwards remains in the race because if he can surpass the 15 percent threshold, he too will win delegates and how those delegates vote may say a good deal about when the Democratic nominee is determined -- and even who it will be.

On when it's over for the Dems:

The Democratic contest will end if either Clinton or Obama win five of the large state primaries and a spattering of the others, losing only their opponent's home state.

Then, though the elected delegate count differential will not be overwhelming, the Superdelegates, those elected and party officials who are convention delegates by virtue of their office, the vast majority of whom are still unpledged, will come together behind the candidate with the most momentum -- and the die will be cast. If Clinton and Obama split the large states, however, the Democratic contest could well go on.

Does anyone disagree with this? I'd like to believe he's right, if for no other reason than his article is in plain English and seems devoid of spin.

< The Iowa/Nevada Caucus Systems Disenfranchises Voters | Nevada Vote on the Map >
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    This is how I understand it (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by sammiemorris on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:50:30 PM EST
    Based on Iowa entrance polls, Obama won the popular vote. Based on his caucusing totals (including the support of nonviable candidates), Obama won more than 38% of all state delegates in Iowa. Edwards won 30%, while Clinton won 29%.

    However, the national delegate numbers from Iowa were Obama 16, Clinton 15, Edwards 14. What's interesting is that the media narrative following Iowa did not really focus on the national delegate numbers, and Obama was declared the overwhelming winner. In my opinion, this was the correct narrative, and I was glad to see Hillary act gracious in defeat. She didn't tout the fact that despite John Edwards' claims of his second place finish, she potentially had more national delegates. I think this was smart because she realized that national delegates can change, and she would look like a sore loser because it was evident that she came in third place. I'm not sure if Iowa's national delegates are binding, but its clear in Nevada that they are non-binding.

    So, in Nevada, entrance polls show Hillary Clinton with a comfortable popular vote victory. Based on her caucusing totals (including support of non-viable candidates), she received 51% of the state delegates, while Senator Obama received 45% of the state delegates. Now, based on Nevada's unique national delegate formula, Obama did in fact win 13 delegates, while Clinton received 12. However, because these delegates are non-binding,  if Clinton wins overwhelmingly on February 5 and beyond, at the Denver Convention, the 13-12 deficit could become something like a 19-6 victory. Some Nevada national delegates would likely defect to Clinton to acknowledge her statewide victory.  Likewise, if Obama seizes control of Super Tuesday, the 13-12 margin could climb to 22-3 in his favor, if Hillary tanks or a scandal sinks her candidacy.

    What's curious is that the media is buying Obama's spin in talking about national delegates when they are non-binding in an effort to diminish Clinton's win. In contrast, the closeness of national delegates was a distant afterthought in Iowa.

    Hence, I'm a little disappointed in Obama for failing to congratulate Hillary on her popular vote win in an effort to spin the results. Likewise, I thought Bill Clinton appeared slightly out of control today in making questionable allegations about voter suppression in an effort to hedge against the actual results.

    The iowa delelgates are pledged (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by debcoop on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 12:28:32 AM EST
    That means that at hte state convention the delegates chosen in the local precincts MUST vote for the candidate they are representing. I think they can change their vote on the second round.

    Indeed the nevada delegates are non binding, they are unpledged. Therefore the delelgate totals in Iowa mean something while the the imputed delegate numbers in Nevada are as real as a whiff of smoke.

    I agree with you on the rest of your post most heartily as I posted something very much like it elsewhere.  

    You are most astute.


    why are you using (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:52:39 PM EST
    entrance poll numbers when the final vote tallies are up?

    They are not (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:58:15 PM EST
    That is merely the allocation of state delgates AFTER second choices and viability were taken into account.

    used entrance polls (none / 0) (#7)
    by sammiemorris on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:02:36 PM EST
    to show that even the final caucusing tallies are not reflective of the actual popular vote. If this had been a primary, Hillary probably would have won more convincingly. The entrance polls indicate it would have been 52-37-10. However, the caucus tally relies on a different format and the national delegates are awarded based on that result, which in my opinion is unfair.

    For example, in Harry Reid's district, Clinton received 35 votes, Edwards 20, and Obama 12, yet when these results were plugged into the final tally, it was Clinton 3 state delegates and Obama and Edwards 1 each.

    The whole process is screwed up and basically it is not one person one vote.  


    each state has its own formula for allotting (none / 0) (#4)
    by sammiemorris on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:57:55 PM EST
    national delegates. I'm sure some states allot based on the percentage of votes, while others use weird formulas like Iowa and Nevada, where the national delegate count doesn't accurately reflect the actual vote totals.

    However, the national delegate count will invariably change once we have a clear winner after the primaries are over. If Edwards continues to rack up a meaningful number of committed national delegates, he could potentially play kingmaker (or queenmaker) in guiding them to another candidate. On the other hand, his national delegates may not care about him and could potentially defect to a candidate of their own choice.

    The bottom line is that the entire process is not necessarily Democratic and brokered conventions are never fun.


    He's clearly wrong (none / 0) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:47:16 PM EST
    as I explained in my previous post.

    Popular vote in Nevada (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:58:44 PM EST
    With 98% of precincts reporting:

    Clinton has 50.71% of the vote, Obama has 45.19%, Edwards has 3.75%.

    The Nevada plan for awarding democrats is here.        

    Not exact (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:07:02 PM EST
    but the closest we can get, that is the % of county delegates each candidate received whoch will be roughly proportional to the popular vote.

    But as we can see, the NATIONAL delegate formula does not allocate by these proportions.

    That is my point in my diary below.


    Besides Clark County (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:11:04 PM EST
    Hillary won in Lincoln, Lander and Lyon, Mineral and Nye. Some of those are big counties. Here's the map.

    And this is when the Democrats are (none / 0) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:16:39 PM EST
    going to fight and appear go to the wall about totaling voting?  When they are in a race with each other?  Just fricken figures!

    I think there are two (or three) different things (none / 0) (#11)
    by along on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:45:00 PM EST
    going on here.

    I believe what Jeralyn is describing, via the Maisel article, is the method for determining the National delegates only. All states, caucus or primary, have something like this kind of system, where pledged delegates are apportioned by several criteria: 1) popular votes, with thresholds; 2) Congressional District performance (not mentioned here); 3) sometimes At Large delegates. (Then add Super Delegates to that.) As Maisel says, this virtually ensures that a candidate will not give up on all states he/she believes they won't win. Or to campaign only in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, etc. It is intended to protect the voice of the voter.

    But while the basic caucus method for selecting State Delegates is similar, it differs in a key aspect. It is what Big Tent is decrying. It does allocate state delegates according to the popular vote in each precinct, but the system also gives more weight--more delegates--to sparsely populated areas. The intention of this method at the precinct/county level is the same as at the state level: to encourage candidates to campaign all over, and not write off the rural counties for the vote-rich urban counties. It's similar to the Electoral College. Which is to say, I agree with what I take to be Big Tent's argument: that caucus apportionment is a relic, it has serious problems, and it dangerously subverts the principle of one person-one vote.

    But I think it's important to realize there are several things going on at once.

    correction: (none / 0) (#14)
    by along on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 01:38:35 AM EST
    where I have State Delegates, it should say County Delegates.

    I also agree (none / 0) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:52:17 PM EST
    with Big Tent that the caucus system is bad. But it's what exists so I'm trying to figure out how it plays out in the 2008 Democratic race -- in other words, I'm not arguing or trying to determine policy, I'm trying to figure out the result.

    Good comment.

    out of curiousity, (none / 0) (#15)
    by cpinva on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 04:22:38 AM EST
    what happens if a pledged delegate ignores the pledge, and votes for someone else in the first round? in fact, since the pledged delegates would already be known by then, what actual purpose is served by the first round?

    after iowa, i decided the caucus method was ridiculous. nevada turns out to be even worse than iowa, which i didn't think was possible.

    va's done some pretty stupid things in her history (slavery & secession come quickly to mind), but at least had the smarts to adopt the primary, as its method of allocating delegates.

    Proportional is the key (none / 0) (#16)
    by msobel on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 07:55:59 PM EST
    If Hillary and Obama keep on splitting delegates as closely as they have done, then we really might be getting close to a convention where the outcome is uncertain heading in.   Super delegates (and Michigan and Florida) aside, they seem to be splitting pretty evenly with Edwards until recently picking up a few.  Although Hillary has leads in a lot of big super Tuesday states, the proportionality make that less important.  

    What is important is keeping the tone positive to avoid having a media narrative that divides Democrats.