Sunday, 20 January 2008

The Democratic Primaries System

I was asked in an earlier post to explain a wee bit about how the US election works - so here goes:

To win the Democratic Party’s nomination for to run for President, a candidate must receive a simple majority (2,025) of the party’s 4,049 delegates to its National Convention.

The delegates will be of two types: pledged delegates (who are mandated to vote for a specific candidate or “uncommitted” if no candidate was successful in the state – usually about 81% of all delegates fall into this category) and unpledged delegates (who are free to vote for whom they please at the Convention.

The 4,049 delegates come from three sources. All elected representatives at national level (235 Democratic House of Representatives members and 49 Democratic Senators) the two DC shadow congresspeople, and the 28 Democratic Governors of individual states are automatic delegates to the Convention – 314 in total.

The members of the Democratic National Committee are also delegates and various other elements to a total of 482 – which added to the 314 elected representatives gives a total of 796 unpledged delegates.

The remaining delegates come from primaries (state level elections) and caucuses (public meetings to select which candidate to support) from each of the 50 states in the US as well as the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands and expat Democrats abroad.

The states will apportion delegates to vote for candidates at the Convention in proportion to the number of votes they won in the state primary, with a threshold of 15% required to qualify for delegates.

The race began in January with the Iowa caucus on 3 Jan followed by the New Hampshire primary on 8 Jan. Michigan (which was stripped of its delegates for moving forward the date of its primary) Nevada, South Carolina and Florida (also punished for moving the date of its primary) follow. Democratic rules state only Iowa, NH, Nevada & SC can hold their primaries prior to Super Tuesday (5 Feb) hence the stripping Florida & Michigan of their delegates.

Some 24 states and other sources will go to the polls on 5 Feb, with a total of 1,688 delegates to be pledged by the end of the day. Following this quasi-national primary, we should have a fair idea of who the Democratic nomination for President will be.

Incidentally, if no candidate makes it over the threshold after the primaries, what is known as a “brokered convention” will occur, where the party will attempt to thrash out a deal between candidates and emerge with a single person to nominate at the end of the event.

Here’s how it looks so far, with only three candidates (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama) standing a realistic chance of winning the nomination:

3 Jan: Iowa - Obama 16, Clinton 15, Edwards 14
8 Jan: N.Hampshire - Clinton 9, Obama 9, Edwards 4
15 Jan:
Michigan - no delegates
19 Jan:
Nevada - Clinton 12, Obama 13

I don’t really know how Obama won more delegates in Nevada despite coming second in votes, but there we go. Current delegate totals are: Obama 38, Clinton 36, and Edwards 18.

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