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Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Wild and Crazy Democratic Party Primary Process

George Wenschhof

The Democratic party nomination process has succeeded in creating both a lot of excitement and confusion in this election year. After about half of the states have weighed in with their primaries and caucuses, there is less than a 100 difference in the delegate count between Senator Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Senator Barack Obama (Illinois). In addition to record high voter turnout another consequence has been the democratic voters receiving an education pertaining to the absurd method for selecting their nominee for President.

All the attention should be directed to the candidates and their positions on the issues. Instead, voters are wondering why Michigan and Florida had their delegates stripped from them and asking why the candidates did not campaign in these states.

This was a result of the failure of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to reach agreement with party officials in Florida and Michigan on the dates of their primaries. The DNC had only sanctioned two addition states to join Iowa and New Hampshire to hold primaries/caucuses in January. They were Nevada in the west and S. Carolina in the south. The next earliest date available for party approval was February 5th - super Tuesday.

As I have written about in numerous previous posts, this was a bad decision by the DNC and would come back to haunt them as the race promised to be a close one. Sure enough, Hillary Clinton who won both uncontested primaries is calling for the seating of their delegates at the national convention and now Howard Dean DNC Chair, is talking about do-over primaries for Michigan and Florida. How absurd is this? Stay tuned for these states can not have their voters disenfranchised by the DNC when they are critical in the general election.

Comments from frustrated voters have ranged from why not just hold a national primary day to why not hold 8 or 9 primaries a month for six months. The latter makes more sense by allowing the primaries to conclude in June and the national convention to still be held in August.

Democratic primaries in states have fallen on different days of the week with some having early voting, while other states have held caucuses where voters can change their votes. More scratching of the head occurs when a candidate wins a majority of the votes in a state but does not win the majority of delegates. So what is happening and where do we go from here? A quick primer is as follows: First, there are 4049 total delegates and 2025 are needed to win the nomination.

Second, there are approximately 812 super delegates. They are made up of the VIPs in each state and are comprised of elected officials, party officials and party activists. They are won by the candidate and their campaign staff identifying them and going after their commitment. They are obtained without a vote and make up about 20% of the overall number of available delegates. You want a little more craziness? Read here how Independent Senator Joe Lieberman (CT) had his democratic party super delegate status stripped for supporting Republican Senator John McCain for President: The question should have been why was an Independent Senator awarded the status of a super delegate in the Democratic Party?

Finally, the delegates won by the vote in a state are awarded proportionally in two ways. One is from a lump sum awarded proportionally by the total number of votes received in the state and the other is awarded proportionally by votes won in districts across the state.

Super delegates can also change their minds on a whim and therefore their vote. In addition, pledged delegates won by a candidates may also change their vote at the convention, although it is a little more complicated process.

Confused? Here is a good article published in the Baltimore Sun explaining the above and how it pertains to Maryland and how it's 99 delegates will be divided based on super delegates and performance by the candidates:,0,3757767,print.story

At this point in the nomination process, the delegate count will vary depending on what you read but it is roughly ( including some super delegates as follows ) : Clinton - 1076 and Obama - 1006. This includes 211 super delegates for Clinton and 128 super delegates for Obama. Now it has been reported that Howard Dean is talking about why one of the two candidates should drop out. This is hardly what should happen at this point with almost half of the states yet to vote and the excitement level and increased voting occuring at a record pace.

A broker-ed convention would be an incredible event and one that would bring meaning instead of the staid coronation ceremony of recent democratic party conventions. Let the voters participate and let them decide the nominee of the party.

There is one primary today in Louisiana - 67 delegates, with two caucuses in Nebraska - 31 delegates and Washington - 97 delegates along with the Virgin Islands - 9 delegates. Tomorrow, Maine with 34 delegates will hold their caucuses. Then it is on to next Tuesday when Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. hold their primaries. To see the rest of the primary schedule along with the delegate count click here:

In reviewing the remainder of the primary, it appears the race will continue to be close between Senators Clinton and Obama. The Obama campaign has raised over 7 million since Super Tuesday and the Clinton campaign has raised over 6 million. The need for publically funded campaigns has never been stronger or more evident than in this election.

Stay tuned for there is sure to be more craziness to follow. If your state has not held a primary/caucus yet, make sure you vote!

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