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Thu May 30, 2019, 03:28 PM

 

The Democratic Primary and Caucus 15% Rule - You Need to Understand It!

The whole point of caucuses and primaries is to select delegates who will go to the Democratic Nominating Convention in the Summer of 2020 and choose a nominee. Most delegates will be pledged to support a particular candidate, based on the results of their state's primary election or caucus and convention system.

Delegates are chosen proportionally. In each district or division of the election, delegates are elected who are pledged to support candidates, according to what percentage of the voter the candidates earn from the voters. It's all proportional to the results.

So, lets say that these are the results in a primary:

Candidate 1 - 37% of the vote
Candidate 2 - 21% of the vote
Candidate 3 - 16% of the vote
Candidate 4 - 11% of the vote
Candidate 5 - 7% of the vote
Others - 8% total

Let's say there are 100 delegates to be chosen, proportionally, to be pledged to each candidate. It's easy to figure out, since there are 100 delegates. But, there's a catch! The rules say, nationwide, that a candidate must receive 15% of the vote to earn any delegates at all. So, Candidates 4 and 5, along with the others, get no delegates. The remaining 26 delegates are distributed proportionally to the three who got more than 15%.

Why does this rule exist? Well, since at the final convention, the nominee must get a majority of the vote, thinning out the field by eliminating candidates with low voting percentages simplifies the selection process.

So, how many delegates to each of the three candidates with voting percentages over 15% end up with? Roughly, it will look like this: *

Candidate 1 - 37 + 13 = 50 delegates
Candidate 2 - 21 + 8 = 29 delegates
Candidate 3 - 16 + 5 = 21 delegates

Total Delegates = 100

* If you do the math, it doesn't come out quite right. There are some arcane rounding rules that are used, but that's the idea. I'm not a complete expert on delegate selection, but it works like that. You must get 15% of the vote to get any delegates.

The same process occurs in every state, generally at the state convention. Of course, the number of delegates from each state to the national convention is different, but the math works the same, with minor variations by state. The 15% delegate cut-off rule, however, is uniform in every state and in every caucus or primary.

Of course, results from primary elections and the delegate count is public, so, over time, under-achieving candidates tend to get fewer votes in later primaries. By the last state convention, one of the candidates will probably have over the 50% needed to get the nomination. This winnowing process is why the super delegates have never decided who the nominee would be.

If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Arrow 25 replies Author Time Post
Reply The Democratic Primary and Caucus 15% Rule - You Need to Understand It! (Original post)
MineralMan May 2019 OP
Vidal May 2019 #1
MineralMan May 2019 #2
Gothmog May 2019 #3
MineralMan May 2019 #4
George II May 2019 #5
Vidal May 2019 #6
MineralMan May 2019 #7
Karadeniz May 2019 #8
Hortensis May 2019 #9
MineralMan May 2019 #10
Hortensis May 2019 #13
MineralMan May 2019 #16
Hortensis May 2019 #18
Honeycombe8 May 2019 #11
dsc May 2019 #12
Vidal May 2019 #14
dsc May 2019 #15
MineralMan May 2019 #17
Gothmog Jun 2019 #20
Gothmog Jun 2019 #19
MineralMan Jun 2019 #22
Gothmog Jun 2019 #23
MineralMan Jun 2019 #24
Gothmog Jun 2019 #25
Gothmog Jun 2019 #21

Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu May 30, 2019, 03:36 PM

1. VERY interesting

 

This is a good rule to me. It seems to work very well, and is also fair.

Democrats have no "winner take all" primaries, unlike Republicans who in 2016 had many, which allowed Trump to take a huge lead. In your example, if it was a "winner take all" primary, and Trump got 37%, he would get 100% of the delegates.

So the Dems approach is much better than that.

In some polls, Biden was the only candidate with 15% of more, and if that happened in a primary he could get 100% of the delegates I guess. Which is not far-fetched when you consider how many people are running. But I still don't think it will happen. Under most polls both Biden and Bernie have over 15%.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Undecided

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Response to Vidal (Reply #1)

Thu May 30, 2019, 03:42 PM

2. The 15% rule in each state is applied in the congressional districts

 

of that state. So, it's possible for a candidate to earn delegates to the national convention in one district but not in another. The whole process can get very complicated and the calculations can be difficult to manage, especially in states with few delegates to the national convention.

In the end, though, the system has worked pretty well for a very long time.

In sum: A lot of the 24 candidates are going to get no delegates at all from most states. Pretty soon, many will be eliminated from real consideration. But, that's why polls in each state are so interesting to follow.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu May 30, 2019, 03:43 PM

3. There are lawyers involved and so the process is even more complicated

 

As MM noted, most delegates are allocated by district. In most states, these delegates are allocated based on congressional districts in that state. As a former national delegate, I know the Texas rules and in Texas most delegates are allocated according to state senate districts (Texas as 31 state senate districts and these districts are slightly larger than each of the 36 Texas congressional districts). In Texas a portion of the delegates are allocated state wide which means that a candidate could win a delegate if they get 15% of the vote in a particular district. A portion of the delegates are allocated state wide and a candidate has to have 15% statewide to get some of these delegates.

Next, one need to keeps in mind that all delegates including pledged delegates can vote for who they want. Campaigns try to control this by vetting delegates. I was vetted as a Clinton delegate in 2016 and I helped to vet other Texas delegates. A campaign has absolute approval rights over their delegates and can in some circumstances remove and replace a delegate with an alternative prior to the convention. This means that the delegates won by other candidates can jump onto the bandwagon of the winning candidate within reason.

Finally remember that the new super delegate rules allow super delegates to vote after the first ballot. If there is winner after the first ballot, super delegates can step in.

The 15% rule will make things interesting.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to Gothmog (Reply #3)

Thu May 30, 2019, 03:47 PM

4. Yes, since there are 50 states, things can get complicated.

 

It's worthwhile to check the process in your own state. There's a good website for doing that:

https://www.thegreenpapers.com/P20/D

It has the details for each state. Just click the state abbreviation on the page. I love that website!
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu May 30, 2019, 04:04 PM

5. I've posted a couple of similar analyses on this. In most states as of now only two candidates....

 

....would qualify for delegates, and with Biden somewhere between 2-1 and 3-1 over the second candidate, using your 100 delegate state, he'd get 67 delegates to the second place 33 delegates. Actually in several states the second place candidate is right around that 15% - if he/she drops a fraction of a point then Biden would get ALL of the delegates.

That's why I've been saying that by midnight on March 3 we could/should be down to three or four candidates, if even that many.

The way the first four states (Iowa, NH, Nevada, South Carolina) look now, Biden will get about 95 delegates, the second place candidate only about 60.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to George II (Reply #5)

Thu May 30, 2019, 04:16 PM

6. Agree

 

"by midnight on March 3 we could/should be down to three or four candidates, if even that many."
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Undecided

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Response to George II (Reply #5)

Thu May 30, 2019, 04:29 PM

7. Yes. I think that, on March 4, a number of candidates will

 

end their campaigns. Kamala Harris is likely to score some delegates in CA. I like her as a GO candidate, so she'll probably stick it out to the convention,wherever she'll also be a Super Delegate.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu May 30, 2019, 07:10 PM

8. Thanks! That was gas and helpful.

 

If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu May 30, 2019, 08:16 PM

9. Plus, from what I've read, if ONE candidate gets 15% or over,

 

it would be winner take all. Even if the next 5 were clustered at 14.9%.

If NONE got 15%, then the new bar would become 50% of the highest percentage a candidate got. So if one got 14%, and the rest 13, 11, 11, 6 and less, the new bar would be 7%, with the top 5 getting delegates and the rest none.

Hope I have that correct...?
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #9)

Thu May 30, 2019, 08:20 PM

10. I hadn't heard of your second item.

 

Makes sense. However, I think there will be at least one candidate over 15% in every state, so the probably won't be needed.

Really, I think many of the marginal candidates will drop out pretty early on.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #10)

Thu May 30, 2019, 08:51 PM

13. You have to be right about that last and hope it holds true

 

now that so many dynamics have changed somewhat.

Funding problems should cause some who don't make the debates to drop out really early, and then more probably will be forced to decide if going in debt is worth hanging on until the primaries begin in February. And then Super Tuesday...

I'm seriously wondering if the current second place candidate, whose negatives may be starting to outweigh name recognition advantages, will be able to meet the 15% threshold in most states, and who would move up to second. The media are going to want a strong challenger to report on.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #13)

Fri May 31, 2019, 09:38 AM

16. There's a good bit of time left until the very first caucus in Iowa.

 

Most people, I imagine, are not really thinking about the 2020 primaries yet, so polling is bound to be somewhat inaccurate.

There are many possible scenarios that might play out. Sanders not getting 15% in some primaries is a distinct possibility, depending on many factors. The same is true for any number of minor candidates who are now getting 5% or less.

There are too many candidates on the list, by far, for this to be a sensible race right now. Some will, no doubt, withdraw from the race before Iowa. Still, it's too early to predict much of anything, I think, except that Joe Biden will be high on the voter preference list throughout the campaign. His appeal to the average Democratic voter is strong.

If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #16)

Fri May 31, 2019, 10:45 AM

18. :) Too many right now for a sensible race. Agree.

 

And my curiosity about who could become the new top challenger, or challengers, will just have to wait.

If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu May 30, 2019, 08:48 PM

11. Very informative. Thanks. nt

 

If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Undecided

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu May 30, 2019, 08:49 PM

12. There is one big thing though and that is this is done by CD and many states are heavily racially

 

gerrymandered. For example NC is 21.48% black but our districts have very different percentages of black voters. We have two VRA districts (1 and 12) which are in the area of 50% black (district 1 is a bit over, district 12 is a bit under). The only other Democratic district (4) is 33% black. The rest of the districts are 16%, 21%, 13%,16%, 18%, 19%, 14%, 12%, 3%, and 17%. Given that we have two candidates who are doing much better with white voters than black ones this is very likely to affect that 15% threshold. Sanders and Buttigieg are likely to get wiped out in districts 1 and 12 but are likely to make the threshold in most of the other districts.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to dsc (Reply #12)

Fri May 31, 2019, 08:07 AM

14. VERY interesting

 

It seems like what you're saying is that racially gerrymandered districts will help some candidates get more delegates,i.e., those who are not as popular with black voters.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Undecided

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Response to Vidal (Reply #14)

Fri May 31, 2019, 09:22 AM

15. It might

 

though it should be noted that the heavily Democratic districts have more delegates than the others so there is some trade off. But it is one reason that the CBC was so adamant about super delegates since a rather large proportion of black voters live in black districts and thus would be less likely to be able to be delegates. In any case, Democrats didn't draw these districts. I suspect Sanders was helped some by these districts in 2016.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to dsc (Reply #12)

Fri May 31, 2019, 09:47 AM

17. Every state is different in its makeup, so many scenarios can be

 

drawn up. My focus is on Minnesota and California, the states where I have lived. Occasionally, I'll look at other states, of course, but it's nearly impossible to have knowledge of all the influences that affect this.

My reason for posting about the 15% rule is that a lot of people are not aware of it at all. I'm just trying to provide a broad framework to help people understand how it will affect the list of candidates as the primary season begins.

As you point out, individual districts matter. Some states use their congressional districts. Others use state senate districts to determine delegate selection criteria.

And then, the number of delegates sent to the convention by each state varies widely. In many states, rounding policies for delegate selection are heavily affected by the number of delegates. Smaller states and red states, especially, can see rounding issues making a huge difference in the make up of their delegations.

It's all so complicated that the actual delegate selection process is poorly understood even by the news media, which sometimes has serious issues with estimates of delegate numbers for candidates in many states.

It would be comical, if it were not so serious.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #17)

Tue Jun 4, 2019, 12:46 PM

20. No problem-I had the fun of going through the delegation selection process

 

Campaigning for and being elected a delegate takes a great deal of work and I read all of the Texas rules and DNC rules as part of the process
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Tue Jun 4, 2019, 12:44 PM

19. There is also the 300 delegate rule to consider

 

I was a delegate to the Philadelphia convention and saw how the process works. One key item is that under the rules, a candidate cannot be put into nomination without 300 delegates. https://democrats.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2020-Call-for-Convention-WITH-Attachments-2.26.19.pdf

Nomination of the Democratic Candidate for President: The Permanent Chair shall receive nominations from the floor for the Democratic candidate for the Office of President of the United
States in the following manner:

a. Requests to nominate a presidential candidate shall be in writing and shall have affixed thereto the written approval of the proposed nominee and the name of the individuals who shall be recognized to make the nominating and seconding speeches on behalf of a presidential candidate and shall be delivered to the Convention Secretary at a location as specified by the Secretary no later than 6:00 p.m. of the day preceding the day designated for the commencement of presidential nominations.

b. Each such request must be accompanied by a petition indicating support for the proposed nominee signed by delegates representing not less than 300 or more than 600 delegate votes, not more than 50 of which may come from one (1) delegation. A delegate may not sign more than one (1) nominating petition for president and for vice president. Pledged and automatic delegates may sign the petition.

I signed the petition for Clinton in 2016 to put her into nomination but we have over 170 Clinton supporters in the Texas delegation.

If sanders is frozen out of enough states due to the 15% rule and remaining non-Biden delegates are split among several candidates, there is a chance that sanders may not reach 300 threshold
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to Gothmog (Reply #19)

Sun Jun 16, 2019, 07:56 PM

22. I wasn't aware of that rule. I've never been a national convention delegate.

 

It will be interesting to see how the delegates end up being allocated, state by state. We'll get estimates after each primary or caucus, but we won't have exact counts until the state conventions are held.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #22)

Sun Jun 16, 2019, 08:09 PM

23. In Texas we have good numbers before the convention

 

You have to start the application process to be a national delegate in early April which means knowing how many delegates each candidate was allocated due to primary.

There is also the 50/50 rule where 50% of the delegates have to be male and 50% female. My senate district had 4 national delegates with 3 for Clinton and one for sanders. There were no males running for the sanders slot and so if we picked two females Clinton delegates, the sanders delegate would have to picked out of statewide pool. We ended up picking two male Clinton delegates and one female Clinton delegate so that there was a sanders delegate from out senate district

It is a tiring process
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to Gothmog (Reply #23)

Sun Jun 16, 2019, 08:13 PM

24. Lots of rules, for sure.

 

It can be confusing. Especially if you're not involved, and just hear about them, but don't get the whole explanation.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #24)

Sun Jun 16, 2019, 09:40 PM

25. I had fun reading all of the rules

 

I also read the state rules for a number of other states (they are all very similar in formatting).


If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Jun 16, 2019, 07:35 PM

21. sanders is below 10% in South Carolina

 


If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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