Monday, January 30, 2012

Primary Math

Many people seem confused about the process for selecting a presidential candidate to go on the ballot in November. Every four years, as long as anyone alive today can remember, either one or both of the parties that currently control our government has gone through the process. So how do they select a candidate?

To start, when the political parties meet, they not only decide their platforms, but how the selection of candidates will be handled. Political parties are not a part of government, therefore the rules of who can be nominated are not decided by elected representation to government, other than the basic qualifications for the office. A lot of power is vested in state party leadership. The process they decide upon will vary from state to state, but will include either a primary, a caucus or both.

Primaries typically allow voters to select delegates which have pledged support for a candidate by selecting their name from a ballot. Caucuses are similar, but are typically an open forum where voters are sometimes required to make their selection publicly. In both, delegates are selected, sometimes as part of the first vote, sometimes as part of a second selection process.

Each state is allotted a number of delegates by the national party. This number is three times the number of representatives to Congress from that state, plus some 'bonus' delegates, typically having to do with rewarding a state for electing Republicans. For example, Alabama has 50 GOP delegates, based on 7 Representatives to the House of Representatives (21), 10 at-large, 3 party, and 16 bonus delegates. 47 of these will be selected on the ballot and 3 go to prescribed elected Republicans, who typically vote with the majority of the state.

Some states award all delegates to the candidate with the largest number of votes. Others award them in different ways. Alabama, for example, awards delegates by district. The candidate with the most votes in the district over 20% is awarded 2 delegates for the district. If the winning candidate has over 50%, the candidate is awarded all 3 delegates. If the winning candidate does not have 50% of the vote, and the second place candidate has over 20%, the 2nd place candidate is awarded 1 delegate. If not, the remaining delegate goes to the winning candidate.

The candidates will receive a proportion of the 26 at-large and bonus delegates using statewide totals if no candidate receives more than 50% of the statewide vote. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote statewide, that candidate is awarded all of the at-large and bonus delegates.

Alabama State Party 2012 Presidential Primary Rules

There are a total of 2286 delegates to the GOP convention. 1144 delegates (50%+1) are required to win. If at any point during the race, three candidates obtain 572 delegates, it will become a near impossibility to win the 1144 delegates. The same results if 2 two candidates get 572 delegates and the remaining two split 572 delegates between them.

When a delegate is elected, they are bound to vote for the candidate at the national convention. If no candidate has 1144 delegates, the delegates are released to vote for other candidates after the first vote. Superdelegates would most likely cast their vote with their state on the first ballot but coalesce around the candidate with the highest delegate total for the second. For example: If the candidate with the most delegates has received at least 1012 regular delegates, the 132 superdelegates would most likely vote for candidate A on the second ballot to give the candidate 1144 delegates, which is enough to win.

If the first place candidate has less than 1012 regular delegates, however, deals would then be made to capture the delegates of other candidates on the next ballot. It is also possible that the superdelegates might not coalesce on the second ballot. Either way, if a third ballot is reached, regular delegates will begin brokering.

From CNN: http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2012/i/delegate.strength.overview.pdf

There are two basic components to calculating the delegate strength score -- how close the frontrunner is to winning a majority of the delegates, and the gap between the frontrunner's delegates and his or her closest rival. That gap is measured in terms of how many "outstanding delegates" remain. Finally, a factor is applied that essentially creates a range of scores from zero to 100, which makes the score a little easier to comprehend. For the math junkies, the calculation is:

Delegate Strength = (((C1-C2)/O) * (C1/L) * 333)

where...
C1 = Number of delegates the leading candidate has won
C2 = Number of delegates the candidate with the second-highest number of delegates has won
O = Number of delegates that have not been chosen
L = Number of delegates needed to win the nomination


To give an example of how this works, Gingrich currently has a delegate strength of .03, based on the races so far in South Carolina, New Hampshire and estimates of the Iowa delegate apportionment. Remember: A delegate strength of 100 or more is required to win. Gingrich, with the current delegate lead, doesn't even have a tenth of a percent in delegate strength. If Mitt Romney wins Florida, he will have a whopping .34 delegate strength, which is still 99.66% shy of enough delegate strength to win, barely one third of a percent.

If you do the math, this race is still wide open.

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