Monday, March 3, 2008

Texas Presidential Primary

The Texas Presidential primary takes place on March 4, and I think that it would be useful for those of us who live in the Lone Star State to understand how it works before we vote. The media tends to present this as a horse race, citing polls that show Hillary Clinton up by 4 percentage points or Barack Obama up by 2 points or whatever. That makes for a clearer story line, but it does not give a very accurate picture of which candidate is likely to win the most delegates. Let's discuss the relevant details of both the Republican and the Democratic primaries, starting with the Republican because it's a lot easier to explain.

Republican Primary

Texas gets a total of 140 delegates. 96 of these are apportioned by Congressional districts, 3 for each of the 32 districts in Texas. If one candidate in a Congressional district gets 50% or more of the vote, he gets all 3 delegates for that district. If no candidate gets 50% of the vote but the candidate with the largest number of votes gets at least 20%, then the plurality candidate gets 2 delegates, with the candidate with the next highest number of votes getting 1 delegate. If no candidate gets at least 20% of the votes, then the top three candidates get 1 delegate each. There are also 41 at-large delegates, all of which go to a candidate who gets at least 50% of the statewide vote. If no candidate gets at least 50% of the vote but at least one gets 20% of the vote, then the candidates who get more than 20% of the vote split the delegates proportionate to their statewide votes. If no candidates get more than 20% of the vote, then all 41 delegates are apportioned among all of the candidates based on each candidate's vote total. The remaining 3 delegates are officials in the Texas Republican party, and they are uncommitted to any candidate. See here for more information. In other words, John McCain might not take all 137 committed delegates, but he probably will take the vast majority.

Democratic Party

Oh, boy, is this Byzantine. Texas receives a total of 228 delegates, and these delegates are assigned as follows:
  1. 126 are assigned on the basis of the results from the March 4 primary. These 126 delegates are apportioned by state senatorial district according to the number of votes cast in each district for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2006 election. This means that more Democratic senatorial districts (for example, District 14) get more delegates than less Democratic districts (for example, District 31), and the delegate totals per district range from 2 to 8. Delegates are apportioned to presidential candidates based on the number of votes that the various candidates receive in the district.
  2. 42 pledged at-large delegates and 25 pledged elected official delegates are elected by the state convention, which will be held on June 7, 2008. Delegates to the state convention are elected by state senatorial district conventions, which will be held on March 29, 2008. Delegates to the state senatorial district conventions are elected by precinct conventions, held at 7:15 PM on March 4, 2008 -- in other words, immediately after the polls close. The number of delegates that a precinct elects to the state senatorial district convention is proportional to the number of votes cast in that precinct for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the 2006 election. A similar scheme of proportional representation is used in apportioning delegates to the state convention by state senatorial district. At each convention level, delegates are apportioned to each presidential candidate on the basis of the preferences expressed by the people who show up to the convention. In other words, the number of delegates that each candidate receives at the state convention will be based largely on the number of supporters he or she turns out to the precinct conventions on election day.
  3. 3 unpledged delegates are elected by the state convention. These delegates are supposed to have distinguished themselves by their long-term service to the Texas Democratic Party. I don't believe that these will be truly unpledged -- that is, I expect them to be elected on the basis of who they likely will support at the national convention.
  4. 32 unpledged delegates are appointed based on their positions in the Texas Democratic Party. These are the so-called "superdelegates."
See this Texas Democratic Party publication for more information. The long and the short of this is that the candidate who gets more votes in the primary might not even get the majority of the 126 primary-apportioned delegates. In fact, because Hillary Clinton has stronger support among Hispanic voters while Barack Obama has stronger support among black voters and because the heavily black state senatorial districts get more delegates than the heavily Hispanic senatorial districts, it is likely that Obama will get a majority of the 126 delegates even if Clinton wins more than 50% of the popular vote. In addition, if you feel strongly about either candidate and you can make it, it is in your best interest to attend the precinct conventions at 7:15 PM on March 4 -- doing so makes your preference disproportionately consequential.

1 comment:

mamacita said...

Duuude, the Democratic primary was so much fun, you should have been there. It must have been fun if the cops were called, right?