Super Tuesday for dummies

What follows is an attempt, to the best of my abilities, to demistify the Super Tuesday primaries/caucuses which will be held Wednesday our time. Those with a better understanding of these matters are invited to scrutinise my work for errors or significant omissions.

The Democratic candidate will be chosen by 4049 delegates at the party’s national convention from August 25-28. This includes 796 “superdelegates” who attend by virtue of holding senior party positions, and who are not pledged to particular candidates. By the reckoning of the 2008 Democratic Convention Watch blog, 198 superdelegates have declared their intention to support Hillary Clinton against 107 for Barack Obama, with 415 undeclared. The six primaries and caucuses that have been held so far have chosen 63 delegates pledged to Obama, 48 to Clinton and 26 to John Edwards, who has since withdrawn. The Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses will determine 1688 of the remaining 3253, representing 22 states along with American Samoa and “Democrats Abroad”.

In most cases a state’s pledged delegates are awarded by a two-tier system of proportional representation. Slightly over a quarter are allocated proportionately to the statewide vote, with candidates needing to clear a 15 per cent threshold to win representation. A little over half are tied to congressional districts, with each choosing between three and six delegates depending on the district’s party turnout at recent elections. The effect is similar to Australian upper house systems in which a limited number of members are chosen from each state or region, reducing the proportionality of the overall result by locking out the smaller players. States variously conduct primaries or caucuses, the salient difference being that the latter do not provide a secret ballot. These can be “open” (all voters may participate regardless of party registration), “closed” (only voters registered with the party may participate) or “semi-open” (voters may participate regardless of party registration, but only in one party’s primary or the other).

Poll averages listed below are calculated from results listed at Electoral-Vote.com. The numbers in brackets show the number of polls from which the average was determined. A small number of polls with an unusually high undecided vote have been deemed untrustworthy and excluded.

CALIFORNIA
Semi-open primary
370 tied delegates: 129 by statewide PR, 241 by district-level PR
71 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (9): Clinton 45/Obama 39

NEW YORK
Closed primary
232 tied delegates:81 by statewide PR, 151 by district-level PR
49 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (6): Clinton 52/Obama 32

ILLINOIS
Open primary
153 tied delegates: 53 by statewide PR, 100 by district-level PR
32 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (2): Obama 56/Clinton 32

NEW JERSEY
Semi-open primary
107 tied delegates: 37 by statewide PR, 70 by district-level PR
20 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (6): Clinton 48/Obama 38

MASSACHUSETTS
Semi-open primary
93 tied delegates: 32 by statewide PR, 61 by district-level PR
28 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (3): Clinton 53/Obama 31

GEORGIA
Open primary
87 tied delegates: 30 by statewide PR, 57 by district-level PR
16 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (5): Obama 50/Clinton 39

MINNESOTA
Open caucuses
72 tied delegates: 25 by statewide PR, 47 by district-level PR
16 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Clinton 40/Obama 33

MISSOURI
Open primary
72 tied delegates: 25 by statewide PR, 47 by district-level PR
16 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (7): Clinton 45/Obama 37

TENNESSEE
Open primary
68 tied delegates: 24 by statewide PR, 44 by district-level PR
17 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (4): Clinton 50/Obama 32

COLORADO
Closed caucuses
55 tied delegates: statewide PR
15 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Clinton 32/Obama 34

ARIZONA
Closed primary
56 tied delegates: 19 by statewide PR, 37 by district-level PR
11 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (3): Clinton 42/Obama 36

CONNECTICUT
Closed primary
48 tied delegates: 17 by statewide PR, 31 by district-level PR
12 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (3): Clinton 44/Obama 41

ALABAMA
Open primary
52 tied delegates: 18 by statewide PR, 34 by district-level PR
8 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (5): Clinton 43/Obama 37

ARKANSAS
Open primary
35 tied delegates: 13 by statewide PR, 22 by district-level PR
12 superdelegates
No poll available

OKLAHOMA
Closed primary
38 tied delegates: 13 by statewide PR, 25 by district-level PR
9 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Clinton 44/Obama 19

KANSAS
Closed caucuses
32 tied delegates: district-level PR
9 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Clinton 27/Obama 22

NEW MEXICO
Closed primary
26 tied delegates: 9 by statewide PR, 17 by district-level PR
12 superdelegates
No poll available

UTAH
Semi-open primary
23 tied delegates: 8 by statewide PR, 15 by district-level PR
6 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Obama 53/Clinton 29

DELAWARE
Closed primary
15 tied delegates: 5 by statewide PR, 10 by district-level PR
8 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Clinton 44/Obama 42

IDAHO
Open caucuses
18 tied delegates: district-level PR
5 superdelegates
No poll available

NORTH DAKOTA
Closed primary
13 tied delegates: statewide PR
8 superdelegates
No poll available

ALASKA
Closed caucuses
13 tied delegates: statewide PR
5 superdelegates
No poll available

The Republican candidate will be chosen at the convention to be held from September 1-4 by 2380 delegates, including 1917 who are pledged to particular candidates and 463 who are unpledged (not normally referred to as “superdelegates” in the Republican case, but essentially the same thing). Super Tuesday will see 1014 pledged delegates chosen from 21 states. The eight states which have held primaries and caucuses so far have chosen 95 delegates pledged to John McCain, 85 to Mitt Romney, 26 to Mike Huckabee and six to Ron Paul. A further two unpledged delegates are committed to support McCain, seven to Romney and three to Huckabee. The Republicans make life easier for election watchers by allocating a number of states’ delegates on a winner-takes-all basis, while other states operate similarly to the normal Democratic practice. Poll averages shown below from New York and New Jersey have been limited to the past week to account for the withdrawal of Rudi Giuliani, who has thrown his support behind John McCain. If anyone can explain to me in reasonably simple language how the Colorado, Minnesota and Alaska caucuses work, I shall be most grateful.

CALIFORNIA
Closed primary
170 tied delegates: 11 to statewide winner, 159 to district winners
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (10): McCain 36/Romney 30/Huckabee 13/Paul 5

NEW YORK
Closed primary
101 tied delegates: winner takes all
Week poll average (4): McCain 54/Romney 25/Huckabee 7/Paul 5

GEORGIA
Open primary
69 tied delegates: 33 to statewide winner, 39 to district winners
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (4): McCain 29/Romney 26/Huckabee 25/Paul 7

ILLINOIS
Open primary
57 tied delegates: District-level PR (3 to 6 per district)
10 unpledged statewide delegates
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (2): McCain 41/Romney 30/Huckabee 10/Paul 7

MISSOURI
Open primary
58 tied delegates: winner takes all
Fortnight poll average (6): McCain 31/Huckabee 28/Romney 24/Paul 5

TENNESSEE
Open primary
52 tied delegates: 12 by statewide PR, 27 by district-level PR (3 per district)
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (4): McCain 30/Huckabee 26/Romney 22/Paul 7

ARIZONA
Closed primary
50 tied delegates: winner takes all
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (1): McCain 46/Romney 27/Huckabee 9/Paul 3

NEW JERSEY
Semi-open primary
52 tied delegates: winner takes all
Week poll average (5): McCain 49/Romney 26/Huckabee 7/Paul 5

ALABAMA
Open primary
45 tied delegates: 24 by statewide PR, 21 by district-level PR (3 per district)
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (6): McCain 34/Huckabee 30/Romney 17/Paul 4

COLORADO
Closed caucuses
43 tied delegates
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Romney 43/McCain 24/Huckabee 17/Paul 5

MASSACHUSETTS
Semi-open primary
40 tied delegates: 10 by statewide PR, 30 by district-level PR (3 per district)
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (3): Romney 54/McCain 29/Huckabee 6/Paul 3

OKLAHOMA
Closed primary
38 tied delegates: 23 by statewide PR, 15 to district winners
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (1): McCain 37/Huckabee 28/Romney 19/Paul 6

MINNESOTA
Open caucuses
38 tied delegates
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (1): McCain 41/Huckabee 22/Romney 17/Paul 5

UTAH
Closed primary
36 tied delegates: winner takes all
Fortnight poll average (1): Romney 84/McCain 4

ARKANSAS
Open primary
31 tied delegates: 19 by statewide PR, 12 by district-level PR (3 per district)
3 unpledged RNC delegates
No poll available

WEST VIRGINIA
Closed caucus
18 tied delegates: winner takes all, run-off (i.e. preferential) voting
9 tied to May 13 primary
3 unpledged RNC delegates
No poll available

CONNECTICUT
Closed primary
27 tied delegates: winner takes all
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (3): McCain 46/Romney 27/Huckabee 9/Paul 3

ALASKA
Closed caucuses
26 tied delegates
3 unpledged RNC delegates
No poll available

NORTH DAKOTA
Open caucuses
23 tied delegates: statewide PR
3 unpledged RNC delegates
No poll available

MONTANA
Closed caucuses
25 tied delegates: winner takes all
No poll available

DELAWARE
Closed primary
15 tied delegates: winner takes all
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (1): McCain 41/Romney 35/Huckabee 7/Paul 5

UPDATE: News Limited blogger Paul Colgan has a very useful aggregation of links on the subject. Like it or not, the definitive entry comes from Fox News.

Florida primaries thread

Voting has begun in today’s Florida primaries, the last to be held before Super Tuesday apart from Republican caucuses in Maine on Saturday. For refusing to play by the rules of the parties’ national committees, Florida has been stripped of the 210 delegates it would normally send to the Democratic national convention, along with half of its 114 Republican delegates. All 57 of the Republican delegates will be pledged to the winning candidate, whereas the Democratic primary amounts to nothing more than an opinion poll. Polls show John McCain and Mitt Romney neck-and-neck in the Republican race, with Rudy Giuliani looking very unlikely to pull off his Florida-first strategy.

South Carolina Democratic primary thread

Australia Day festivities prevented me putting this thread up in a timely fashion, but better late than never. Barack Obama has polled 55 per cent of the vote in today’s Democratic primary in South Carolina, which has the country’s third highest proportion of African-Americans behind Mississippi and Louisiana. Hillary Clinton took second place with 27 per cent, ahead of John Edwards on 18 per cent.

Nevada and South Carolina thread

Presenting a thread in which you may all chew the fat about today’s presidential election action from South Carolina and Nevada. Republicans in South Carolina are holding an open primary (meaning any voter can participate in one primary or the other, regardless of their registration) to choose 24 delegates from the national total of 2380. It would normally be 47 delegates, but the state has been penalised for “allocating delegates outside of the Republican National Committee-approved timeframe”. The South Carolina Democratic open primary will be held next week, choosing 54 delegates from a national total of 4050. Forty-five of these are pledged to particular candidates; the remaining nine are unpledged “superdelegates” who attend the national convention as senior party office holders. In Nevada both parties will hold closed caucuses: closed means only voters registered with the party can participate, while caucuses means there is no secret ballot. The state’s Democrats get 33 pledged delegates along with eight superdelegates; the Republicans have 31 delegates determined by the caucuses plus three unpledged Republican National Committee members (the term superdelegates does not get used in relation to the Republicans, for some reason).