Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!
Keller May 29th, 2012 Election Results
No surprises here – President Obama dominated the ballot for Democratic Presidential Nominee both in our precinct, and state wide.
In the Senatorial Primary, Paul Sadler secured the Democratic nomination; and will the be on the ballot for the open US Senate seat for Texas in November.
Keller May 29th, 2012 Election Prelude
Early voting for the 2012 Primary Elections has already began, and runs daily thru May 25th. Take care of it tomorrow if you haven’t already, and you will not have to worry about forgetting!
If you don’t go vote until Election Day then you cannot go to vote at Town Hall, you must go to the correct voting location for Precinct 3054. It is a different location to the May 12th polling, and it instead at Messiah Lutheran Church, at 1308 Whitley Road.
A lot of people don’t bother to vote in Primaries. I really encourage all Democrats to take part however. Choosing who will run for elected office is just as important as voting for a winner. If you have any doubts whatsoever about this just look at the Republican Party. A small well organized minority has wreaked havoc on their primary selection process, which has resulted in the nomination of all sorts of extreme conservatives on Republican tickets that are unpalatable to more moderate voters.
By participating in the Democratic Primary process – hopefully as a rational and practical voter – you help ensure our party chooses candidates who have a chance to appeal to moderate and independent swing voters, and thus have a chance at winning come November.
I have attached a sample ballot for the Democratic ticket to give you an idea of what to expect. As you can see, there is not a lot of competition in the Democratic Primaries in our area. Hopefully that will change in future years as we increase our turnout!
President Obama has three competitors. A Darcy Richardson, Bob Ely and John Wolfe. I know who I will be voting for as Presidential Nominee, and hopefully you don’t need any hints:)
For United States Senator there are four candidates to choose from. Gardy Yarbrough, Paul Sadler, Sean Hubbard and Addie Dainell Allen. I’ve done a little research on each, and present what I’ve found here.
I give Mr Yarbrough instant points for responding to the League of Women Voters (LWV) – an organization I greatly admire – Primary Voter Guide questionnaire, he was the only Democratic Candidate who did. He does not appear to have a campaign website however, so that makes it hard to take him too seriously as a viable Senatorial Candidate.
The media seems to give Mr Hubbard and Mr Sadler the most attention on the Democratic side, though either man would face an uphill race in the general election. I am not endorsing any of these Senate candidates, but I like what I have seen of Paul Sadler.
The ballot you will see at the Primary Election this years also includes 3 referendums.
“Any graduate of a Texas high school, who has lived in the state for at least three years and lived here continuously for the last year, should be eligible for in-state tuition at state supported colleges and universities and given the opportunity to earn legal status through a higher education or military service.”
This first measure is designed to ensure that Texas high schoolers who are not citizens get the same in-state college tuition rates as their classmates. It also ties in to the DREAM act, and the concept of earning citizenship thru service to teh country. This is a pro-immigrant/anti-immigrant question to me, and as an immigrant myself I will be voting yes to this question. While I don’t agree with Rick Perry on much, I do respect his stance on some of these issues – particularly faced with the hostility of his base during the Republican Presidential Candidate debates.
“Because a college education is increasingly necessary for jobs that allow our citizens to achieve middle class lifestyles and become the entrepreneurs who create the jobs that our economy relies on, we call on the Texas Legislature to fund colleges and universities such that tuition and fees can be affordable to all Texans.”
This measure relates to providing extra funding for universities and colleges so more kids can afford to attend. While it is tough to pay for this in the current economic environment, I think this should be a priority. I will be voting yes to this measure also, though have doubts about the practicality of getting much done in this regards.
“Should the Texas Legislature allow the people of Texas to vote to legalize casino gambling with all funds generated being used only for education?”
The third measure – which ties in nicely to the first two – is regarding legalizing gambling in Texas with the intent of using revenues gained to fund education. I resoundingly support this idea. North Texans who want to gamble find the means – they either head North to Oklahoma or East to Louisiana. Lets let them lose their money locally! While I am not a big fan of gambling personally, I don’t think it should be illegal. I recommend a vote of yes to all three referendums!
While they don’t get as much attention as the Presidential race in the election cycle, there are several extremely competitive Senate races occurring in 2012. With the Democratic majority in the Senate at risk, it is important that Democrats win as many of these races as possible.
If you want to help our cause, there are few better ways to do so than to contribute to the Democratic candidate in these races. This is something you can do even if you don’t live in their state!
One important race is in Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren is up against Republican Scott Brown. Ms. Warren has been a tireless advocate of consumer protections in the financial marketplace, and deserves our support.
Another worthy recipient of your hard earned money is the campaign of Rep. Tammy Baldwin. She is in a race against Former Governor Thompson. With all the ‘excitement’ regarding unions in Wisconsin over the last year or two, I expect this race will be fought to the bitter end.
North Dakota has an interesting race between Democratic nominee Heidi Heitkamp and opponent Rick Berg. With N.D being a relatively red leaning state, Ms. Heitkamp will need to fight hard for every vote – but is considered to be a real contender. Contributions to her campaign – where election expenditures are not high – can make a real difference.
And, of course, there is Missouri. Ever since Todd Akins reprehensible comments about women, the elections chances of Senator Claire McCaskill look a lot brighter. For some time she was considered by many the underdog, but her opponents’ statements have galvanized voters.
I strongly encourage any of you looking to help preserve the Democratic majority in the US Senate to consider a small donation to one or more of these worthy candidates. A steady trickle of people contributing $10 dollars to a campaign can add up fast! Donate using the links below:
I just had a blast attending the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus – Texas Can Do Better workshop. I hesitated at first to sign up, as it was going to include all the Democratic Senators for the state.
I thought perhaps it wasn’t suitable for me – a mere Precinct chair! – to attend. Thankfully I did sign up and go, and it was a lot of fun. Always remember that the Democrats are the party of transparency and inclusiveness, and even the bottom rung of the party level is welcome at these events.
Moving on to the proceedings, the event was hosted by Senator Kirk Watson – the chair of the Senate democratic caucus, a very pleasant gentleman! However, almost the entire contingent of democratic state senators was present – including Fort Worths’ own Wendy Davis. I’m not sure if they were all present, but I believe they consist of Senators Davis, Ellis, Gallegos Jr, Hinojosa, Lucio Jr, Rodriguez, Uresti, Van De Putte, Watson, West, Whitmore and Zaffirini.
Our first task was to write down a list of items. These included one thing we loved about Texas, one thing we didn’t love, one thing we would like to see done differently, and one thing we personally would do different.
Senator Watson had a few people from the crowd deliver their responses to provide us some food for thought, and then commenced the table decisions.
Each table had a Senator – or an aide – sit down with them our Table had an aide named David, who worked for Senator Ellis) and run through a worksheet to get our input or thoughts on the governing or operation of Texas as a whole.
This led to lots of lively debates – and im sure some disagreements at some tables! – and was really quite enjoyable. Next we were tasked – at the table level – in generating a short message of what we would like to see changed/done differently/etc… and each of these summaries was delivered to the Senators (and the other participants).
A lot of the talk focused on the deficiencies in our education system (I’ve noticed there are a lot of teachers present at the convention!), safety net issues, womens’ rights, teen pregnancies (this one surprised me a little). There was a lot of solid talk – including at my own table – about the need to produce a solid message of what Texas Democrats stand for, advertize this message, and promote it party wide. Unfortunately this will require some discipline, but I hope we can make it happen!
This was really a great exercise, and seeing our senior leadership actively reaching out to the party membership for their thoughts and input was very gratifying. I’d have to say this was the highlight of the convention to me, and I really think it demonstrates one of the great reasons why the Democratic party appeals to me – it is the party of everyone.
At the end of our discussion we received the good news that there was a free t-shirt and sticker for all (hey, it is a convention after all!!) We also got the chance to signup to the official ‘Texas Senate Democratic Caucus Better
Texas Team’ and pledge our support.
I’m usually relatively cautious about this type of thing, but was very excited to sign up!
Having arrived for the Texas Democratic State Convention earlier in the day, my first act of business was to sit in on the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) meeting. Never having attended one of these events before, I was curious to see what would take place.
At the door was a sheet where you could sign-in and pick up a name tag, but since all Democratic Party meetings are open to anyone, there was no great formality – I could have just walked in anonymously had I wished.
As it turned out the meeting was remarkably similar to the County Level Committee meetings. After a lot of mingling and small group chit-chat, the meeting began. Basics such as the call to order and pledge of allegiance were performed. There was also a moment of silence for our men and women in the armed forces on deployment, and for those unfortunate enough not to return.
A roll call was taken by the secretary – it was quite an extensive list, but not everyone that attended there. It’s unclear to me exactly who gets put on that list – perhaps it is a full list of the SDEC members? I’m hoping someone can make this clearer to me in the future. It may also have tied to the reserved seating list, I’ll look at this more deeply after the convention is over and update appropriately.
There was raised seating up front for various important people. I had originally expected this to be for the SDEC members, but turns out I was thinking too small. I suspect the group was a combination of Democratic National Committee members representing Texas (some of the seating signs said DNC) and senior level personnel for the state party. While it’s not important, I am curious to know! Please let me know if you have the answer.
Chairman Boyd Richie chaired the meeting, as the top Democrat in Texas. He took a few minutes to issue his farewell address, as he is stepping down from the office he has held since 2006.
After roll call was completed – and proxies noted – a quorum was declared present and business got underway. The minutes from the April 28th 2012 SDEC meeting were adopted, and various visiting dignitaries were welcomed (and duly applauded).
A brief financial report was issued, indicating party revenues of $598K, and expenses of $601K, for January thru May of this year; everyone was urged to contribute financially to strengthen the party and help our candidates. An idea of which I strongly approve!
Various committee meetings had been held earlier in the day. The only one that produced anything of note/controversial was the SDEC Resolutions committee. They proposed a resolution relating to campaigns affiliated with someone named LaRouche (whom I got the impression is a rather nasty customer!) The resolution stated that Kesha Rogers – who has such an affiliation – does not need to be supported by Texas Democrats.
Before the meeting I had a chance to visit with a couple of candidates. Well, more honestly they visited with me – and everyone else! I met US Senatorial Candidate Paul Sadler. That was a bit of a thrill, since I had cast my vote for him in the primary a couple of weeks earlier.
Gilberto Hinojosa also did the rounds, he is running to replace Mr Richie as state chairman. I was nice to meet him and see our (prospective) future leader at the State level.
After what seemed a relatively short period of time – less than an hour – the meeting was adjourned, and the State Convention declared open for business.
Overall I would say the SDEC meeting was an interesting experience. If they were held locally to me I would probably attend regularly just to keep my finger on the pulse. Whilst I would not call it entertainment for the masses, for the politically involved it makes for good theater!
Next on my agenda is the TDP Kickoff Reception tonight at 6pm. I’ve worked up an appetite driving from Forth Worth to Houston this morning, and then feeling my way around the convention this afternoon – so I’m hoping they will have a good layout of food:)
One important activity for the involved Democrat is to participate in political conventions. Today was the date of the 2012 Democratic County/Senatorial District conventions in Texas. This was my first time as an attendee at a political convention, so I thought I’d provide a view from the ‘new guy’ for any other new activists who are just now getting involved.
In rural counties, where the entire county is contained within one state Senatorial district, this local convention is a County Convention. However, in large urban counties such as Tarrant County – where I live – that include pieces of several Texas Senate districts, Senate District conventions are held instead.
After redistricting, Tarrant includes pieces of Texas SD 9, SD 10, SD 12 and SD 22; and all four Senatorial districts were represented at the county level convention today at Trimble Tech High School in South Fort Worth.
Usually the delegates for these conventions are determined at the individual precinct conventions that normally occur earlier in an election cycle. However, due to redistricting these did not happen this year, and SD Convention Delegate slots were open to all registered voters who live in Tarrant County and that were willing to take an oath of affiliation to the Democratic Party.
The first action delegates-to-be took upon arrival was to register with the friendly volunteers and get their official credentials for proceedings – mine are pictured. They then had the chance to mingle with various Democratic candidates, collect campaign swag from their campaign staffs, and also to meet representatives from several of the Democratic groups with a presence in Tarrant County.
I personally took the time to have my photo taken with a cardboard version of President Obama – unfortunately he had other commitments today, and was unable to make it in person to the Tarrant County conventions:)
At a little after 10:00 am everyone made their way to the High School Auditorium for the beginning of official business. First was a display by the local color guard, a lovely rendition of the national anthem, and a recitation of the pledge of allegiance.
Following this the Tarrant County Chairman for the Democratic Party, Stephen Maxwell, welcomed us all warmly. He was lavish with his praise for all the work done by the volunteers – and the local High School administration for Trimble Tech – in getting the convention up and running. I was a first time attendee at this type of event, and I do have to say it was very well organized. Kudos to all involved, I am sure a lot of work went into putting all the pieces together!
After Mr. Maxwell completed his kick off speech, all the Democratic candidates present got a brief chance to address the collected delegates – at this stage all four Senatorial Districts were still seated together. Surprisingly they all kept to the assigned script (say your name and what you are running for), it may have been the threat of the presence of a trapdoor beneath them on the stage that kept them short and sweet…
The Keynote speaker was the sitting Texas State Senator for District 10, Wendy Davis. She is a very effective speaker, and received quite a few standing ovations and much applause. Ms. Davis gave quite a stirring speech outlining her accomplishments since coming to office, and emphasizing to us all the importance of helping out the campaigns of all our Democratic candidates. Hopefully this will motivate all of us – not just precinct chairs – to help out campaigns with block walks, phone banks, donations, and the like.
Next on the agenda for the day were the individual Senatorial District conventions. The mass of delegates left the auditorium, and headed to the appropriate room for their individual Senate District. The delegate credentials were color coded by SD number, which made it easy to tell who belonged where. If you found yourself wondering where to you go you could just follow someone wearing a badge the same color as yours.
At the convention which I attended, there was a little delay at the start. There are rules that must be followed as to how these events are ran, and apparently one of the first things that should occur is for the list of delegates to arrive and be approved before voting on any issues of importance could occur.
Unfortunately this list of delegate credentials was a little late in arriving. I got the impression that they had extended the registration deadline a little to allow latecomers a chance to check in, but not being in the thick of things I’m not entirely sure.
While waiting for this paperwork to arrive some business was conducted however. A lot of time was used up by candidates dropping by to speak to our Senate District people specifically. They got to speak a few minutes to us, which was quite a bit longer than they had earlier in the day. We probably heard from 8 or 10 candidates before the proceedings were adjourned.
Once the candidate list finally arrived things really got under way. Because of the redistricting delays, many of the rules of the convention were altered to cater to the reality of the 2012 election cycle. There was a reading of the revised rules – as agreed upon by the Rules Committee. There was also voting for a permanent Convention Chair and permanent Secretary who would actually run the convention.
Everyone who wished to be a delegate to the Texas Democratic State Convention in Houston in June from our Senate District was easily found a slot in our roster. This made life easy for the SD Nominations Committee for 2012, as they did not have to determine who would get to go! This very important – arguably the most important – piece of business was thus completed quickly without a hitch. Another potential complication, apportioning delegates according to their presidential preference, was also no issue since everyone was backing Obama. This made things a lot simpler in 2012 than during the contested Obama/Clinton convention back in 2008 I am sure.
The Resolutions Committee went off into the corner with over a dozen resolutions to review. They were busy for quite some time before coming up with a slate of resolutions they were in favor of, and a couple they were not.
After some discussion, a motion was passed to vote for the favorable slate as a whole. This motion passed, and the resolutions were passed. My understanding is that they will now go to the State Convention and be considered again there at higher level in the party – I will admit I’m a little fuzzy on that.
That was the last official activity for the day, and thus the SD convention was adjourned. I found it a very educational and rewarding experience to be involved in our political process at this level, and met many nice people whom I hope to see again in Houston for the Democratic State Convention – which I will be attending as part of the official Tarrant County Delegation for my Senate District!
Once you have been elected – or appointed – as a precinct chair, there are several different privileges and responsibilities that you gain and should attempt to fulfill. In the next few posts I will provide detailed information on each of these, but to start with I will briefly list them.
Precinct Chair Responsibilities
Seek Out Training Opportunities
Many of the tasks a good precinct chair should perform may seem rather intimidating at first. A lot of them can involve a fair amount of interaction with strangers, which can be a little nerve wracking if you have not done a lot of community work before. If you do not know exactly what it is you are supposed to do, it can be even worse! Thankfully training is available to help you get a handle on these tasks – remember that the State and County party desperately wants you to be as successful as possible, and are there to help.
Serve On Your County’s’ Democratic Committee
Each county in the United States hosts a county committee that is the official local branch of the state and national parties. In Texas this is called the County Executive Committee (CEC), although it may have a different name where you live. As precinct chair you are a voting member of this committee and it is both your privilege and duty to attend meetings of this committee to discuss and vote on business of important to the county party.
Organize Your Precinct
As precinct chair, you are the organizer in chief of the party in your precinct boundaries. Active precinct chairs will seek out volunteers (more on this in later posts) to help them with get out the vote efforts both before and during the election cycle. Having a pool of engaged volunteers can also allow you to improve the strength of the party county wide by organizing gatherings of likeminded folks.
Get Out The Vote (GOTV)
This is very important. Ideally all precinct chairs will do this, but it does take some effort and time which not everyone does have. Organizing phone banks to your local democratically inclined voters, arranging block walks, and offering drives to voters who cannot get to the polls unassisted. These are just a few examples of get out the vote activities precinct chairs can get involved in.
Be A Local Resource
Sometimes voters simply want to know more about what is going on in the political arena. As a precinct chair odds are you will be keeping fairly well informed about the policy positions of your local candidates, and about issues that are important to the local community. If you can answer the questions of your local precincts voters in helpful manner, voters are likely to remember that friendly Democratic Party official come election day.
I think that summarizes the main duties of a Precinct Chair. If anyone thinks I’ve missed any feel free to comment below or contact me. Over the next few posts I will expand on each of the responsibilities above in greater depth!
There are two ways in which one can become the precinct chair for your neighborhood. If your precinct currently does not have a precinct chair, then you are able to apply (note that I am assuming you are registered to vote; if you are not, then register to vote first!) to the leadership of your party in your County to fill the position; if there is already a chair then you can run against them for the position in the next election.
Before exploring these options however, you need to know things. First you need to figure out what your precinct number is, and second you need to determine if the position of precinct chair for your precinct is currently occupied – and if so, by whom.
What’s My Precinct Number?
Now clearly if you wish to apply to fill a vacant precinct chair position; you first need to determine your precinct number, which is based on your residential address. Please note that precinct numbers are unique only within counties, so when referencing your precinct number also mention the county name unless it is clear from the context which county you are referring too. There are numerous ways to get your precinct number.
Check Your Voter Registration Card
If you have your voter registration card, look it over. Many states will have a field on the card that tells you your precinct number. Not all states include this information on their voter registrar cards, but it is a good place to start looking as you most likely have it somewhere convenient.
Perform An Internet Search
The next thing to try is to use an internet search engine to attempt to determine your precinct number. A search for the name of your county, your state and the phrase “voter registration” will more than likely return a result affiliated with your county government – somewhere on that page, most counties will have an option to check whether you are registered to vote or not.
Check ‘Can I Vote’
Visit www.canivote.org. This site it useful as it provides a clearance house for state election websites. It offers an alternative way to located voter registration information specific to your state. If you cannot find your county election site this is a good alternative place to look for your precinct information.
Contact Your Political Parties County Office
Again, this method starts with the internet. Search for your parties county website – for example ‘dallas county democratic party’ – and one of the first few results is sure to belong to the headquarters for your county party. On the site you should be able to find the phone number or email of someone involved in precinct chair recruitment – if not, simply call or contact them via whatever method the provide.
Whomever you speak to at the county headquarters will be able to either help you determine your precinct number, or redirect you to someone who can. The parties love to hear from new people asking questions like this, as someone showing this type of interest has a strong likelihood of becoming an asset to their organizing and get out the vote efforts.
Determine If Your Precinct Chair Position Is Vacant Or Occupied
Having now identified your precinct, your next task is to determine if the precinct is vacant. The following are the easiest ways to obtain this information.
Check Your Parties County Website
Your political parties county website – easily found as discussed earlier in this article – is a useful source for all sorts of local party information. Depending on how well fleshed out and maintained the site is, something which will also be a good indicator of how well organized the party is locally, there may be a list of precinct chairs available somewhere on the site.
If you are able to find such a list you will find a list of precinct numbers for the county, and associated precinct chairs for the party; possibly with contact and other information. Sometimes the list will include all of the precincts and simply leave the name field blank if the Precinct Chair position is vacant. Other times the list may just include occupied precinct chairs, so the absence of your precinct from the list is likely to indicate a precinct chair vacancy also.
Call Or Email Your Parties County Office
Of course sometimes just reaching out to someone is the most effective means of getting information. As discussed earlier, the parties county website is sure to have some phone numbers or email addresses of people who will be able to lookup if your Precinct has a precinct chair or not. When you get hold of someone, simply ask them to tell you whom your precincts chair is – they will either provide you a name and contact information, or will tell you that the position is vacant.
Be Patient But Persistent
Note that many of the people who work for the party at a county level are volunteers, so it is entirely possible they will not always be available – and may potentially not respond right away. If you leave a message or send an e-mail give them a day or two to respond, but if you don’t hear back do not get discouraged.
Call again and try reaching out to a different person on the list of contacts. If all else fails take a long lunch and drive to party headquarters one day to find out in person. The hardest part of applying for a precinct chair position is maintaining your motivation long enough that you don’t lose interest before you achieve your goal.
Precinct Chair Vacancy – Appointment
Having determined your precinct number, and the current status of the precinct chair position, you must determine your next step. If the position of chair is vacant, then you should initiate the steps to be appointed to fill a vacant precinct chairmanship.
Precinct Chair Filled – Cooperation
If the precinct chair spot is already filled, then reach out to the person occupying that spot and offer your help with their grassroots efforts. If you find that they do a good job of fulfilling their responsibilities you may wish to just contribute your time as a volunteer to assist them indefinitely.
Precinct Chair Filled – Campaign
However, if you feel they don’t represent your precinct in a manner you agree with then you can run for the position in the next election cycle. Just remember to keep it civil if you do so, there is no need to make enemies – you may even find they are delighted at the prospect of someone taking the title off their hands!
Still unsure about what precinct you are in, or if you have a Democratic Party precinct chair? Contact me and I’ll try to help!
State conventions for the two major political parties are the place where – in presidential election years – the state party determines who will represent the state at the National convention later in the election season.
While the number of delegates (and also alternate delegates) assigned to each state is set by the party at the National level, the state determines who those people will be. The voting to fill those National level delegate spots is done by the delegates sent to the state convention by the County or Senatorial District conventions held prior to the respective parties’ State conventions.
The individuals chosen to fill the National convention delegate spots are chosen by a variety of methods, which vary between political parties, and even across individual states. These are some of the factors that frequently come into play.
Winner Take All Or Proportional
In some states, all the delegates sent to the national level are required to vote for the candidate that performs the best in the primary or caucuses statewide. In these ‘winner take all’ states, a potential nominee either picks up the whole pool of delegates, or none at all.
Proportional Assignment of Delegates
In other states, a proportional system is used. The number of delegates supporting each potential candidate is determined based on their proportion of the popular vote in the parties’ primary or caucus process. In some of these proportional vote states, a certain threshold of votes – usually expressed as a percentage of the vote – must be achieve in order for a candidate to receive a share of those delegates.
Winner Take All Delegate Assignment
Winner take all states are big prizes for candidates due to the concentration of delegates that can be picked up, and are often focused on by stronger candidates. Candidates who have trouble winning states outright are often able to accumulate a fair number of delegates by achieving strong support in many proportional states.
Caucus Or Primary
The most common way that the states electorate was polled on their preference for the parties presidential candidate used to be the caucus meeting. These are events that are organized by the party itself and allow participants to choose their preferred candidate in an open and transparent manner, with discussion allowed and encouraged at the caucus site. Today while many smaller states still use the Caucus system, the majority of states have switched to statewide primaries.
A primary is organized and operated using the same process as occurs in the general election process. Voting is usually held in the same places as for regular elections, and secret ballots are cast. Primaries are subject to most of the same limitations as the presidential elections, such as restriction on electioneering at the polling locations.
Open Or Closed Primary
There are a variety of different rules that determine who may vote in the primary election for a political party. These rules vary between the different states. Overall there are three types of primary held – closed, semi-closed and open primaries.
In some states, only voters who are registered with a particular party may vote in the party’s primary. This system – known as the closed primary – has a tendency to reward more extreme candidates (i.e. very conservative Republicans, or very liberal Democrats) as the majority of the voters will be those with strong political views in one direction or the other.
Semi Closed Primaries
In semi-closed primaries, unaffiliated voters are also eligible to vote in the primary. This allows independents the options of choosing a parties primary to participate in. These types of primaries are more likely to favor more moderate or centric candidates, who will have greater appeal to independent primary voters.
Finally, in open primaries, any voter may participate in which ever primary he or she wishes (note that in all systems a voter may vote in only one primary per election cycle). These are sometimes controversial, and claims will periodically arise that some primary voters will be members of the opposing party casting strategic votes, or simply trying to ‘make mischief’.
Pledged And Unpledged Delegates
Pledged delegates are delegates bound to a candidate by the primary and/or caucus process. In theory they are legally bound to vote for the candidate they are officially affiliated with. There is, however some controversy about this; and occasionally the topic of delegates switching to another candidate will come up as a possibility in situations where the delegate count between two candidates is close.
Unpledged delegates – or superdelegates – are a group of important party officials. Many senior party leaders or elected officeholders – both past and present – get this status from the national party. At the national convention these delegates may vote for whichever candidate they feel best, with no obligation to honor the wishes of others.
Congressional Delegates and At Large Delegates
Many states separate the pledged delegate slots into two pools, congressional and at-large delegates; both pools will have their slots filled by individuals chosen (or at least ratified) at the state convention. In both cases, individuals nominate themselves for the position by submitting a filing, but are usually chosen based on their activity within the party – and in particular their perceived loyalty to/work for the presidential candidate they will be representing.
Congressional District Delegates
The national delegates chosen to represent a particular congressional district will be chosen to reflect the support the various candidates for presidential nominee received in that district. In a typical example there may be 3 delegates assigned for a particular congressional district, which will be assigned to the candidates according to the proportion of votes they picked up in the primary or caucus.
Statewide At Large Delegates
At-large delegates are – where applicable – chosen at the state convention based on the performance of each presidential candidate statewide. The results of the primary voting determines how many of this group of delegates will be pledged to each of the presidential candidates at the national convention.
The national political conventions – for both the Republican and Democratic parties – are the occasion where the respective parties nominate their candidate for each cycles’ Presidential election. At the convention, the parties’ Presidential nominee is determined by the majority votes cast be the collected convention delegates from across the nation.
Clearly the delegates to the conventions have a very important role. So how many come from each state, who are they, and what activities do they actually perform? The answers to these questions are very complicated – and vary between parties – but I will do my best to simplify it.
How Many Delegates Per State?
State Delegate Count
Every state sends its own delegates for the national parties to each convention. There is no simple formula for the number of delegates each state sends, but it will be dependent partially on the state’s population and partially on how much influence the party structure at the state level has with the national party.
Misbehaving States can Lose Delegates
Sometimes, if a state party makes a decision that antagonizes the national party organization, the state will have its delegate count at the national convention reduced – or even eliminated – as a punishment for stepping out of line. Both the DNC and RNC use this sanction as a tool to discourage states from holding their state primaries or caucuses too early in the presidential campaign season.
Who Are The State Delegates?
Delegate Selection Occurs at a State Level
Again, not an easy question to answer. When it comes to the organization of the political parties, a lot of these types of decisions are set by internal rules and regulations of the respective parties. Not only this, but a lot of the decisions are made at an individual state level, so the rules for who becomes the Texas delegates to the Democratic Party convention may be considerably different to the rules regarding who is selected as the Oregon delegates for the Republican Party convention.
The individuals chosen will be with those with support the parties grassroots all the way down to the level of the individual precinct chairmen, who usually vote indirectly on their selection at county conventions, or more directly at the state convention level.
Assignment of Candidates Supporters by the Democratic Party
For the Democrats, the delegates are usually chosen proportionally from party officials who are supporters of the various Democratic presidential candidates that were on the ballot in the states’ primary or caucus – where voters have their say on whom their preferred nominee is.
Rules for Republican Party Delegate Assignment
For the Republicans, the process is similar. However, while in some states the delegates are assigned proportionately according to the support the candidates receive in the primary/caucus voting, in other states there is a winner take all process.
This means that for those states one candidate may win the primary by only a few hundred votes yet picks up the states entire delegate pool for the national convention. To most people this seems rather odd – perhaps unfair – but the rules of the political system are full of strange quirks like this; just consider the Electoral College as another example.
The Mysterious Superdelegate
Apart from the delegates chosen to represent individual candidates based on primary results, both parties have a number of delegate slots reserved for important party officials. These delegates are informally referred to ‘superdelegates’ by outside observers, and are not pledge to any particular candidate prior to the national convention.
What Do The Delegates Do?
A National Convention Delegates Job on a Good Day
The answer to this question is that usually the delegates really do not do much. There will be a lot of discussion about the direction of the party, plenty of listening to speeches and of course plenty of cheering for the nominee. The reason for this is a variation of the old saw that ‘all politics is local’, most important decisions have already been made at the individual states conventions for the party prior to the national one.
It is already known which delegates are supporters of which candidates – and while the possibility exists for ‘faithless delegates’ to switch their vote, it is uncommon and would have to occur in significant numbers to make a difference in all but the tightest contents. Thus the delegates are largely there to go through the motions of selecting the preordained nominee, and keeping the national media’s focus on the candidate for a few days.
Brokered Conventions – When Every Delegate Counts
There is the occasional situation, however, when these delegates will find themselves busy with very important work. If no candidate has managed to ‘win’ enough delegates thru the various primaries and caucuses held across the nation prior to the national convention, a brokered convention will occur.
When the voting fails to secure a majority of the delegates for one candidate, delegates are released from their pledge to the initial candidate they supported. In this brokered convention scenario various negotiations proceed amongst those in attendance until finally one of the candidates is able to secure majority support, at which point the parties Presidential nominee is finally determined.