As we are right in the middle of Super Tuesday, we thought it might be a good time to explain what it means. Super Tuesday is a designation used in a presidential primary season when the greatest number of states hold their primary elections. On this date, more convention delegates can be won than on any other single day on the primary calendar. The states holding presidential primaries are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia, with caucuses held in Alaska, American Samoa, Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
With over 20% of the delegates at stake for each party, it is easy to see why Super Tuesday is important. The sheer number of states and the fact that they represent a broad cross-section of Americans, makes it a good representation of how the electorate feels about the candidates. Many of the states in this year’s Super Tuesday allot their delegates proportional to the vote; however in Texas, if one candidate within a party receives more than 50% of the vote, then it is winner-take-all!
A couple of things to keep in mind:
Primaries are elections that are held by the state in which registered voters select the candidate of their choice through secret ballot. A primary can be closed, meaning that the voter may only select a candidate from the party with which they are registered. It can also be an open primary, where the voters can select from the candidates of any party. A few states also have what are called “mixed” primaries, which is when unaffiliated voters may choose to vote in either primary or can switch their registration on the primary date.
Caucuses are structured quite differently. These are meetings that are set up by state party committees to select a candidate. As such, the state party dictates the time and place for these events, and they usually last several hours. All caucuses start with an introduction or election of their delegates. Then party officials do some last-minute campaigning and/or give speeches. For Republicans, they then cast a secret ballot in the same way as a regular primary and are free to leave. Democrats, however, take an initial count of caucus attendees. They then vote publicly (by raising their hand or moving to a specific part of the room) for their candidate, and the votes are counted. Any candidate that has fewer than 15% of the total attendees gets removed from the ballot. These voters then need to select a different candidate – and all the other voters try to convince them to vote for their candidate. Once the voting is complete, the results are sent to the state party.
The number of delegates allocated to each state is determined by the national parties and is based primarily on the number of electoral votes in the state, and how many party members are in each state’s Congressional delegation, along with some other factors. There are bonus delegates given based on party strength. Some delegates are chosen by district (either Congressional or state senate), others are at-large, and still others are ex-officio delegates who are chosen because of their office (governor, senator, party leader). Both parties have pledged delegates (those who have pledged to vote for a particular candidate in the first ballot), and unpledged (may vote as they like) delegates. The Democratic Party has a much larger pool of delegates at 4,483. The Republican Party has 2,470.
The 2016 Democratic Presidential Nominating Convention will be held in Philadelphia July 25-28. Cleveland will host the 2016 Republican Presidential Nominating Convention on July 18-21.