THE WAY DEMOCRACY WILL BE
For Immediate Release
/ February 4th 2008

Understanding Super Tuesday

State Rules on February 5 and Lessons for Reform


Quick Facts:

* On Tuesday, February 5th (or "Super Tuesday"), 24 states will hold nomination contests for president, but there is no uniform method in either party for how the process will take place. In every state, Democrats use a proportional method of awarding electors. The Republicans use winner take all with a few exceptions.

* Although the media focus has been on “winning states,” the game really is about delegates. Because of that fact, comparable “sweeps” of most states by frontrunners Clinton and McCain should be interpreted very differently. The Republicans may prematurely “end” their ongoing conversation about the future of their party before many states have voted; the Democrats likely will continue it.

* Expect some states to have “electoral college”-type outcomes – ones where one candidate wins the most votes and another candidate wins the most delegates.

* More than half of the Super Tuesday states have early voting or ready available absentee voting. We can anticipate millions of votes have already been cast; indeed more than 350,000 Democrats had voted in Florida before the South Carolina primary. Tens of thousands of votes were cast for candidates like John Edwards and Rudy Gillian before they withdrew from the race.

* The Republican Party nearly adopted a complete overhaul of its nomination schedule in 2000 and has started a process that may again lead to reform; the RNC Rules committee already had a meeting to consider numerous proposals.


How State Variations Can Affect the Outcome

* Early Voting: Some states allow early voting, which means some voters may have cast ballots before new candidate positions, endorsements and information came out to sway the votes of those who made their decision later. Many candidates have dropped out since people starting casting votes in states like California. Late-breaking polls may be misleading about what results will be.

* Open/Closed Primary: In some states voters are free to participate in a party’s primary regardless of whether they are registered as a member of that party. Independents and members of an opposing party can influence election outcomes. Other states leave independent voters with no role at all. This will almost certainly have a significant impact in some states.

* Winner-Take-All Allocation: Most upcoming Republican primaries feature winner-take-all allocation of electors, meaning that even in a hotly contested primary, the winner gets 100% of the available delegates. In Florida's primary, John McCain won all 57 delegates with a 37% plurality of the vote. Indeed Sen. McCain has yet to secure 40% of the vote in any nomination contest held to this point.

* Proportional Allocation: Democratic primaries use proportional representation, where candidates earning at least 15% will get a portion of a state’s delegates. Most delegates are allocated in small numbers for congressional districts – allowing for significant anomalies in how delegates will be allocated statewide in relation to the statewide popular vote.

* Primaries, vs. Conventions & Caucuses: The majority of contests on Super Tuesday are primaries, but there also are conventions and caucuses governed by very different rules – with far different levels of participation and degree of party leadership control.

The Consequences of Rule Variation

· Popular vote winners in states may well win fewer delegates than opponents, and victories in some states will matter much more than others.

· Voter turnout will vary widely, but this does not affect a state’s number of delegates. Voter turnout in congressional districts will not affect how many delegates each district result will determine, allowing for significant anomalies in the relationship of popular vote outcomes and delegate outcomes.

· In some states independent voters will have no impact and great impact in others.

· With major candidates leaving the race this week, tens of thousands of voters will see their early votes or absentee votes essentially negated. This could have easily have been prevented by giving voters a “second chance” on their ballot –a practice done in election with runoffs in states like Arkansas and South Carolina by allowing overseas military voters and other long distance absentee voters to rank-order candidates on their ballots 1, 2 4.

· Complex delegate selection rules and state voting policies have already played a major role in the outcome of the 2008 nominations.

Who Votes on Super Tuesday?

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Georgia Idaho (D) Illinois Kansas (D) Massachusetts Minnesota Missouri Montana (R) New Jersey New Mexico (D) New York North Dakota Oklahoma Tennessee Utah West Virginia (R)

Convention Dynamics

* Thresholds for Nomination
o Democrats: 2,026 delegates
o Republicans: 1,191 delegates

* Super delegates are not bound by the decisions of party primaries or caucuses and can vote for whichever candidate they want to. Generally super delegates are elected officeholders or party officials. Hillary Clinton currently leads Barack Obama in terms of their support.

* Speculation continues about whether the penalties levied by the DNC and RNC against states such as Michigan and Florida will really stick. These decisions could have a big impact at the convention.

Methods of Awarding Delegates

* Winner-take-all The candidate who wins the most votes wins all the delegates. Republicans currently use the winner-take-all method in most of their contests.

* Proportional District delegates are apportioned among the top vote-getters in each (usually congressional, but occasionally state legislative) district – with accuracy of its candidate share of delegates limited by relatively few numbers of delegates in many districts -- while the at-large delegates are apportioned among the top vote-getters statewide by the percentage of the vote received above a certain threshold (most often 15 percent: a figure actually mandated by the rules of the Democratic Party since 1992). This is the system used by the vast majority of the states holding presidential nomination contests in the Democratic Party, but only a few Republican contests after Iowa and New Hampshire.

See following chart.

Types of Elections

* Primary Primary elections are run by state and local governments (where states do not have caucuses). Taxpayers pay for parties to hold their nomination contests, but have greater control over party decisions about who can vote or how they vote.

* Caucus A caucus is a physical meeting of members of voters to choose group policy, or nominate candidates for various offices. Caucuses are funded by the parties, who have great leeway over how they administer the election. Their results typically lead to nominees who go to a state convention, where national delegates are chosen – results at a caucus thus are not as clearly tied to what delegates will ultimately represent a state at a party’s national convention.

o The Republican caucuses in Iowa were a straw poll, in the way that primaries are - -without deliberation.

* Open Primary In an Open primary or caucus, any voter - regardless of party registration - may vote in the primary of either major party (but not both!). Democrats may, if they wish, pass up their own party's primary to vote in the Republican primary, while Republicans may choose to pass up their own party's primary to vote in the Democratic primary; Independents may vote in either major party's primary.

* Closed Primary In a closed primary, voters may vote only in the primary of the political party in which they registered. Democrats may only vote in the Democratic primary, Republicans may only vote in the Republican primary and Independents (those not registered with either major party) are not permitted to vote in either major party's primary.

State and County Conventions
Where party leaders meet and decide without a vote how their delegates will be awarding. Wyoming held county conventions to select delegates to the national convention; more delegates will be elected in May at the state convention.

Early Voting

· Vote by Mail The vote by mail is a method of voting for an election. Ballot papers are distributed and/or returned by mail. It differs from in-person voting which occurs at a polling station or from an electronic voting system. This method is beneficial either to people with disabilities or people who might be absent during the election period, but it does mean people may vote with less information about the candidates or the state of the race than candidates who vote in person.

· No Excuse Absentee Voting Allows any registered voter to vote absentee without requiring a reason.

· In Person Early Voting About half the states offer some sort of early voting. Early voting differs from absentee voting in that voters may visit an election official’s office or, in some states, other satellite voting locations, and cast a vote in person without offering an excuse for not being able to vote on election day. Satellite voting locations vary by state, and may include other county and state offices (besides the election official’s office), grocery stores, shopping malls, schools, libraries, and other locations. Early voting generally is conducted on the same voting equipment used in the regular election, as opposed to absentee voting, which is conducted on mail-in paper ballots. The time period for early voting varies from state to state, but most often it is available during a period of 10-21 days before the election, generally ending on the Friday or Saturday immediately preceding the election.

Early Voting Example
Early voting turnout in the presidential primary Tennessee is far greater than in past elections. As of February 4th, the state reports 169,367 early votes and could end up as high as 250,000 early votes, almost two and half times higher than the previous high water mark in 2000 (110,000).

Reforming the Process

One aspect of the primaries being sidelined by the horserace coverage is the impact of the schedule itself. The newly compressed schedule has pushed some candidates to premature exits, and may leave us with two nominations decided a half-year before party conventions – or not decide them at all.

FairVote supports a graduated primary schedule called the American Plan, where small population states vote early, and with breaks between ten rounds of contests, states with a cumulatively larger population are able to vote in each success election round. We also encourage debate about other alternatives, including: the National Plan, a national primary held over an extended period of time, with result periodically released during the course of the voting; the rotating regional primary plan, which would divide the nation into four region that would take turns voting first in different election years; and the Delaware Plan, which is fixed schedule graduated nomination contest that would have four rounds of voting, with the smallest states voting first and the largest states voting last. A collection of information on options and experts to discuss them is available at: www.fixtheprimaries.com

FairVote also believes it important to analyze other rules and consider changes, including:

· Institutionalizing in all contests the option generally available at Democratic caucuses of voters being able to move to a viable second choice, but only doing so having doing a public tally of people’s first choice

· Using ranked voting ballots to determine the majority winner in each state and not just assuming the plurality vote winner was that state’s most preferred candidates.

· Reviewing processes of allocating delegates so that delegate outcomes are not too distorted from popular vote outcomes

· Providing voters with alternatives to public voting at caucuses

For more information, please contact:

Rob Richie

Executive Director, FairVote (301) 270-4616 / rr@fairvote.org /www.fairvote.org / www.FixThePrimaries.com