Delegates? Do Votes Count? How this “Primary Thing” Works in Connecticut

by Christopher O'Brien

By Chris O’Brien

There has been alot of discussion about delegates, conventions, and votes in recent weeks.  Today Connecticut Democrats and Republicans have their say (sorry unaffiliated – you didn’t join the club, so you sit this out) in who their nominees should be.

Donald Trump in particular has raised many questions about the process. Some of what he says is political persuasion and posturing. The rest are honest questions that many political novices are asking. When you hear the answers, asterisks, parenthesis and tangents show that those answers are not neat and simple from state to state. The Whisper’s editor, Chris O’Brien has been intimately involved with Presidential elections since 2008, working for five candidates, including three just this year. Its amazing how fast these primary campaigns last. When they are decided in July, there will still be a four month long General Election.

Each state is allocated a particular number of delegates based upon their population and how many federal and statewide officeholders that party has. We’ll start with the Democratic Party first, because its the easiest to understand. Connecticut has 78 delegates at stake today. They will be apportioned between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders based on the vote. And that’s it.

So, if Bernie has a landslide win, of say, 15-20%, then that would be meaningful in making up the distance between his take so far. However, a win of 2-5% may not make much of a difference. If Clinton has similar victories over Sanders, then her prowess is just much more expanded. One reason why Sanders is doing so well is probably because of a lack of energy on Clinton’s side due to her long political history and recent controversies. We believe many Democrats are simply sitting out these primaries, allowing Sanders’s youth movement to dominate.
Then there’s Rocky de la Fuente.

In the Republican party, there are 28 delegates that are apportioned by two different methods: Congressional District winners and at-large votes.

Every state is allocated three delegates for each Congressional district. Connecticut has five districts, so 15 delegates are at stake in this method. Each Congressional District is its own mini-race. Candidate A could win in the 2nd, 4th and 5th Districts, while Candidate B wins the 1st and Candidate C wins the 3rd. That’s a possible scenario.

Each state is also allocated an additional 10 at-large delegates, plus the three party leaders in each state – the state chairman, and two National Committee representatives are also granted votes. So, Connecticut has 28 delegates in total.  Some states are also granted “bonus” delegates based upon how many Governors and federal officeholders belong to the Republican Party. Since Connecticut’s Congressmen are all Democrat, there are no bonus delegates here.

Connecticut’s rules (changed only two years ago) say that any candidate who receives 50% of the vote can win all 13 of those delegates. However, if no one reaches that number, any candidate recieving at least 20% of the vote will receive a proportion of the 13 delegates – divided amongst the candidates receiving at least 20%. So, if candidate A receives 45%, candidate B receives 40%, and Candidate C receives 15%, then Candidates A and B divide the 13 votes proportionately. Any rounding benefits the ultimate winner.

One of the fundamental beliefs of the Republican Party is that states should have more rights than the federal government because state legislators represent a fewer number of people are and closer to the real problems people face. The way states allocate their delegates to the national convention reflects the state-centered views of the party. Each state allocates their delegates in different ways. Some (like Florida and Arizona) are winner-take-all states. Some (Iowa, New Hampshire) have strictly proportional races where a candidate who wins 55% only gets a single delegate more than a candidate who wins 45%. In fact, this is how many of the Democratic primaries work. Nrw York alloted two delegates per Congressional district for the winner and one delegate for the second place finisher, unless the winner reaches a 50% trigger when they get all three delegates.

Connecticut is a hybrid of both of these types – and this is the first time the current method has been tried.

Then what?

Much of the talk nationally has been on what delegates will do at the convention, and whether or not they will truly represent the people who elected them. In most states, there are sequences of conventions where the delegates are chosen. The conventions are publicly announced, but it would require organization to promote and select the eventual nominee.

Remember, that the ultimate goal is a strong President with the support from most Americans. Since he must govern affectively, it is a benefit if he can cobble together coalitions. Just two days ago, Senator Cruz and Gov. Kasich did exactly that- agreeing to strategically work together to defeat Donald Trump. The two candidates’ platforms are different, but they have similar goals which they believe can help unite more Republicans together for a stronger force in the future. If you give voters a reason to vote for you – even if they disagree on other issues – it benefits you as well. Ronald Reagan once talked about the ability to agree with someone for 70% of your cause is still your friend.

Connecticut delegates will be bound on the first vote in Cleveland, but will be free to vote for anyone after that. Delegates here are chosen by the campaigns themselves, so loyalty should not be as much a factor here as in other states where the delegates are chosen by voters who may not know them well.

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