The Democratic Nomination Process: The Electoral College on Steroids

While most Democratic candidates for president clamor to abolish the Electoral College, they remain eerily silent about the Democratic nomination process.  But occasionally they let their hypocrisy slip.

Here, Pete Buttigieg unintentionally says every vote should count equally in the general election but not in the Democratic primaries:

I think when it comes to the general election, not primaries, but general elections, we ought to reform this so that one person gets one vote.  It does not matter where you live, big-city, small-town, where the state line is compared to where your houses (are).  You get a vote and every vote counts the same.

Buttigieg’s position is beyond curious, considering the Democratic nomination process is essentially the Electoral College on steroids.

The two processes start out quite similarly.  Candidates must win 270 of 538 electoral votes to gain the presidency, and 2,382 of 4,763 delegates to gain the nomination (in 2016).  For all intents and purposes, electoral votes and delegates are the same concept.

Electoral votes are allocated to the states via constitutional law and the Census Bureau.  The nomination process, created and controlled by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), literally uses the Electoral College in its formula of allocating delegates to states.

But the DNC’s formula is far more complex, even awarding bonus delegates to bordering states that hold simultaneous primaries later in the voting season.  Defying the laws of science, the DNC considers Maine as bordering Vermont, Hawaii as bordering Oregon, and Puerto Rico as bordering Guam. 

Resulting from such peculiarities, a different number of delegates is available each election cycle.  Even more bizarre, due to what the New York Times calls the “byzantine nature of the Democratic nominating process,” news organizations seldom agree on the delegate count as election season unfolds.

Most Americans have no idea that presidents and nominees are not formally elected by the voters, but by a group of representatives called Electors and Delegates.  The 538 Electors and 4,763 Delegates are fallible, persuadable humans.

In 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College 306-232.  However, after the Electors met to deliver their state’s votes, the final tally was 304-227.  Seven faithless Electors thwarted the people’s will by casting votes for Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Colin Powell, and Faith Spotted Eagle.

Though a handful of faithless Electors cast ridiculous protest votes that did not affect the outcome, hundreds of faithless delegates, also known as Superdelegates, exist to purposely tip the scales of the Democratic nomination.

In 2016, the delegation consisted of 4,051 Pledged Delegates bound to their state’s primary results, and 712 Superdelegates unbound to the results.  As just one example, Sanders defeated Clinton in West Virginia by 16 percent, winning all 55 counties in the process.  Yet Clinton delegates outnumbered Sanders delegates at the convention, thanks to some arm-twisting of Superdelegates by powerful West Virginian insiders.

At the time, Sanders spoke vehemently against these Superdelegate shenanigans.  In a public relations response, the DNC instituted window dressing to supposedly limit the influence of Superdelegates in 2020.  But the new rules greatly increase the likelihood of a brokered convention, where 4,051 Pledged Delegates would gain the unyielding power of Superdelegates.  Unsurprisingly, the 2020 race to schmooze delegates began long before the first debate, with Sanders ironically leading the charge.

Even without Superdelegates, Democratic candidates can, by design, win the popular vote but lose the state.  This happened to Jesse Jackson time and time again in the 1980s.

More recently in 2008, Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the Nevada caucus by 6%, but lost the pledged delegate count.  Pledged delegates are mostly won proportionally at the district level.  In a two-person race, a district with four delegates is guaranteed to be split 2-2 unless one candidate wins more than 63 percent of the vote.  Obama won the rural counties of Nevada by wide margins while losing the populous areas by smaller margins.

Eleven days earlier, Clinton defeated Obama in the New Hampshire primary by 3%, yet Obama again won more delegates.  This was due to John Edwards finishing a distant third but gaining a handful of delegates.  Though Clinton initially tied Obama in delegates, Edwards dropped out of the race two weeks later.  One Edwards delegate quickly supported Obama, and two more did the same in May when Edwards endorsed Obama for president.

Edwards garnered delegates by winning almost 17 percent of the New Hampshire vote.  In Democratic primaries, candidates are considered viable by clearing a 15 percent threshold.  Otherwise, the vote is discarded entirely.  Since 1988, 18 percent of New Hampshire Democratic Primary votes have been wasted

In the crowded 2020 field of over twenty candidates, it is plausible for the first-place finisher to win 16-15 percent and split the state’s delegates equally, or win 15-14 percent and gain all that state’s delegates.

Clearly, every vote is not equal during the Democratic nomination process.  Though the DNC has full authority to change the nomination rules, it has largely maintained the status quo for decades. 

Therefore, it is safe to assume that Democratic politicians are disingenuous in their disdain for the Electoral College.  Rather, their likely motivation is strictly political, a talking point designed to rally a base still reeling from Electoral College defeats in 2000 and 2016.

Yet even this political strategy is shortsighted.  Democrats could easily lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College in future elections.

This exact scenario almost occurred in 2004.  Despite losing the popular vote to George W. Bush by 3 million votes, John Kerry came 118,000 votes away from winning Ohio and the presidency.  Furthermore, Kerry was a combined 37,000 votes away from forcing an electoral tie in Iowa, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Indeed, a 269-269 Electoral College tie is not out of the question in 2020.  For example, if Trump maintains his 2016 victories in all states except Pennsylvania and Michigan, the Democrat-controlled House would choose the next president.

It is fine for everyday Americans to sincerely believe in abolishing the Electoral College.  But if Democratic candidates for president are unwilling to demand an overhaul to the DNC-controlled primaries, they would be better served ceasing all hypocritical demagoguery about a constitutional bedrock of America.

Evan Boudreau’s freelance writing has appeared in The Daily Caller and The Federalist.  Evan detests social media but welcomes feedback at evanboudreaufeedback@gmail.com.

While most Democratic candidates for president clamor to abolish the Electoral College, they remain eerily silent about the Democratic nomination process.  But occasionally they let their hypocrisy slip.

Here, Pete Buttigieg unintentionally says every vote should count equally in the general election but not in the Democratic primaries:

I think when it comes to the general election, not primaries, but general elections, we ought to reform this so that one person gets one vote.  It does not matter where you live, big-city, small-town, where the state line is compared to where your houses (are).  You get a vote and every vote counts the same.

Buttigieg’s position is beyond curious, considering the Democratic nomination process is essentially the Electoral College on steroids.

The two processes start out quite similarly.  Candidates must win 270 of 538 electoral votes to gain the presidency, and 2,382 of 4,763 delegates to gain the nomination (in 2016).  For all intents and purposes, electoral votes and delegates are the same concept.

Electoral votes are allocated to the states via constitutional law and the Census Bureau.  The nomination process, created and controlled by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), literally uses the Electoral College in its formula of allocating delegates to states.

But the DNC’s formula is far more complex, even awarding bonus delegates to bordering states that hold simultaneous primaries later in the voting season.  Defying the laws of science, the DNC considers Maine as bordering Vermont, Hawaii as bordering Oregon, and Puerto Rico as bordering Guam. 

Resulting from such peculiarities, a different number of delegates is available each election cycle.  Even more bizarre, due to what the New York Times calls the “byzantine nature of the Democratic nominating process,” news organizations seldom agree on the delegate count as election season unfolds.

Most Americans have no idea that presidents and nominees are not formally elected by the voters, but by a group of representatives called Electors and Delegates.  The 538 Electors and 4,763 Delegates are fallible, persuadable humans.

In 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College 306-232.  However, after the Electors met to deliver their state’s votes, the final tally was 304-227.  Seven faithless Electors thwarted the people’s will by casting votes for Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Colin Powell, and Faith Spotted Eagle.

Though a handful of faithless Electors cast ridiculous protest votes that did not affect the outcome, hundreds of faithless delegates, also known as Superdelegates, exist to purposely tip the scales of the Democratic nomination.

In 2016, the delegation consisted of 4,051 Pledged Delegates bound to their state’s primary results, and 712 Superdelegates unbound to the results.  As just one example, Sanders defeated Clinton in West Virginia by 16 percent, winning all 55 counties in the process.  Yet Clinton delegates outnumbered Sanders delegates at the convention, thanks to some arm-twisting of Superdelegates by powerful West Virginian insiders.

At the time, Sanders spoke vehemently against these Superdelegate shenanigans.  In a public relations response, the DNC instituted window dressing to supposedly limit the influence of Superdelegates in 2020.  But the new rules greatly increase the likelihood of a brokered convention, where 4,051 Pledged Delegates would gain the unyielding power of Superdelegates.  Unsurprisingly, the 2020 race to schmooze delegates began long before the first debate, with Sanders ironically leading the charge.

Even without Superdelegates, Democratic candidates can, by design, win the popular vote but lose the state.  This happened to Jesse Jackson time and time again in the 1980s.

More recently in 2008, Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the Nevada caucus by 6%, but lost the pledged delegate count.  Pledged delegates are mostly won proportionally at the district level.  In a two-person race, a district with four delegates is guaranteed to be split 2-2 unless one candidate wins more than 63 percent of the vote.  Obama won the rural counties of Nevada by wide margins while losing the populous areas by smaller margins.

Eleven days earlier, Clinton defeated Obama in the New Hampshire primary by 3%, yet Obama again won more delegates.  This was due to John Edwards finishing a distant third but gaining a handful of delegates.  Though Clinton initially tied Obama in delegates, Edwards dropped out of the race two weeks later.  One Edwards delegate quickly supported Obama, and two more did the same in May when Edwards endorsed Obama for president.

Edwards garnered delegates by winning almost 17 percent of the New Hampshire vote.  In Democratic primaries, candidates are considered viable by clearing a 15 percent threshold.  Otherwise, the vote is discarded entirely.  Since 1988, 18 percent of New Hampshire Democratic Primary votes have been wasted

In the crowded 2020 field of over twenty candidates, it is plausible for the first-place finisher to win 16-15 percent and split the state’s delegates equally, or win 15-14 percent and gain all that state’s delegates.

Clearly, every vote is not equal during the Democratic nomination process.  Though the DNC has full authority to change the nomination rules, it has largely maintained the status quo for decades. 

Therefore, it is safe to assume that Democratic politicians are disingenuous in their disdain for the Electoral College.  Rather, their likely motivation is strictly political, a talking point designed to rally a base still reeling from Electoral College defeats in 2000 and 2016.

Yet even this political strategy is shortsighted.  Democrats could easily lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College in future elections.

This exact scenario almost occurred in 2004.  Despite losing the popular vote to George W. Bush by 3 million votes, John Kerry came 118,000 votes away from winning Ohio and the presidency.  Furthermore, Kerry was a combined 37,000 votes away from forcing an electoral tie in Iowa, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Indeed, a 269-269 Electoral College tie is not out of the question in 2020.  For example, if Trump maintains his 2016 victories in all states except Pennsylvania and Michigan, the Democrat-controlled House would choose the next president.

It is fine for everyday Americans to sincerely believe in abolishing the Electoral College.  But if Democratic candidates for president are unwilling to demand an overhaul to the DNC-controlled primaries, they would be better served ceasing all hypocritical demagoguery about a constitutional bedrock of America.

Evan Boudreau’s freelance writing has appeared in The Daily Caller and The Federalist.  Evan detests social media but welcomes feedback at evanboudreaufeedback@gmail.com.