Primary Primer

While trolling social media outlets for the last 24 hours, I’ve learned that there are many misconceptions about the presidential election cycle and the elections themselves. To the credit of those who are confused, it is a very difficult process to follow. This writer knows enough to know that she doesn’t know everything. However, I do know a little more than some, so I’ve developed this primer to help you develop your social media presence on the issue.

First, the fat lady has not even arrived at the theater to warm up yet. We have a long way to go before we determine anything. The process, which has already been going on for over a year, still requires that every state hold either a primary or a caucus for both the Democrat and Republican parties. Some states wisely hold both party’s primaries on the same day, others do not. This is why you will hear of the same state named on two separate election days in some cases.

Second, each party in each state determines how delegates will be awarded based on their election outcome. For example, the Republican Party leaders* in State A may decide that the delegates to the national convention will be determined based on the percentage of votes that the candidates each received in their state. If Candidate A gets 40% of the vote, he will be awarded 40% of the delegates from the state. Some states require a 20% threshold for a candidate to receive any delegates (in other words, regardless of where a candidate places in the election, he must still have 20% of the votes in order to be awarded any delegates in the state).

Meanwhile in State B, the party leaders may have decided that the winner of the election will be awarded all of the state delegates. In these states the win is all that matters. If Candidate A gets 500,000 votes and Candidate B receives 499,999, Candidate A will be awarded all of the delegates while Candidate B goes home to sulk.

By the way, the number of delegates a state sends to the national convention is different in each party. For example, in Alabama, the Republican Party will send 50 delegates to the RNC in Cleveland this year. The Democrats will send 60 delegates to the DNC in Philadelphia. This does NOT mean that Alabama has more Democrats than Republicans. It only means that each party uses a different method to determine the number of delegates each state can send. The Democrats, for example, also have “super delegates” who do not face election.

Third, the election results last night garnered a great deal, and it also didn’t tell us very much. The “Super Tuesday” or “SEC Primary” elections did award more delegates than any other election day during the primary process. While this may weed out some of the lesser supported candidates, there are still many states left to go. Nothing is final just yet.

Fourth, even when it is over, it still may not be over. There are several reasons for this, but I’ll only give you two. In 2012, the state of Tennessee voted overwhelmingly for Senator Rick Santorum, and the Santorum delegates easily won most of the votes. Later that summer, Santorum dropped out of the race. Because the Republican Party leaders didn’t want to send people who were obligated to support Santorum for three votes, they ignored the election outcomes and picked other delegates to attend the convention to support Romney.

Another reason why it may not be over is that anything can happen at a convention, especially when there are so many candidates who are doing so well. When the supporters for these candidates are adamant and refuse to change their votes to go along with the party line, there is the possibility of a brokered convention. Again, anything can happen in this situation, including the delegates having to agree on a nominee who received very little support in the state elections, or one who was not even on the ballot in any state. At a brokered convention, it is anybody’s game.

Finally, this is why the careful selection of delegates is critical. The Republican ballot in my state was very long in this election. That is because I had to choose nearly 20 people to represent my wishes at the national convention, and there were well over 200 candidates. Like a good little voter, I researched these delegate candidates. I asked people close to me about them, looked at past voting records, and trolled their social media outlets. Even if I have little control over who the next president is, I have far more control over who will select the Republican nominee. These are also the people who will determine the Republican Party platform, where Republicans stand on each issue. These delegates are very important.

While standing in a long line to vote, I watched many voters stare blindly at the screen trying to determine for whom to cast a vote. They clearly had no idea what they were doing or who any of the delegate candidates were. When I voted, it took less than two minutes from start to finish. I had studied the ballot well before I walked in the door. Do yourself a favor before the next round of elections this fall, and do likewise. You owe it to yourself to know who the people are who put their names on a ballot. A visit to your Secretary of State website should yield a link to your county election website. There you can find a copy of your ballot at least 45 days in advance of the election.

Short of Reagan being resurrected from the grave, many Republicans are going to have to hold their nose and go vote for the nominee this fall. It will stink, and they won’t like it. As I watched one of the debates last month, I realized two things – Jesus Christ is not on the ballot for either party, and anyone of the Republican candidates would be better than any of the Democrat candidates. Even though you may very well be disappointed with the Republican nominee, our nation will still need your vote for him. We’re counting on it.


~Temerity Dowell


*In the last couple of years, you probably saw names at the bottom of the ballot you did not recognize. They were running for the party’s State Executive Committee. There is one man and one woman on this committee who represent you to your state party. They are the people who help make these decisions. I recommend you seek them out, learn more about the process, and where they stand.

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