Sunday, February 10, 2008

Delegate dilemma

The longer I watch the more confusing the counting of delegates becomes.

I'll have to confess that as much as I think I know about the political process and as involved as I have been in past elections, I had no idea how the selection of our President actually worked.

Now, after studying it and becoming completely immersed in the "process" I still have no idea.

It makes absolutely no sense. It makes even less sense this year with all the slashing-of-delegate punishments that were handed out by the Democratic and Republican national parties to various states.

Crazy is the word that comes to mind when I think of how delegates are accrued.

In some states they have a caucus, which simply means that people trudge to the polls and their votes are counted by raising hands or something along those lines. It can be an all day or multi-day process.

Some states combine a caucus on one day, handing out a portion of the delegates based on the vote, then a primary vote on another to divvy out the remainder of the votes.

Even when it's a primary vote open to all the delegates are whacky. A portion of the delegates are divided up based on the votes. Then in some states there are super delegates who work independently of the will of the voting public. There are uncommitted delegates and those who commit to a candidate in caucus and primary states.

Some states divide up the delegates based on the percentage of the votes each candidate wins. Some states have a winner-take-all system, which means if candidate A wins 43% of the vote and candidate B wins 42%, candidate A gets them all.

In one state the winner has to reach 50% to win all the delegates. If no one reaches the 50% mark then the delegates aren't awarded. All of the delegates go to the national convention uncommitted.

The Democrats have some strange rules, too, but they seem to be a little less confusing as all are pretty much divided up proportionately. However, in some states the winner can end up with fewer delegates due to special delegates that aren't controlled by the vote.

Not to make it even harder to figure out, but... in some states even though the candidate wins the delegates, those delegates can change their mind when they get to the convention.

If you go to CNN, Fox News and other places where they're keeping up with delegates you'll probably find that they all have different totals. On CNN they have one page with delegates and when you click the link for details the numbers are completely different (or at least they were a week or so ago).

Making it stranger than the normal strange this year is the upcoming battle over the Democrat delegates in Michigan and Florida. The Democratic national party stripped both states of their delegates because they moved their primary vote earlier than Feb. 5th. Candidates were banned from campaigning in Florida until after the election.

However, Democrats turned out to vote. Clinton won both states. Easier in Michigan since she and maybe Gravel and one other little-known candidate long since dropped out, were the only ones on the ballot. No one else paid the fee to get listed.

What happens to those votes? Disenfranchised. Their vote currently doesn't count. Is the Democratic Party going to select their nominee without the input from these two huge states? I think not!

If they allow the votes to count then is it fair to the candidates who skipped the state because of their Party's rules? Or should they be divided up proportionately giving Clinton an edge?

The Republicans cut the number of delegates allotted in half for some of the states that backed up their primary. Yet, if they held a caucus, those votes counted (not a primary, different set of rules!). Thus some states, to try and "matter" in the process, held an early caucus handing out a portion of their delegates and held back the remainder for their later primary vote.

The Democrats also cut some states' delegates in half.

Somehow someone is going to bang the gong at some point and say that a candidate in each party has reached the magic number of delegates needed to be the nominee. How will they know? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm still trying to understand how Georgia divides its delegates.

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