Friday, February 21, 2020

2020 Democratic Delegate Allocation: NEVADA

Updated: 2/22/20


Election type: caucus
Date: February 22
Number of delegates: 49 [8 at-large, 5 PLEOs, 23 congressional district, 13 automatic/superdelegates]
Allocation method: proportional statewide and at the congressional district level
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15%
2016: proportional caucuses
Delegate selection plan

Changes since 2016
If one followed the 2016 series on the Republican process here at FHQ, then you may end up somewhat disappointed. The two national parties manage the presidential nomination process differently. The Republican National Committee is much less hands-on in regulating state and state party activity in the delegate selection process than the Democratic National Committee is. That leads to a lot of variation from state to state and from cycle to cycle on the Republican side. Meanwhile, the DNC is much more top down in its approach. Thresholds stay the same. It is a 15 percent barrier that candidates must cross in order to qualify for delegates. That is standard across all states. The allocation of delegates is roughly proportional. Again, that is applied to every state.

That does not mean there are no changes. The calendar has changed as have other facets of the process such as whether a state has a primary or a caucus.

Nevada retained its protected position on the 2020 primary calendar among the earliest four states in February. One difference over 2016 is that Nevada has an additional at-large delegate and four more superdelegates, raising the number of at-large delegates to eight and automatic delegates from eight to 12.

Additionally, the Nevada Democratic Party also added an early voting option in order to comply with some of the national party encouragements in Rule 2 to increase nomination contest participation. Silver state Democrats kept the caucuses, but added a layer. Unlike Iowa, where satellite caucus tallies were added to congressional district totals, the Nevada caucus early vote will feed directly in to the precinct in which the early voter would have cast his or her ballot (if they had shown up for the caucuses on February 22). Early voters are given a ranked choice voting preference card on which they select their top three preferences. That should reallocate most early caucus voters to a second or third preference if their first choice does not reach viability in the first round of caucusing.

[Theoretically, it is possible that an early caucusgoer's third option will also not be viable. There are 11 candidates listed but only seven are still active. Up to only six candidates can reach the 15 percent viability threshold. Any caucusgoer who has a top three of the odd candidate out and/or two to three candidates no longer active will not be counted in the final expression since they will not have any viable choices.]

The standard 15 percent qualifying threshold applies in Nevada both statewide and on the congressional district level.

But that 15 percent is arrived at in a different manner than in primary states. As in Iowa, candidates either reach viability -- the 15 percent threshold -- in the first expression of preference or they do not. Those who do, are viable for the next round while supporters of those who do not qualify are free to realign to viable candidate groups in their precinct for the final expression of preference.

And although the Nevada Democratic Party delegate selection plan does not specify what the national delegate allocation is tethered to -- other than "final expression" -- those final expression data are filtered through the number of delegates each precinct will send to the county conventions. That is then mapped onto the national convention delegate totals both statewide (at-large and PLEO) and at the congressional district level. Again, as in Iowa, Nevada will have a sort of state delegate equivalent datapoint from which national delegate allocation will be calculated.

The interesting quirk here is that all county delegates -- that important intermediary datapoint that is the final number each precinct is calculating for each viable candidate -- are not created equally. The number of county delegates each county receives is based on the number of Democratic voters registered in that county. But the scale is not uniform.

And the rough dividing line is between the seven counties with more than 4000 Democratic registrants and the ten counties with fewer than 4000 Democratic registrants.

In the seven counties with more than 4000 Democratic registrants, precincts receive one county delegate for every 50 registered Democrats. But the scale is different for counties with fewer than 4000 Democratic registrants. In those counties -- again, depending on size of the registrant pool -- the ratio of county delegates apportioned to Democratic registrants ranges from one county delegate for every five registered Democrats on the smaller end to one county delegate for every 35 registered Democrats in the counties with registered Democratic voter totals approaching 4000.

This may seem like a small thing on the surface, but it potentially matters for delegate allocation. First of all, it means that the smaller 10 counties end up punching slightly above their weight. Their share of county delegates is roughly greater than their share of Democratic registrants. The opposite is true for the seven largest counties. Their ratio of county delegates to Democratic registrants actually penalizes them relative to the smaller counties.

Now, there are a couple of caveats to add to all of this. While this would seemingly advantage the smaller, more rural counties in the state -- those with fewer Democrats -- the two largest counties (Clark and Washoe) make up over 90 percent of the registered Democrats in Nevada and almost 90 percent of the county delegate total.

To exploit the smaller counties in the national convention delegate count, then means keeping things close in the largest counties and running up the score in the smaller counties.

This is exactly how Obama got the better of Clinton in Nevada despite losing the popular vote there in 2008. Things were razor close in the big counties while Obama juiced the rural counties, dominating the county delegates race and thus the national convention delegates.

That brings things to the second caveat. The relationship between smaller and larger counties in Nevada and delegate count is much more straightforward in a two candidate, one-on-one race. In a multi-candidate race, it could mean that a candidate attempting to duplicate Obama's strategy outside of the big counties could be the only one above the viability threshold and take all of the county delegates from a given small county precinct. And that could serve to augment any advantages said candidate has in other areas of the state. If Sanders, as the current polling seems to suggest, has a cushion across the state, then he could do well in the larger counties, but also use the enthusiasm of activist supporters in those rural counties to shut others out of the county delegates and in the end some share of the national convention delegates.

Delegate allocation (at-large and PLEO delegates)
To win any at-large or PLEO (pledged Party Leader and Elected Officials) delegates a candidate must win 15 percent of the statewide vote. Only the votes of those candidates above the threshold will count for the purposes of the separate allocation of these two pools of delegates.

See New Hampshire synopsis for an example of how the delegate allocation math works for all categories of delegates.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
Nevada's 23 congressional district delegates are split across four congressional districts and all four have roughly the same Democratic strength based on the results of the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections in the Silver state. That method apportions delegates as follows...
CD1 - 5 delegates*
CD2 - 6 delegates
CD3 - 6 delegates
CD4 - 6 delegates

*Bear in mind that districts with odd numbers of national convention delegates are potentially important to winners within those districts. Rounding up for an extra delegate requires less in those districts than in districts with even numbers of delegates.

Delegate allocation (automatic delegates/superdelegates)
Superdelegates are free to align with a candidate of their choice at a time of their choosing. While their support may be a signal to voters in their state (if an endorsement is made before voting in that state), superdelegates will only vote on the first ballot at the national convention if half of the total number of delegates -- pledged plus superdelegates -- have been pledged to one candidate. Otherwise, superdelegates are locked out of the voting unless 1) the convention adopts rules that allow them to vote or 2) the voting process extends to a second ballot. But then all delegates, not just superdelegates will be free to vote for any candidate.

[NOTE: All Democratic delegates are pledged and not bound to their candidates. They are to vote in good conscience for the candidate to whom they have been pledged, but technically do not have to. But they tend to because the candidates and their campaigns are involved in vetting and selecting their delegates through the various selection processes on the state level. Well, the good campaigns are anyway.]

All 36 pledged delegates in Nevada will be selected at the state convention on May 30. District delegates will be chosen in district caucuses at the convention based on district results to the February precinct caucuses while the full body will select both PLEO and then at-large delegates based on the statewide results.

Importantly, if a candidate drops out of the race before the selection of statewide delegates, then any statewide delegates allocated to that candidate will be reallocated to the remaining candidates. If Candidate X is in the race in late May when the Nevada statewide delegate selection takes place but Candidate Y is not, then any statewide delegates allocated to Candidate Y would be reallocated to Candidate X. [This same feature is not something that applies to district delegates.] This reallocation only applies if a candidate has fully dropped out. Candidates with suspended campaigns are still candidates and can fill those slots allocated them.

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