Wednesday, February 26, 2020

2020 Democratic Delegate Allocation: CALIFORNIA


Election type: primary
Date: March 3
Number of delegates: 495 [90 at-large, 54 PLEOs, 271 congressional district, 80 automatic/superdelegates]
Allocation method: proportional statewide and at the congressional district level
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15%
2016: proportional primary
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.

The biggest change in the Golden state since 2016 has been its position on the 2020 primary calendar. California's 2017 legislation to move the primary from its more traditional position on the first Tuesday in June to Super Tuesday in 2020 upended the presidential primary calendar. The change meant that an already delegate-rich date on any presidential primary calendar was getting an influx of more than 400 delegates, more than 10 percent of the total number of delegates and nearly a third of the pledged delegates available on Super Tuesday.

That is no small thing and more than anything was the catalyst for much of the early invisible primary chatter about how a potential crowded field of candidates combined with a more frontloaded calendar and proportional allocation rules could lead to an unresolved end to primary season in 2020. That may or may not come to pass, but definitely hinges on how many candidates crest above the 15 percent qualifying threshold and how consistently across not only the Super Tuesday states but through the contests on St. Patrick's Day as well.

The calendar change in California triggered one additional difference over 2016 for Democrats in the Golden state: a loss of bonus delegates. California Democrats lost their timing bonus (20 percent) by moving the primary from June to March. That translated to a loss of 46 district delegates and 15 at-large delegates. However, the 2020 California Democratic delegation gained one PLEO delegate and eight superdelegates compared to 2016.

[NOTE: PLEO delegates are a 15 percent add-on to the base delegation (at-large plus district delegates before any bonuses). California had more base delegates in the 2020 delegation than did the state in 2016. That accounts for the gain there.]

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

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)
California's 271 congressional district delegates are split across 53 congressional districts and have some muted variation across districts from the measure of Democratic strength California Democrats are using based on the results of the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections in the state. That method apportions delegates as follows...
CD1 - 4 delegates
CD2 - 6 delegates
CD3 - 5 delegates*
CD4 - 5 delegates*
CD5 - 6 delegates
CD6 - 5 delegates*
CD7 - 5 delegates*
CD8 - 4 delegates
CD9 - 5 delegates*
CD10 - 4 delegates
CD11 - 6 delegates
CD12 - 7 delegates*
CD13 - 7 delegates*
CD14 - 6 delegates
CD15 - 6 delegates
CD16 - 4 delegates
CD17 - 5 delegates*
CD18 - 6 delegates
CD19 - 6 delegates
CD20 - 5 delegates*
CD21 - 4 delegates
CD22 - 4 delegates
CD23 - 4 delegates
CD24 - 5 delegates*
CD25 - 5 delegates*
CD26 - 5 delegates*
CD27 - 5 delegates*
CD28 - 6 delegates
CD29 - 5 delegates*
CD30 - 6 delegates
CD31 - 5 delegates*
CD32 - 5 delegates*
CD33 - 6 delegates
CD34 - 5 delegates*
CD35 - 4 delegates
CD36 - 4 delegates
CD37 - 6 delegates
CD38 - 5 delegates*
CD39 - 5 delegates*
CD40 - 5 delegates*
CD41 - 5 delegates*
CD42 - 5 delegates*
CD43 - 5 delegates*
CD44 - 5 delegates*
CD45 - 5 delegates*
CD46 - 4 delegates
CD47 - 5 delegates*
CD48 - 5 delegates*
CD49 - 5 delegates*
CD50 - 4 delegates
CD51 - 5 delegates*
CD52 - 6 delegates
CD53 - 6 delegates

*Bear in mind that districts with odd numbers of national convention delegates are potentially important to winners (and those above the qualifying threshold) within those districts. Rounding up for an extra delegate initially requires less in those districts than in districts with even numbers of delegates. California has a total of 29 districts with odd numbers of delegates -- more than half -- and the range is just three delegates from a low of four delegates in a district (10 districts) to a high of seven (two districts). That is minimal variation compared to a number of other states.

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.]

The 271 district delegates in California are chosen in April 19 caucuses organized by the campaigns themselves, rather than the state party. Any district delegate slots allocated to a candidate in the March 3 primary will be filled in elections the campaigns are charged with organizing. This has been the standard method of selection of district delegates in the Golden state, but it does add an organizational wrinkle in the selection process that does not exist in many other states. Campaigns that have either done this before (Sanders) or have staff who have been through the rigors of the California district delegate selection would theoretically have an advantage.

PLEO and then at-large delegates are selected on May 17 by a quorum of the district delegates chosen at the aforementioned caucuses in April.

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 mid-May when the California statewide delegate selection takes place but Candidate Y is not, then any statewide delegates allocated to Candidate Y in the March primary 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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