Tuesday, March 10, 2020

2020 Democratic Delegate Allocation: WASHINGTON


Election type: primary
Date: March 10
Number of delegates: 109 [19 at-large, 12 PLEOs, 58 congressional district, 20 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.

Washington state has had a presidential primary since 1992, but 2020 will be the first year in which Democrats in the state will utilize a presidential primary to allocate delegates to the national convention. That has not been a particularly strategic decision to tamp down on turnout in the contest. Rather, it has been a function of the registration system in the Evergreen state and whether to allow unaffiliated voters to participate. The legislation that passed and was signed into law barred unaffiliated voters and also pushed up the date of the Washington presidential primary from late May to mid-March.

The state, then, will not only have an all vote-by-mail primary rather than a caucus, but will also see that contest fall on a much earlier date than has been the case for the primary in the past. [Washington did have February caucuses in 2008 when those dates were in compliance with national party rules.]

Finally, there were also some changes to the Washington delegation for 2020. As compared to 2016, Washington Democrats lost nine district delegates and three at-large delegates, but gained a couple of superdelegates. PLEO delegates maintained their 2016 level.

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)
Washington's 58 congressional district delegates are split across 10 congressional districts and have a variation of eight delegates across districts from the measure of Democratic strength Washington Democrats are using based on the results of the 2016 presidential and gubernatorial elections in the state. That method apportions delegates as follows...
CD1 - 6 delegates
CD2 - 6 delegates
CD3 - 5 delegates*
CD4 - 3 delegates*
CD5 - 4 delegates
CD6 - 6 delegates
CD7 - 11 delegates*
CD8 - 5 delegates*
CD9 - 7 delegates*
CD10 - 5 delegates*

The eight delegate spread from the 4th district to the 7th district is among the widest gaps in the country. The 11 delegates in the 7th are as well. It is a very Democratic district compared to the others in the Evergreen state.

*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.

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 58 district delegates in Washington are chosen at congressional district caucuses on May 30 based on the results in the respective congressional districts. PLEO delegates and then at-large delegates will be selected by the Democratic state party committee on June 13.

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-June when the Washington 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. This is unlikely to be a factor with just two viable candidates in the race.

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