Tuesday, May 26, 2020

2020 Democratic Delegate Allocation: SOUTH DAKOTA


Election type: primary
Date: June 2
Number of delegates: 21 [4 at-large, 2 PLEOs, 10 congressional district, 5 automatic/superdelegates]
Allocation method: proportional statewide and at the congressional district level
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15%
2016: proportional primary
Delegate selection plan [includes post-coronavirus plans]

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.

South Dakota returned to its early June primary date for 2000 after three consecutive cycles in February. The presidential nomination contest has remained there ever since. And that includes the 2020 cycle. Not much, then, changed from 2016 to 2020. At least nothing changed with the delegate selection process in South Dakota until the coronavirus intervened in March 2020.

Since South Dakota Democrats have several pre-primary steps involved in their process, given the late date of the primary, the party had to act quickly to move those scheduled in-person events to virtual fora. The primary and indeed the entire timeline of delegate selection remained the same, but all in-person components were moved online.

Another change post-coronavirus was that the South Dakota secretary of state opted in early April to mail out absentee voting applications to all registered South Dakotans. That has been a common response at the heights of election administration in states across the country since March. The one added layer to the South Dakota absentee voting application process is that voters must also show identification in order to receive a ballot. Typically that process has been handled in person at county elections offices. However, that requirement has been relaxed and voters have the option of photocopying their ID and emailing to county auditors after they have mailed in their ballots.

The early voting window opened on April 17 and applications were mailed out in late April and early May, giving South Dakota voters time to complete the process. But those are a lot of steps for elections administrators to complete considering the number of vote-by-mail voters will likely increase as compared to other years.

In-person voting locations will continue to operate for early voting and voting on election day.

All mail-in absentee ballots are due to county election offices on or before 7pm on Tuesday, June 2. 

Overall, the Democratic delegation in South Dakota decreased by four delegates from 2016 to 2020. And the entirety of that loss was felt in the district delegate column. All of the other categories of delegates -- PLEO, at-large and superdelegate -- remained the same in 2020 as they were in 2016.

[Please see below for more on the post-coronavirus changes specifically to the delegate selection process.]

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)
South Dakota's 10 congressional district delegates are spread across one at-large congressional district. As such there is no variation across any districts. However, the measure of Democratic strength South Dakota Democrats are using based on the results of the 2016 presidential and 2018 gubernatorial elections in the state is used to determine the number of statewide caucus delegates each of seven regional districts (comprised of five state legislative districts each) receives. Regional caucuses ensure that the slates have representation from multiple areas across the state.

It is that statewide caucus on March 21 that selects slates of delegates for each candidate that will be allocated based on the results of the June 2 primary. In the end the allocation of those 10 "district" delegates will be proportional based on the statewide result. That is the same as it is for the two categories of statewide delegates as described above.

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.]

With such a late primary (at least in the context of the original calendar), South Dakota Democrats had already built into their delegate selection process some pre-primary elements. But those components were shifted to remote processes in March. Both the March 14 regional caucuses (seven districts comprised of five state legislative districts each) and the March 21 statewide caucus made up a two-tiered caucus process to select slates of district delegates for each candidate. Following the June 2 primary, the results will determine how many delegates from those slates will fill slots allocated to the candidates.

PLEO and then at-large delegates will be selected at a virtual June 20 state convention. Delegates to that state convention are either state committee members or delegates elected at the county level to attend the state convention.

[The timeline laid out above has not changed. However, all of the in-person meeting from the March 14 regional caucuses to the March 21 statewide caucus to the June 20 state convention were or have been changed to remote meetings since the outbreak of the coronavirus.]

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 South Dakota statewide delegate selection takes place but Candidate Y is not, then any statewide delegates allocated to Candidate Y in the early June 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.  This is less likely to be a factor with just Biden left as the only viable candidate in the race, but Sanders could still gain statewide delegates by finishing with more than 15 percent statewide. Under a new deal struck between the Biden and Sanders camps, Biden will be allocated (or reallocated) all of the statewide delegates in a given state. However, during the selection process, the state party will select Sanders-aligned delegate candidates in proportion to the share of the qualified statewide vote.

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