Wednesday, June 3, 2020

2020 Democratic Delegate Allocation: NEW JERSEY


Election type: primary
Date: July 7
    [June 2 originally]
Number of delegates: 146 [28 at-large, 14 PLEOs, 84 congressional district, 20 automatic/superdelegates]
Allocation method: proportional statewide and at the (paired) legislative district level
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15%
2016: proportional primary
Delegate selection plan (pre-coronavirus)
    [Timeline of changes, post-coronavirus]

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.

Rarely in the post-reform era has the consolidated New Jersey primary been uprooted from its traditional early June position on the presidential primary calendar and moved to another spot. That was no different from 2016-2019. But as has been the case in a number of other states, the coronavirus served as an impetus for electoral change in 2020 in the Garden state as well.

Governor Phil Murphy (D) issued an executive order in early April to shift the primary 35 days deeper into the calendar and beyond the DNC rules-defined deadline to hold delegate selection events. Along with the move from June 2 to July 7, the governor also bought the state more time to push the state toward a predominantly vote-by-mail election. While there will be a reduced number of polling places on primary day, all registered voters in New Jersey will receive an absentee vote-by-mail ballot with return postage included. That is a route taken most clearly by Maryland, but all counties in Montana also opted to send ballots -- not applications for absentee ballots -- to eligible voters. New Jersey joins that group.

All absentee ballots are due to county elections offices postmarked on or before Tuesday, July 7. If a ballot meets that criterion, then it will be accepted until July 14. 

Overall, the Democratic delegation in New Jersey changed by five delegates from 2016 to 2020. All three pledged categories of delegates retained their same numbers from four years ago while all the gains in the delegation came from the additional of five superdelegates to the delegation.

[Please see below for more on the post-coronavirus changes specific 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)
New Jersey's 84 congressional district delegates are split across 20 paired state legislative districts and have a variation of three delegates across districts from the measure of Democratic strength Garden state Democrats are using based on the results of the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections in the state. That method apportions delegates as follows...
CD1 - 3 delegates*
CD2 - 3 delegates*
CD3 - 4 delegates
CD4 - 4 delegates
CD5 - 3 delegates*
CD6 - 3 delegates*
CD7 - 4 delegates
CD8 - 5 delegates*
CD9 - 4 delegates
CD10 - 3 delegates*
CD11 - 3 delegates*
CD12 - 4 delegates
CD13 - 4 delegates
CD14 - 3 delegates*
CD15 - 6 delegates
CD16 - 6 delegates
CD17 - 5 delegates*
CD18 - 6 delegates
CD19 - 6 delegates
CD20 - 5 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.

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 coronavirus pushed the presidential primary in the Garden state back by five weeks and the timeline of the delegate selection process New Jersey Democrats are using basically mimics that change. The 84 district delegates in the New Jersey are directly elected on the primary ballot on July 7, listed alongside the presidential candidate to whom they are pledged. That selection moved when the primary moved. And so did the selection of statewide delegates. The New Jersey Democratic State Committee will choose PLEO and then at-large delegates in a post-primary meeting that will fall on July 18.

[Under the originally approved and compliant delegate selection plan, New Jersey Democrats would still have directly elected their district delegates on the primary ballot, but on June 2. Likewise, the PLEO and at-large delegates would have been chosen by a post-primary state committee meeting that was planned for 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 early July when the New Jersey statewide delegate selection takes place but Candidate Y is not, then any statewide delegates allocated to Candidate Y in the mid-July 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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