Wednesday, August 7, 2019

An Early and Tentative Look at Democratic Bonus Delegates for 2020

NOTE: Click here for the final breakdown of delegates by category for each state.

Now that the 2020 Democratic presidential primary calendar is all but complete, one can begin to assess which states are definitively eligible for bonus delegates. Under the rules of the Democratic nomination process, there are two ways in which a state party can be awarded delegates in addition to those apportioned it by the DNC formula. One is based on timing and the other on the clustering of contiguous primaries and/or caucuses.

Timing bonus
The timing bonus stems from the manner in which the Democratic National Committee partitions the primary calendar. Stage I encompasses the February carve-out contests plus those scheduled in the month of March. None of the states that fall into this earliest calendar category are eligible for any additional delegates.

However, the next two (of three) stages are. Any contest scheduled during the month of April falls into Stage II and is awarded an extra 10 percent bonus. That 10 percent is calculated using the base delegation, the output of the DNC apportionment formula before the 15 percent "add-on" delegates or PLEOs (party leader and elected officials) are tacked on to the pledged delegate total.1 That is really just a longer way of saying that any bonus is calculated as a percentage of a state's district and at-large delegates combined.

Finally, the last section of the calendar -- Stage III -- includes any contest that falls in either May or the earliest part of June. Those state parties see a 20 percent bonus added to their base delegations.

Clustering bonus
The other bonus added in 2010 for the 2012 cycle gives incentive to states that form regional or subregional primaries later in the calendar. Any state with a contest clustered with contests in at least two other neighboring states are eligible for a 15 percent bonus added to their base delegations. But only states with regional or subregional clusters on or later than the fourth Tuesday in March can be awarded that bonus. There is, then, a timing element to this bonus as well. And what that ultimately means is that unless a cluster wedges into a spot in the last week or so of March, then all other clustering states are eligible for more than one bonus. An April cluster would mean a 15 percent bump plus a 10 percent timing increase. And any cluster in May or later would qualify for a 20 percent timing bonus plus the 15 percent clustering increase that totals to a 35 percent increase to a state's base delegation.

Early and Tentative 2020 bonus delegates
Again, with the 2020 primary calendar near completion, one can map out how many bonus delegates there will be and in which states that will end up. Yes, the dates of the primaries in New York and Washington, DC are unsettled at this time, but are very likely to end up on April 28 and June 2, respectively. If one assumes both end up on those dates then each would be among the 24 states and territories in the 2020 cycle to qualify for bonus delegates. That total is down from 28 bonus-qualifying states in 2016. Arizona2, California, Idaho, North Dakota, Puerto Rico and Utah all lost bonuses by moving up and/or opting into (earlier) primaries rather than (later) caucuses. And Louisiana and Kansas both gained bonuses by shifting their contests to later and bonus-eligible dates for 2020.

What appears below is a detailed table of how many delegates have been apportioned by the DNC to each of the 57 states and territories with contests. The pledged delegates, broken into their various categories, appear in Duke blue, the automatic delegates (superdelegates) are shaded in Carolina blue.   And a tentative tally of bonus delegates also appears (where applicable) in shades of green. The darker the shade of green, the greater the bonus calculated from and tacked onto the base delegation total.

Now, again, this is apt to change some based on any further but unforeseen changes to the calendar. However, given the current (likely) calendar, there would be 211 bonus delegates awarded across the 24 eligible states. Nearly a quarter of them are apportioned to New York alone, a beneficiary of not only a timing bonus should the primary in the Empire state wind up on April 28, but a clustering bonus as well. Pennsylvania also benefits from that double bonus. Together, Pennsylvania and New York represent nearly 40 percent of the total bonus delegates apportioned. In fact, the entire six state Acela primary cluster on April 28 accounts for over half of all of the likely bonus delegates, all benefiting from a double bonus (25 percent in total).

Practically speaking, the addition of any bonus delegates adds to the total number of pledged delegates and total delegates. And that, in turn, means that the number of delegates needed for any candidate to win the nomination increases as well. The pledged total would rise to 3979 delegates, meaning that a candidate would need 1990 pledged delegates to win the nomination on a first ballot vote conducted without superdelegates.

In the event that the nomination process goes beyond the first ballot, a candidate would need a higher total number of delegates, including the superdelegates, to win the nomination. The overall total, including bonus delegates, would increase to 4745 delegates.3 As a result the magic number to clinch the Democratic nomination on a second or subsequent ballot would increase to 2373 delegates. A candidate can also enter the convention with that number of or more delegates and win the nomination on a first ballot vote that includes superdelegates.

How might these bonus delegate totals change in the coming months?
Unless the calendar undergoes a late and unforeseen change, then the above is likely what the final bonus delegate and pledged delegate totals will look like. Should the New York bill moving the primary there to April not be signed into law, for example, then New York Democrats would lose their 49 bonus delegates and the overall bonus delegate total would decrease.4 That would alter not only the bonus total but the overall total.

Barring those sorts of late cycle moves, however, the bonus delegate total is as close to locked at it can be. By extension, that means that the pledged total is unlikely to change as well, and thus the 1990 delegate magic number is fairly close to accurate.

Where things remain in flux is within the superdelegate total. The secretary of the DNC does not have to confirm that total (for each state) to state parties until March 6, 2020. Most of likely changes on this front will take place during the fall 2019 gubernatorial elections and any special elections to Congress, and then, the changes are only likely to be pretty minimal.

[MORE: How the magic number may be more fluid in 2020 than it has in past years.]

How are bonus delegates apportioned to eligible states?
Here it may be useful to refer back to the table above. At the bottom is a tab called "Bonus Distribution". If one clicks on that, then one can see where the bonus delegates are distributed in a state's total. Alaska, for example, would gain one bonus delegate, and that extra delegate ends up filtering into the district delegate total.


Here, things get a bit more complicated. First, a state's base delegation is made up of district and at-large delegates. By rule, 75 percent of that base delegation should be district delegates with the remaining 25 percent reserved for at-large delegates.

Adding bonus delegates to the base delegation total potentially alters that balance. Bonus delegates cannot all, then, be added to the at-large delegate pool (the allocation of which is determined by statewide results). The method the DNC uses is not to lump at-large, district and bonus delegates into a pool and recalculate a new 75/25 district-to-at-large balance. Rather, the DNC leaves the originally calculated at-large and district pools alone and calculates a 75/25 split of any bonus delegates for which a state may be eligible. The 75 percent portion is then added to the existing district delegate total and the remaining part to the at-large total.

The only places where this process breaks down to some degree are, first, when the resulting apportionment of bonus delegates to each of the two pools ends with a remainder of .5. Both sides of the calculation cannot round up, otherwise an additional delegate is added to a state's total. In those cases, the district bonus segment is rounded up and the at-large bonus segment rounds down.

Small delegations and bonuses are also potentially problematic. In the case of delegations so small as to only warrant one bonus delegate, that delegate would always mathematically end up in the district total. However, in cases like Alaska and Wyoming -- where just one bonus delegate is apportioned -- that one bonus delegate filters into the at-large pool.

The resulting bonus delegate distribution for 2020 is weighted slightly more toward the at-large side. 26.5 percent of the bonus delegates are collectively apportioned to at-large pool, more than the 25 percent goal. Of course, that is based on the aggregated totals (155 district bonus delegates and 56 at-large bonus delegates). The distribution relative to the balance called for in the rules differs from state to state and is also closer to 75/25 when considering the overall pools of district and at-large delegates (with bonus delegates added).

In the end, all this really means is that a marginal number of delegates winds up in that overall at-large pool that is allocated based on statewide results.

1 PLEOs are distinct from superdelegates. Before 2012, both were in the same unplugged category. But upon the recommendation of the Democratic Change Commission to reduce the number of superdelegates, the DNC adopted rules changes in 2010 for the 2012 cycle. That change shifted those add-on/PLEO delegates from unpledged into the pledged category.

2 There was no purposeful move of the Arizona primary for the 2020 cycle. However, the language describing where the primary falls on the calendar, while advantageous in 2016, is not for 2020. The primary is scheduled for the Tuesday immediately after March 15. In 2016, that date was the fourth Tuesday in March and qualified Arizona Democrats for a clustering bonus (along with Idaho and Utah). That Tuesday in 2020 is on March 17, too early to be eligible for a clustering bonus (even if Arizona had not lost its 2016 partners for 2020).

3 The DNC total for superdelegates does not seemingly include the Democratic governor of the Virgin Islands. That addition is reflected in the superdelegate and overall totals in the table above.

4 That would also mean that New York would have a February primary and, by rule, lose half their delegates. Typically, a penalty like that is meted out during primary season but restored for the convention. But it is an open question as to whether the DNC through the Rules and Bylaws Committee would restore any penalized delegates in a scenario where there is no presumptive nominee heading into the convention. All state-level delegate selection processes are to be completed no later than June 20, 2020. After that point, the secretary of the DNC would confirm the total number of delegates of all of the candidates, determining the likely parameters of the first ballot vote: with or without superdelegates. But things would have to be pretty close for a penalized total of 112 delegates from New York to make the difference.

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