Monday, May 11, 2020

2020 Democratic Delegate Allocation: NEBRASKA


Election type: primary
Date: May 12
Number of delegates: 33 [6 at-large, 3 PLEOs, 20 congressional district, 4 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.

Unlike some states where most of the changes from 2016 to 2020 occurred because of the coronavirus in 2020, Nebraska Democrats saw changes to their delegate selection on both sides of the pandemic. The biggest pre-coronavirus changes instituted were in response to the Democratic National Committee rules changes encouraging increased participation in the delegate selection process. In December 2018, Nebraska Democrats opted to shift from the caucuses the party had used from 2008-2016 to the state-run primary. That not only changed the format for participation but also had the effect pushing the date of the Nebraska Democratic delegate selection event back by more than two months.

After the coronavirus pandemic turned the 2020 presidential nomination process upside down, the initial reaction from the state government was to mail early/absentee voting applications to all eligible Nebraska voters. But that late March decision was followed by another executive order that canceled all in-person voting in the May 12 primary.

All ballots are due to county elections offices by 8pm (CT) Tuesday, May 12. That is received and not postmarked by May 12. 

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

Overall, the Democratic delegation in Nebraska changed by three delegates from 2016 to 2020. The number of pledged delegates increased by four (three district delegates and one at-large delegate), but lost one superdelegate. The majority of the increase to the delegation was based on the later contest. That move from March in 2016 to May in 2020 qualified the state party for bonus delegates.

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)
Nebraska's 20 congressional district delegates are split across three congressional districts and have a variation of five delegates across districts from the measure of Democratic strength Nebraska Democrats are using based on the results of the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections in the state. That method apportions delegates as follows...
CD1 - 7 delegates*
CD2 - 9 delegates*
CD3 - 4 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 20 Nebraska district delegates will be selected by district caucuses (subdivided by presidential preference) at the virtual state convention on June 13 via phone/video conference. That is a week later than the in-person state convention had been planned prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Post-primary virtual county conventions that feed into the district and state conventions will be held May 17-31. That, too, is marginally later than was originally planned. In-person county conventions were initially slated to fall in a May 14-24 window. Smaller Nebraska counties -- those with fewer than 50,000 residents -- will conduct their teleconference conventions from May 17-24 while the four largest counties in the Cornhusker state will distribute paper ballots on May 17 to be returned to the state party by May 27. Virtual conventions will follow in those largest counties on May 30-31.

The PLEO and then at-large delegates will be selected on June 14 at and by the virtual state convention based on the statewide results in the primary. Again, the May county conventions choose delegates to attend the virtual state convention.

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 Nebraska statewide delegate selection takes place but Candidate Y is not, then any statewide delegates allocated to Candidate Y in the May party-run 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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