Friday, May 22, 2020

2020 Democratic Delegate Allocation: MONTANA


Election type: primary
Date: June 2
Number of delegates: 25 [4 at-large, 2 PLEOs, 13 congressional district, 6 automatic/superdelegates]
Allocation method: proportional statewide and at the sub-district level
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15%
2016: proportional primary
Delegate selection plan (pre-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.

Montana Democrats and decision makers in the state government did what they have typically done between presidential election cycles: not much. There were no efforts to shift the consolidated Montana primary out of its early June position on the primary calendar and few changes for Democrats to the delegate selection plan.

That changed somewhat once the coronavirus began to reshape the 2020 electoral landscape. This did not lead to any change to the date of the primary, but it did trigger a change to the voting process in the Treasure state. Governor Steve Bullock (D) in late March issued an executive order that allowed counties to decide whether to move toward an all-mail election for June 2. A week later every county had. Each county's elections office still has to remain open to any voters who may prefer or need to vote in-person on election day as part of the governor's proclamation.

But every eligible Montana voter will receive a ballot -- not a form to apply for a ballot -- and not be required to pay postage to return it. Counties will pick up the tab for postage.

[This strays from how absentee voting is usually handled in Montana. Typically, voters have to request a ballot, but that step is being skipped during the coronavirus pandemic.]

All ballots are due to county elections offices on before Tuesday, June 2. That is received and not postmarked by 8pm on June 2. 

Overall, the Democratic delegation in Montana changed by just two delegates from 2016 to 2020. The number of district delegates decreased by two and the other two categories of pledged delegates stayed exactly the same as did the number of superdelegates.

[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)
Montana's 13 congressional district delegates are split across two districts carved out of the one congressional district state. Those districts have a variation of just two delegates across them from the measure of Democratic strength Montana Democrats are using based on the results of the 2016 presidential and gubernatorial elections in the state. That method apportions delegates as follows...
Eastern district - 6 delegates
Western district - 7 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 selection of the 19 pledged delegates in Montana will occur at the June 6 state convention. the 13 district delegates will be selected in two district conventions held as part of the state confab. PLEO delegates will be selected at the state convention by a quorum of district delegates and then state conventions delegates -- selected at June 4 post-primary county conventions -- will then select the four at-large delegates. That process has seemingly not changed. It is unclear as of this writing whether the events scheduled for the state convention will be in-person or virtual. There is no news account nor party press release on any changes and the DNC does not appear to have any further changes (or requests) on file.

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 late-June when the Montana 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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