Saturday, May 30, 2020

2020 Democratic Delegate Allocation: WEST VIRGINIA


Election type: primary
Date: June 9
    [May 12 originally]
Number of delegates: 34 [6 at-large, 3 PLEOs, 19 congressional district, 6 automatic/superdelegates]
Allocation method: proportional statewide and at the congressional district level
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15%
2016: proportional primary
Delegate selection plan (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.

Other than Mountain state Republicans changing to a February convention for the 2008 cycle, West Virginia delegate allocation has happened in May since the 1988 cycle. That did not change in the lead up to 2020. However, there was a short-lived and unsuccessful effort in 2017 to move the West Virginia primary to the second Friday in February. That obviously would have conflicted with the national party rules on the timing of primaries and caucuses and died in committee.

However, there were changes to the ways in which West Virginia will conduct its 2020 primary triggered by the coronavirus. The initial response by Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) was to keep the primary on May 12 but work with county elections clerks to mail absentee vote-by-mail applications to all eligible West Virginia voters. But that was followed in quick succession at the beginning of April by an executive order from Governor Jim Justice (R) moving the primary back four weeks to June 9.

There will still be a ten day window for in-person early voting from May 27-June 6 and in-person election day voting remains an option as well. But the secretary of state is expecting record vote-by-mail numbers. Typically only 3 percent of West Virginians have voted in that manner in the past, but a little more than 20 percent had already requested ballots as of May 26. [UPDATE (6/9/20): As of election eve, 21.4 percent of registered voters in West Virginia had requested absentee ballots and 17.2 percent had cast them by June 8 according to the secretary of state in the Mountain state. Another 3 percent had voted during the early voting window.]

All vote-by-mail ballots are due to county elections offices postmarked on or before Tuesday, June 9. 

Overall, the Democratic delegation in West Virginia changed by three delegates from 2016 to 2020. Among the categories of pledged delegates, the number of district delegates decreased by one while the totals of PLEO and at-large remained the same as they were four years ago. West Virginia Democrats also lost two superdelegates in that time.

[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)
West Virginia's 19 congressional district delegates are split across three congressional districts and have a variation of four delegates across districts from the measure of Democratic strength Mountain 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 - 6 delegates
CD2 - 7 delegates*
CD3 - 6 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 28 pledged delegates to the national convention in West Virginia will follow a similar trajectory to the plan laid out prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus. But the kick off event -- the county caucuses -- will be later and the whole process will contain more virtual elements than had been the true with the plan originally approved by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee in 2019. County conventions pushed back to May 16 will occur virtually and select delegates to the state convention. Once those wishing to participate file to do so via Google Forms (with the state party), the state party will electronically distribute ballots on May 13 to be completed by May 16.

Those delegates selected to attend the state convention will then be mailed or emailed ballots for remotely/virtually electing the 19 district delegates starting on May 25. Those ballots will be due to the West Virginia Democratic Party via email, mail or call by June 12.

A day later on June 13, the West Virginia Democratic Party State Executive Committee will convene virtually and select the PLEO and then at-large delegates to the national convention.

The dates of selection for all categories of pledged delegates fall on the same days they were before the coronavirus.

[The original timeline West Virginia Democrats planned to use in order to select delegates to the national convention began with pre-primary county caucuses on March 28. Participants at those county caucuses would have elected delegates to the post-primary state convention on June 12-13. District caucuses at the state convention would have selected the 19 district delegates. Then the PLEO and then at-large delegates would have been selected on June 13 by the West Virginia Democratic Party State Executive Committee.]

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 West Virginia statewide delegate selection takes place but Candidate Y is not, then any statewide delegates allocated to Candidate Y in the earlier 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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