By Jim Ellis
Jan. 22, 2020 — As we approach the first votes being cast for the Democratic presidential nomination next month, the Democratic National Committee has reallocated delegate slots among certain state contingents, thus increasing the size of the overall delegate universe to 4,750.
The changes are relatively substantial within the states when compared to the last national convention in 2016, while the recent Super Delegate total sees an increase of five new votes. The alterations within the state counts — an increase in every affected place but California — feature an additional 210 delegate votes when compared with the totals from four years ago.
Most of the boosts reflect a reward for increased Democratic votes in the 2016 and 2018 elections. The calculations include results in the recent races for president, US Senate, US House, governor, and for state legislature. States that hold their presidential nominating event after April 1 are also rewarded.
The largest increases are found in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey where their respective delegations have grown by 50, 33, and 19 slots respectively, largely due to Democratic gains in the US House and state legislatures particularly from the 2018 elections. New Jersey, for example, converted a governor’s chair to the Democratic column in their 2019 election, after gaining five congressional seats in 2018 and ‘16, thus accounting for their delegation increase. And, all three states vote after April 1.
California’s regular delegate total has been reduced by one vote, possibly for moving their previous June primary to before April 1, on Super Tuesday, March 3. The state still has, by far, the largest contingent with 494 total delegates and 415 of those voting on the first ballot. The next largest delegation, after calculating their increase, is New York with 320 overall delegate slots, 274 of which are eligible to cast first-ballot votes.
Though New Jersey and West Virginia have seen individual Democrats who won elections in 2018 and 2016, respectively, change parties (NJ Rep. Jeff Van Drew; WV Gov. Jim Justice) the states still receive their increased delegate votes. Since the party won those particular elections at the ballot box, the individual incumbents’ decisions to become Republicans did not change the electoral outcomes.
All of the delegations receiving bonus slots occur in states voting after March 17. Therefore, the total first-ballot vote through that date changes by only one tally to 2,286 from 2,287, reflecting California’s one-vote reduction. Understanding that state laws lock first-ballot convention votes means that 57.5 percent of the initial roll call will be cemented on that date, almost four months before the convention commences in Milwaukee on July 13.
Turning to the Super Delegate front, the DNC has added five new votes to the grand total, lifting the aggregate number to 771 from 766. To review, the Super Delegates, or those officially entitled PLEOs (Party Leader/Elected Official), come first from the states. A total of 434 are elected through the state convention process. Democratic US senators, House members, governors, and Distinguished Party Leaders (former US presidents, vice presidents, ex-congressional leaders, and past DNC chairmen) round out the aggregate total.
The net increase of five Super Delegate votes are found in the Unassigned category (4) and the state of Vermont (1). The original 2020 Super Delegate count did not award a Vermont PLEO slot for Sen. Bernie Sanders, but the reallocation has restored his status as it relates to his US Senate seat.
Previously, the DNC had adopted a rule that stated only a registered Democrat, or an office holder who serves as a party member, can be nominated for president. This obviously affects Sen. Sanders, who remains an Independent, so this rule continues to be an issue should he come to the convention with a majority of votes.
Additional Super Delegate votes have been awarded to Arizona, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Washington, while a commensurate number (one in each state) has been taken from Connecticut, Minnesota, Puerto Rico, and Texas.
These latest changes appear to be the final ones to be made before the convention. The DNC’s Rules and Credentials committees, however, still could theoretically make further adjustments before the roll call begins, but such action would be subjected to a vote of the convention delegates as part of the initial administrative floor process.