March 3, 2020: The New Super Tuesday

By Jim Ellis

May 3, 2019 — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced this week, as expected, that his state’s new primary will move to March 3, 2020, which has clearly become the next presidential cycle’s Super Tuesday.

Previously, Colorado employed the caucus system to apportion delegates, but voters changed to a primary when passing a 2016 ballot initiative, so now the state’s 67 Democratic first-ballot delegates and 37 Republican convention votes will be apportioned through a primary election.

But the Centennial State voters and the Democratic National Committee rules appear to be at odds. According to news reports, the 2016 Colorado electoral primary ballot initiative not only transformed into a primary, but also adopted a winner-take-all apportionment format. While Republicans allow states to award all of their delegates to one candidate based upon a primary or caucus victory, the Democrats, under the McGovern reform rules adopted after the 1972 presidential election, do not.

While the state may want to make the winner-take-all option determinative, the procedure violates Democratic rules, so we could see yet another pre-convention issue develop before the Credentials Committee, the body that certifies all of the delegate votes prior to the convention officially beginning.

The 2020 Democratic nomination process is becoming seriously front-loaded, which could play to the party’s detriment. By rule, only four states, referred to as “The First Four,” may vote before March 1 in the presidential year: Iowa (caucus, 41 first-ballot delegates), New Hampshire (primary, 24), Nevada (caucus, 36), and South Carolina (primary, 54). But just three days after South Carolina concludes, the following Tuesday, March 3, could become the most significant date of the early campaign.

Now that Colorado has joined the 3/3 fold, the following states will vote (in parenthesis, are the number of first ballot votes each entity possesses under the Democratic delegate apportionment formula):

  • Alabama (52)
  • American Samoa (6) – presumed to be voting this day
  • Arkansas (31)
  • California (416)
  • Colorado (67)
  • Democrats Abroad (13)
  • Georgia (105)
  • Massachusetts (91)
  • Minnesota (75)
  • North Carolina (110)
  • Oklahoma (37)
  • Tennessee (64) – probable, but has not yet set the calendar
  • Texas (228)
  • Utah (29)
  • Vermont (16)
  • Virginia (99)

Grand total through March 3 when including the First Four states: 1,594 of 3,768 first-ballot delegates (42.3 percent of total first ballot universe).

Adding Wyoming, which state leaders say will vote in March but have not yet scheduled a particular date, through March 10 these states’ nomination procedures will conclude:

MARCH: Wyoming (13)
MARCH 7: Kansas (33)
Louisiana (50)
MARCH 8: Maine (24)
MARCH 10: Idaho (20)
Michigan (125)
Mississippi (36)
Missouri (68)
North Dakota (14)
Ohio (136)
Washington (89)

The cumulative first ballot delegates from the March 7-10 period yields 608. Adding this number to the First Four and Super Tuesday totals mean that states holding an aggregate 2,202 first-ballot delegate figure will be cast. Therefore, a majority of the initial voting delegates (58.4 percent) will be recorded by this early March date.

In one more week, through March 17, an additional three states and another territory will have voted:

MARCH 14: Northern Marianas Islands (6)
MARCH 17: Arizona (67)
Florida (219)
Illinois (155)

These entities add another 447 delegates to the early grand total meaning that 2,649 first ballot votes, or 70.3 percent of the entire universe, will be locked in place on the evening of March 17. The Democratic National Convention, however, does not begin until July 13.

On the mid-March date, it is very likely that we will know whether one candidate will be on the road to clinching a first-ballot victory or if a contested convention will ensue for the first time since 1952.

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