What Happens When …

Aug. 18, 2015 — Candidate jockeying, polling, fundraising, and campaign strategy are not the only practical elements that will influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential race. The voting schedule is also of prime importance and plays a key role in determining the final results.

The political calendar is coming into better focus, and the 56 (Republican) and 57 (Democratic) entities will all conduct their individual voting procedures between Feb. 1 and June 14 of next year. Most of the states can still maneuver and make changes, so the final calendar won’t be set for some time.

The additional voting entities beyond the 50 states are the District of Columbia and territories. DC, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands are the ancillary jurisdictions eligible to participate in the nominating process. The Democrats authorize one more voting segment, entitled “Democrats Abroad”.

On the Republican side, seven states holding 349 delegate votes are in the Winner-Take-All (WTA) category. None of them, under governing party rules, can vote before March 15 and retain their WTA option. The two largest such places, Florida (99 delegates) and Ohio (66 delegates), will vote on March 15 itself. The others are Arizona (58 delegates; March 22), Delaware (16 delegates; April 26), District of Columbia (19 delegates, June 14), New Jersey (51 delegates; June 7), and Utah (40 delegates; March 15-22 through online voting culminating at the precinct caucus meetings on 3/22).

The outlying territories are soon expected to decide upon their nominating systems. It is probable that the four island groupings: American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas Islands, and the US Virgin Islands (9 delegates apiece) will vote on the same day and adopt a WTA position. Puerto Rico (March 13) and DC (June 14) will hold primaries. Since Puerto Rico will vote before March 15, their 23 delegates will be apportioned proportionately. The 19 District of Columbia Republican delegates are Winner-Take-All.

Another five states, representing 345 cumulative delegates (California, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wisconsin) will vote in a Winner-Take-All format by congressional district. The candidate earning the most number of votes in each individual CD, regardless of percentage, is awarded three delegates for each district won. Republicans allow several other delegate distribution systems, but 40 of the entities either gather in Caucus sessions, are Winner-Take-All, straight proportional, or use the congressional district WTA delegate apportionment method.

Democrats have a much simpler system. All of their 57 voting units distribute delegates proportionally.

At this point, 25 states, possessing 1,034 of the 2,470 Republican delegates, will vote before March 15. Twenty-two Democratic entities will likewise compete on the early schedule. The latter party features 2,013 more internal votes than the GOP, largely in the form of PLEOs (Party Leader or Elected Official) normally referred to as “Super Delegates.” A total of 1,200 Super Delegates are part of the total Democratic universe of 4,483 delegates.

If there is a so-called “Super Tuesday” next year, it could well be March 1, particularly for the GOP. Right now it looks like a dozen states will vote that day for Republicans, and 10 for Democrats. This means that 42 percent of Republican delegates will be apportioned heading into the Winner Take All calendar. Democrats will have chosen one-third of their delegates prior to March 15.

Considering what appears to be a more competitive Democratic nomination battle, both major party contests may not be decided until or beyond the important June 7 primary day, featuring six key states with delegate-rich California (172 R delegates; 476 D delegates), having the most prominent position. WTA New Jersey (51 delegates) will also vote that day for Republicans.

The number of candidates and the closeness of the early race leads to the conclusion that the process will yield meaningful primary and caucus elections right up until all entities have participated. After this exhausting process, the two principal party contenders will then officially begin the general election campaign at the respective national party conventions.

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