Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Illinois Primary

The Illinois Primary will be held on March 15, and this year it might actually matter, which is the point of the video above. The primary will be just two weeks after “Super Tuesday”, and if the race remains tight, Illinois may see some campaigning. That’s good news.

Illinois will select 156 committed delegates on March 15, and when combined with the other states selecting delegates that day (Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio), a total of 691 pledged delegates will be selected. That works out to about 17% of all the pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

On Super Tuesday, Democrats will select 812 pledged delegates, or around 20% of all the delegates—not all that far ahead of “Little Super Tuesday”, as we could call March 15. A further 319 pledged delegates will be selected between March 1 and March 15, meaning 1822 pledged delegates will be selected in the first two weeks of March, or about 45% of all the delegates. March is clearly an important month.

A couple points about those numbers: They refer only to delegates committed to a candidate, and doesn’t include officially uncommitted delegates, usually so-called “Super Delegates”. In addition, I couldn’t find any specific delegate counts by date, and had to add them up myself from numbers listed on the Wikipedia article, “Democratic Party presidential primaries, 2016”. However, arithmetic is NOT my strong suit, so if you happen to double check me and find an error, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

Illinois is generally classed as an open primary, because voters can vote in any party primary being held on the day. In Illinois, unlike some other states, voters don’t declare a party preference when registering to vote. However, voters do need to publicly request the ballot of a party, so I’d call Illinois’ a “mostly open” primary.

The way the primary is conducted is stupid. Voters choose who they want to be their party’s nominee in what is derisively called a “beauty contest”. That’s because it’s nothing but a taxpayer-funded opinion poll of those voting in the primary—good for PR value, probably, maybe it’s even a psychological boost, but nothing else. Instead, voters vote for committed delegates running in their Congressional District.

In my Congressional District, there are 7 delegates to be selected, but candidates can slate more than seven (Sanders has 8). However, not all candidates, especially minor candidates, are able to mount a full slate of delegate candidates in all Congressional Districts. For example, in my Congressional District Martin O’Malley has only one delegate candidate (he withdrew too late to be removed from the ballot). So, it’s possible for a candidate to win the “beauty contest”, but come in way behind in delegates elected. This is just plain nuts and should be changed (and reform is a topic in itself).

I personally know two of the delegate candidates—one for Clinton and one for Sanders. I like them both, too. I’ve at least heard of two more of Clinton’s delegate candidates, and none of Sanders’. However, most people vote for all of the delegates committed to their preferred candidate, and don’t pay attention to who, specifically, is running. I’m still undecided about who I’ll vote for in the “beauty contest”, and so, their delegates, but I may vote for one delegate for whoever the other candidate ends up being, just because I know him. I know, I know: I’m such a rebel.

Putting the silliness of the way in which the Illinois Primary is held aside, the fact that its results may actually matter is good news for the state and region (since Missouri and Ohio are the same day). Sure, there’s the attention the state gets, and some media dollars and other campaign expenditures thrown its way, but the real benefit is that Illinois voters will be able to evaluate candidates more closely than they usually get to do. That’s why all this is a good thing.

The video up top features Dr. John S. Jackson, Visiting Professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Dr. Jackson was one of my political science professors when I was an undergraduate at SIU, and one of the best I had. He later became the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, which is the last time I saw him, and a few other positions before becoming the 17th Chancellor of SIU later still. He’s obviously much older than my mental image, but it was great to see he’s still working in the field.

Now, all I have to do is make up my mind and vote.

The video above is from WSIL-TV in Southern Illinois 

No comments: