How Alabama chooses presidential delegates

How Alabama chooses presidential delegates

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - When Alabamians went to the polls Tuesday to support their choice for president, it was not as simple as casting a ballot that was tallied with everyone else's vote, and the winner takes all.

Alabamians actually voted for delegates either to the Republican or the Democratic national conventions, and both parties have very complicated and significantly different ways of allocating those delegates to the various candidates.

Here is an overview of how that delegate process actually works.

SOME WAYS THE PARTIES ARE ALIKE

  • Both the GOP and the Democrats allot some candidates based on the statewide vote, and some based on the vote in the seven Alabama congressional districts.
  • Both the GOP and the Democrats have a threshold for candidates to qualify for receiving delegates (20% GOP; 15% Dems). If they get less than the threshold, candidates get no delegates.

SOME WAYS THEY DIFFER

  • The state GOP allots 3 delegates for each of the seven congressional districts, for a total of 21 district delegates. The state Democrats allot 35 delegates in the seven congressional districts, with the number varying by district based on the Democratic vote in past elections.
  • In the GOP primary at both the district and statewide levels, any candidate getting a majority of the vote in a district or statewide gets ALL of the delegates in that district or statewide. The Democrats have no such majority-takes-all rule, so a candidate who gets a majority of the vote still will not win all of the delegates as long as at least one other candidate meets the 15% threshold.

Alabama holds what is called an "open primary." Voters may ask for a Democratic or Republican ballot, but not both.

The Democrats and the Republicans have very different sets of rules governing how delegates are chosen.

THE REPUBLICANS

For the GOP, the state's delegates to the Republican National Convention will be decided Tuesday. But it is not as simple as "winner take all." In fact, it is not simple at all. (I've seen it referred to as a "winner take most" system.)

The Alabama GOP allots 21 delegates based on voting in each of the state's seven congressional districts, and it allots 26 delegates based on the candidates who get the most votes statewide. But there is a 20 percent threshold both in each individual district and statewide.

In addition, GOP rules state that three Republican National Committee members also will serve as delegates from Alabama. These "superdelegates" represent 6% of the total number of delegates from Alabama. However, unlike with the Democratic Party, Republican Party rules require these delegates to follow the choices of the voters in Alabama.

First, the district votes. 21 district delegates are allotted this way, 3 in each of the 7 congressional districts.

  • Scenario One: If a candidate receives a majority of the vote (more than 50%) or if only one candidate receives 20% or more of the vote, that candidate is allocated all 3 of the district's delegates.
  • Scenario Two: If no candidate receives a majority of the vote and more than 1 candidate receives 20% or more of the vote, the candidate with the most votes is allocated 2 delegates and the candidate with the next highest number of votes is allocated 1 delegate.
  • Scenario Three: If no candidate receives 20% of the vote, the 3 district delegates are proportionally allocated to the presidential contenders.

Now the statewide vote, which determines 26 delegates (10 at-large, 16 bonus). Three Republican National Committee members also will serve as delegates.)

  • Scenario One: If a candidate receives a majority of the vote (more than 50%) or if only one candidate receives 20% or more of the vote, that candidate is allocated all of the 29 at-large delegates.
  • Scenario Two: If no candidate receives a majority of the vote and more than 1 candidate receives 20% or more of the vote, the 29 at-large delegates are to be proportionally allocated to the presidential contenders to those candidates receiving 20% or more the vote.
  • Scenario Three: If no candidate receives 20% of the vote, the 29 at-large delegates are proportionally allocated to the presidential contenders.

GOP rules maintain: "No person named as a delegate or alternate delegate pledged to a person as the Republican nominee for President of the United States shall cast a contrary vote at such convention unless first released by (a) public statement or in writing by such presidential candidate or (b) two-thirds vote of all members of the Alabama Delegation to the Republican National Convention similarly pledged; and the vote of any person who attempts to violate the provisions hereof shall not be allowed, but such vote may instead be cast for the person to whom such delegate or alternate delegate is pledged either by the Chairman of the Alabama Delegation to the Republican National Convention or by the Secretary of such Convention."

THE DEMOCRATS:

Alabama is allocated 60 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, but only 53 of them will be allotted based on the decisions of the voters in Tuesday's primary.

Seven of them -- almost 12 percent -- are what is popularly called "superdelegates." A superdelegate is an unpledged party leader or elected official. They can support whatever candidate they choose at the Democratic National Convention.

Here's how the other 53 will be allotted.

DISTRICTS: 35 district delegates are to be allocated proportionally to presidential contenders based on the primary results in each of the state's seven congressional districts. But it's not that simple. First, a candidate must meet a threshold of 15 percent of the vote to receive a district delegate.

Second, for the Democrats, the number of delegates at stake varies in each congressional district based on the Democratic vote there in past elections.

Districts 1, 2 and 3 have 5 delegates each at stake. Districts 4 and 5 have four delegates each at stake. District 6 has 3 delegates at stake. And District 7 has 9 delegates at stake.

STATEWIDE: 18 delegates are to be allocated to presidential contenders based on the primary vote statewide. But again, a candidate must meet a threshold of 15 percent of the vote statewide to receive a statewide delegate.

Here it gets even more complicated. Note that Democrats do not have the "winner take all" provision that the GOP has for candidates who get more than 50 percent of the vote in a district or statewide. That means even though Candidate A might get 80% percent of the vote or more, Candidate B might get a delegate or delegates as long as the candidate gets at least 15% of the vote in a district or statewide.

Here are some additional resources.

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