Princeton Election Consortium

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Democratic Party nominating rules for 2020

January 3rd, 2018, 8:52am by Sam Wang


Happy new year, all!

It’s too early to say who is in the running for the Democratic Party nomination for the Presidency. However, the shape of the playing field is starting to emerge. Courtesy of Josh Putnam at Frontloading HQ, here’s a rundown (in three parts) over recent rules changes. My insta-reaction:

Primaries versus caucuses: a wash. The balance of primaries and caucuses won’t change much. This means that overall, the nomination process may remain little-d democratic, in the sense of mostly favoring whoever gets more votes – as was the case in 2016.

Superdelegates slightly less super. The third FHQ post goes into depth on a change in the number and status of “superdelegates,” i.e. delegates with latitude to vote for whomever they want. In my view this issue was always a bit overblown – it was a vestige of the influence of party officials (on either side) over the nomination process. There’s been a long decline in the strength of party officials over the last few decades. This is why the rise of Trump was undetected by so many (though see my post in early 2016). The proposed change continues that trend. However, Putnam has some doubts about how easy it will be to implement.

As we saw in 2016, an outsider won the nomination on one side (Trump) and had a real shot on the other side (Sanders). There is no doubt that these outside forces have shaped the two parties. It appears that on the Democratic side, such change will be ever-so-slightly easier now.

A recruitment move…or a back door for mischief? One proposed change pops out – encouraging states to allow same-day party-switching. Wherever this is implemented, this means that independents – and Republicans – could vote in the Democratic primary. The intention appears to be to recruit more Democrats. However, one could imagine unintended consequences.

Tags: 2020 Election

11 Comments so far ↓

  • 538 Refugee

    The same day change is obviously dependent on the current state of races at the time. If ‘the other side’ has their race determined early that isn’t good. At the end of the day a primary is about selecting the parties nominees and ensuring it is people in your party doing the voting is probably the right thing to do.

  • Cary Howard

    Interesting article, “Using deep learning and Google Street View to estimate the demographic makeup of neighborhoods across the United States.”

    “We show that socioeconomic attributes such as income, race, education, and voting patterns can be inferred from cars detected in Google Street View images using deep learning. Our model works by discovering associations between cars and people. For example, if the number of sedans in a city is higher than the number of pickup trucks, that city is likely to vote for a Democrat in the next presidential election (88% chance); if not, then the city is likely to vote for a Republican (82% chance).”

    http://www.pnas.org/content/114/50/13108.full

    • LondonYoung

      Ouch.
      I think back on the tax bill – blue states have high property taxes, so the GOP makes them non-tax-deductible.
      When the pendulum swings the DEM’s can now put a special tax on pick-up trucks.
      Technology – it isn’t just for gerrymandering any more!

  • Leading Edge Boomer

    Here are my preferences–

    1. No caucuses–too few can afford the time to participate, results are skewed by zealots.

    2. Simple, proportional allocation of bound delegates to candidates according to how many primary votes each candidate garners.

    3. Keep some form of superdelegates as a stabilizing gyroscope against zealots. Surely the Republicans wish they had had a bunch of them at their 2016 convention to avoid their current problems.

    4. Closed primaries–the party is not a government entity but a private organization of like-minded citizens. No need for opening the door to zealots and Republican trolls.

    5. Uniform and reasonable rules for party registration, but not same-day. Claims in the Democratic primaries by some of being surprised by no same-day registration are disingenuous.

    • LondonYoung

      The democratic party has argued point (4) in the past and SCOTUS determined that if the party accepts any assistance from the government in conducting the primary then the “private organization” rights are quite limited.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_v._Allwright

      Holding caucuses in private homes is a different matter (there are some not very nice reasons why caucuses exist) but the current brouhaha over the Harvard finals clubs may change even that …

      The UK labour party recently changed its system to be more zealot friendly which seemed like a disaster, but now the jury is still out on whether that was a good move or not …

  • Arthur Klassen

    Is it just me? or does today’s xkcd point up national-level gerrymandering rather poignantly? http://xkcd.com/1939

    • LondonYoung

      can you elaborate on what you mean by “national level gerrymandering”?

    • Arthur Klassen

      I guess it’s just me. :)

      Your government is just a trifle more decentralized than ours, and our provinces aren’t as widely disparate (mostly) in population as your states. So there was just this emotional reaction to the vast spaces divided into multiple pieces across rural and sparsely populated areas (many of the few voters there coloured red) vs. the multiple urban clumpings, often coloured more blue (or was it green, too? my eyesight isn’t to be heavily relied on) than red but in many cases not numerous enough to challenge the bits of red across the remainder.

      It was a depressing picture and it matched with some of the occurrences, in wikipedia articles, of the word ‘gerrymandering’ in connection with the admittance of the (split) Dakotas, Arizona and even Wyoming IIRC.

      (as depressing in its own way as the unworkability of our constitutional situation — in case you haven’t figured it out it’s Canada — but that’s one of three or four “third-rails” lying around for our politicians to self-immolate on, so I digress. It’s what I do.)

      not an exceptionally rational impression, just the incoherent splutterings of some foreign lunatic off in a corner somewhere, safely to be ignored, preferably with indulgent grins etc. etc.

    • LondonYoung

      Well, I see two things the map might remind us of … (1) each state gets two bonus electoral votes on top of the proportional share – this helps small states … (2) but big states are allowed to cast all their votes for the first-past-the-post winner depriving a lot of voters (4.5mm in each of FL and CA in 2016) of being represented in the electoral college at all

      Both reflect your comment about the relatively less uniform populations among the states

  • Jakob Boman

    Same-day party-switching.
    I think it undermines the political process as you should not be allowed to vote on both sides.
    I hope that it is not implemented!

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