The presidential primary process (try saying that five times fast) is a very complex system full of caucuses and elections and delegates. Because of this complexity, it’s a process that few Americans bother to understand.
To sum it up, before we can vote for a president in November, we must choose one nominee from each political party. On specified days, states have either a caucus, a meeting where it is decided which candidate will receive delegates, or a primary election, where voters use a ballot to make their choice.
Some states are all or nothing, while others allocate delegates based on the percentage of votes the candidate received. Eventually, all these delegates meet at a national convention and decide who the nominee will be from their party.
Delegates are usually present or past politicians and each state has a specific number of them. For the most part, delegates are pledged, meaning their vote goes based on what the people of their state vote. But then there are super delegates: delegates free to support whichever candidate they want. Super delegates, however, have to be present at the national convention for their vote to count.
Ok, so all that’s well and good, but why should you care?
Bernie Sanders was on a streak, having beaten Hilary Clinton in seven states in a row before New York.
Even with this surge of support, he is still a long shot for the nomination because of these lovely super delegates.
As of April 18, Clinton is leading Bernie 460-38 in super delegates and 1,288-1,042 with pledged delegates. Super delegates can switch sides if they decide to back Bernie in the end, but since the system began in 1982, the super delegates have never contradicted the pledged delegates’ total, according to the NBC news story “How Do Super Delegates Work?”
That pretty much means that it’s super unlikely for super delegates to vote for Bernie, unless Bernie gains more pledged delegates than Clinton before the national convention.
I know, I know, you’re thinking, “I don’t support Bernie Sanders and his free college, bird of peace nonsense!”
It still applies to you. We like to say we live in a democracy, but the nation we live in is far from a direct democracy where each citizen has a say in what happens. Small towns often do have this kind of system where each individual vote is counted and the winner is decided by popular vote. On the national scale, however, it is far more complicated.
The idea that many voters haven’t even gone to the polls yet, and the news networks are already calling the race is pretty frustrating. It is possible that if Bernie can gain enough pledged delegates to beat Clinton, then some of the super delegates might switch sides.
Essentially, the American democratic process is extremely complicated and while we live in a democracy, the American people don’t always have as much say in what happens as we think we should.
– Catherine Twing