Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Understanding Primary Voting in Ten Easy Steps

 

behind-the-curtain-960x637Yesterday, Ryan M asked a great question:

You know what would be interesting and helpful? (Claire, are you still reading this?) A post that just gives a nice overview of how the primary voting process actually works. The difference between caucus-states and others, the various quirky laws … heck, even the brokered convention, and, later on, the electoral college. I think many of us sometimes default to the knee-jerk assumptions about majority rule in a democracy. We see simply graphs and charts that say who is ahead in polls, and that’s all the thought we put into it. It would be interesting to have it all described in detail, especially since this stuff is immediately relevant, and we’ll all be using and reading this language pretty much non-stop for the next nine months or so.

Ryan, not only is that a really good question, it will be a chance for me to get this straight in my own mind once and for all and figure out how to explain it clearly.

So soon, I’m going to explain how our primary voting process works. Today, however, I’m going to take you all backstage again for another peek at the shadowy forces behind the scenes. You’ll watch the tense, secret deliberations of the morning editors — aka The Powers that Be (TPTB) — as they choose posts for promotion, judiciously interpret the Code of Conduct, briskly resize photos, and then realize to their dawning dismay that they actually haven’t a clue how our primary voting process works. In fact, as you’ll see, it seems we got Super Tuesday confused with the Super Bowl, couldn’t figure out what day it wasor what it was, for that matter; couldn’t count beyond ten, couldn’t figure out how many days were in the month, and — frankly, it’s a wonderment that we’re even allowed to operate our own opposable thumbs, no less pull the levers at TPTB-Headquarters.

We have no sagacious editors to enforce the Code of Conduct at TPTB-Headquarters, so I regret to say that we uttered coarse oaths. I have of course redacted them. The transcript is otherwise — alas — unedited. Yes, this conversation really happened:

Claire Berlinski 1:23 Quinn’s post could be a good conversation-opener.

Tom Meyer 1:23 Good idea. Mind if I promote it? Or you can take it.

Claire Berlinski 1:23 I’ll take it.

{Time elapses}

Claire Berlinski 1:32 I’m getting confused with time zones and dates. How many days are there between today and Super Tuesday in your time zone?

Tom Meyer 1:33 One sec.

1:33 It’s Feb 7, 2016.

Claire Berlinski 1:34 Wow, is it depressing to Google that question.

Tom Meyer 1:34 10 days.

1:35 This is a super-useful website, BTW.

1:35 Wait!

1:35 [Redacted for CoC]

1:35 I got confused.

1:35 That’s the Superbowl.

Claire Berlinski 1:36 I know. That’s why I was depressed. Et tu, Tom?

Tom Meyer 1:36 33 days.

1:36 If Donald Trump were to say that we’re not winning against mornings, I might give him a second hearing.

Claire Berlinski 1:37 You’re not alone.

{Time elapses.}

Claire Berlinski 1:53 I’m struggling with these numbers so hard you’d think I was trying to remember how to solve a partial differential equation. Is it 19 states? Why do I keep counting and getting more?

Tom Meyer 1:54 Uhhh … One sec

1:55 This site says 13.

Claire Berlinski 1:58 I’m going nuts. We should know this. If we don’t, what hope is there for democracy? I mean — this is our job.

Tom Meyer 1:59 Where are you getting 19 from?

Claire Berlinski 1:59 Counting each state one-by-one …

Tom Meyer 1:59 Maybe it’s 19 by Super Tuesday?

Claire Berlinski 2:01 Let’s figure out a way to phrase this that doesn’t require an ability to count above ten.

{Time elapses as both editors furiously cogitate, looking at maps and counting states over and over … }

Claire Berlinski 2:04 I think I figured it out! I think he counted American Samoa, and that’s how he got 19. I think it should be 18. You agree?

Tom Meyer 2:06 Yep.

Claire Berlinski 2:07 You sure? Our honor is on the line. We get this wrong, we look like the editors who couldn’t count past their own fingers.

Tom Meyer 2:07 Wait.

2:08 [Redacted for CoC]

2:08 The question is how many Republican caucuses and primaries by Super Tuesday (inclusive), yes?

Claire Berlinski 2:09 Here’s the sentence as I’ve got it now: “Super Tuesday is March 1. It’s coming up. In a mere 33 days, 18 states will have had primaries or caucuses. And in all likelihood, the nominating contest will be settled, if it isn’t over well before then.”

Tom Meyer 2:09 Now I’m getting 16.

Claire Berlinski 2:10 Mind you, this is Super Duper Tuesday, according to Time.

Tom Meyer 2:10 [Redacted for CoC]

Claire Berlinski 2:10 This looked like such a fun little item to promote, didn’t it?

Tom Meyer 2:10 15.

2:11 Double checking.

2:11 15.

Claire Berlinski 2:13 Okay.

2:13 Now, are we sure the term of art is Super Tuesday? Because Time’s calling it Super-Duper Tuesday.

Tom Meyer 2:14 PM I wouldn’t worry about that.

Claire Berlinski 2:14 PM Maybe that’s the subject of tomorrow’s post. “If the editors of Ricochet can’t figure this out, is it possible that we’re making democracy too complicated?”

So now you know.

Now, admittedly, we don’t look too on-the-ball here. Obviously, we should know this by heart. But seriously, if it’s really this hard for the editors of a website that dissects the minutiae of GOP politics every single day to keep track of the primary schedule, why does the GOP expect that voters will be able to do it?

How come I keep getting e-mails from Marco and Carly and Ben asking me for money, but I never get an e-mail from any of them explaining how — and when — to vote for them in a primary or a caucus in my state?

Why aren’t the candidates explaining how this primary process actually works to people who might vote for them? Why isn’t that on their websites, at least?

There are 25 comments.

  1. Trinity Waters Inactive

    Aaaaaack! I don’t want to know! I vote by mail here in Oregon, never punch a chad or fill the box for a socialist, and am viscerally frightened by too much detail. Can’t we just go back to the smoke-filled room convention model?

    • #1
    • January 29, 2016, at 1:24 PM PST
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  2. Hammer, The Member

    Much appreciated! Thank you.

    • #2
    • January 29, 2016, at 1:28 PM PST
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  3. Eric Hines Inactive

    Fourteen Republican primaries/caucuses are on Super Tuesday according to Newsmax2016 Election Central Web site. This site also says that four other Republican primaries/caucuses will have been held by then.

    Four days later, on 5 Mar, another four Republican primaries/caucuses will be held.

    And just because I’m an arrogant, self-important SoB, I’ll point out that this took me a grueling minute on Google to learn.

    I do feel left out, though: I’ve never gotten anything from Marco or Ben asking me for money. I do get requests from Carly, but that’s because I’ve already given her money.

    What’s interesting to me is how the Iowa Caucus delegates actually are chosen by the two parties, and how the Democrats weight their caucus voters.

    Eric Hines

    • #3
    • January 29, 2016, at 1:39 PM PST
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  4. Hammer, The Member

    of course… I didn’t actually know when the super bowl was, either.

    • #4
    • January 29, 2016, at 1:40 PM PST
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  5. Mike Hubbard Member

    I believe Ron Unz, who ran a primary challenge against Pete Wilson for governor in 1994, once observed that the raison d’être of a candidate was not to get votes, but to be a transfer point between donors and campaign consultants. Running for president is insanely complicated (as I once wrote).

    But the broad problem is that there’s a big disconnect between candidates and their voters. In a similar vein, the Oatmeal once showed how restaurant websites have a similar disconnect between the owners and the customers here (language warning at link).

    To be fair, I’m not entirely sure how many potential voters would find use in a “How to vote for me” page. As I recall from my campaign hack days, the best way to get a voter to the polls was to have a friend of his take him there.

    • #5
    • January 29, 2016, at 1:41 PM PST
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  6. Arahant Member

    So, was Tom redacted three times, or did I count fifteen?

    • #6
    • January 29, 2016, at 1:51 PM PST
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  7. Titus Techera Contributor

    Arahant:So, was Tom redacted three times, or did I count fifteen?

    I like the cut of his jib. Make him an offer he ca’t refuse-

    • #7
    • January 29, 2016, at 1:57 PM PST
    • 1 like
  8. MarciN Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:How come I keep getting e-mails from Marco and Carly and Ben asking me for money, but I never get an e-mail from any of them explaining how — and when — to vote for them in a primary or a caucus in my state?

    Why aren’t the candidates explaining how this primary process actually works to people who might vote for them? Why isn’t that on their websites, at least?

    So so so true.

    The political campaigns I have worked on I tried to be the person who explained all this stuff to voters. How can we expect voters to understand this stuff when we don’t?

    And it takes some digging.

    The biggest shock of my adult life was checking out the list of presidential candidates at the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

    (And by the way, I’m sure the editors know this, but I found the FEC to be a great resource.)

    (I love the dialogue between the Ricochet editors. And people don’t think editors work hard. :) And they curse like lumberjacks for that reason. :) )

    • #8
    • January 29, 2016, at 1:58 PM PST
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  9. Vance Richards Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Understanding Primary Voting in Ten Easy Steps

    Step 1 – Find Someone Else to Ask

    • #9
    • January 29, 2016, at 2:04 PM PST
    • 1 like
  10. MarciN Member

    The two issues that the political parties should work on together are election fraud and whittling down the mass of campaign regulations to something manageable.

    I worked on a campaign with good friend of mine, Marcia, who was the campaign manager. One day the ten of us in the office got a donation in the mail, and we asked Marcia what we should do with it, and she said, “Wait a minute,” whereupon she reached for a four-inch-thick book on the shelf above her desk. All of us were just stunned at how complex handling donations was. Holy cow. I don’t think you should need a law degree to run for office.

    Massachusetts Republicans run a Campaign School to try to help people run for office locally or statewide. It’s really helpful to people running themselves or running other people’s campaigns.

    • #10
    • January 29, 2016, at 2:19 PM PST
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  11. Larry Koler Inactive

    Great stuff, Claire. (thanks, Ryan.)

    • #11
    • January 29, 2016, at 2:36 PM PST
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  12. PedroIg Member

    I happen to be a local GOP party chair here in Maine, a caucus state. I’m going to be organizing our local caucus coming up on March 5. For those who are interested, I’ll gladly explain how it all works in the Pine Tree State, although I’m not really sure how much detail folks would like to know. May I recommend a podcast devoted to this? I’d gladly handle some Q&A.

    • #12
    • January 29, 2016, at 3:14 PM PST
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  13. Arahant Member

    MarciN: The biggest shock of my adult life was checking out the list of presidential candidates at the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

    With a list that long, I’m surprised I’m not on it.

    • #13
    • January 29, 2016, at 3:37 PM PST
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  14. Leigh Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: But seriously, if it’s really this hard for the editors of a website that dissects the minutiae of GOP politics every single day to keep track of the primary schedule, why does the GOP expect that voters will be able to do it?

    To be fair, we don’t necessarily need to keep track of all the details. I mean, I’m still not sure, after all that, that I followed exactly how many states vote on Super Tuesday. But I sure do know vote on Super Tuesday.

    • #14
    • January 29, 2016, at 4:41 PM PST
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  15. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    Texas votes on Super Tuesday. Go Cruz!

    • #15
    • January 29, 2016, at 6:07 PM PST
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  16. Max Ledoux Admin

    PedroIg:I happen to be a local GOP party chair here in Maine

    Where? I grew up in Lisbon.

    • #16
    • January 29, 2016, at 6:56 PM PST
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  17. PedroIg Member

    Portland

    • #17
    • January 29, 2016, at 7:58 PM PST
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  18. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    MarciN:

    (I love the dialogue between the Ricochet editors. And people don’t think editors work hard. :) And they curse like lumberjacks for that reason. :) )

    Only another editor can truly understand.

    • #18
    • January 29, 2016, at 10:32 PM PST
    • Like
  19. Randy Webster Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Today, however, I’m going to take you all backstage again for another peek at the shadowy forces behind the scenes. You’ll watch the tense, secret deliberations of the morning editors — aka The Powers that Be (TPBE) — as they choose posts for promotion, judiciously interpret the Code of Conduct, briskly resize photos, and then realize to their dawning dismay that they actually haven’t a clue how our primary voting process works.

    Aw, I thought this was going to be a serious post.

    • #19
    • January 29, 2016, at 10:32 PM PST
    • Like
  20. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Randy Webster: Aw, I thought this was going to be a serious post.

    It will be, once I figure it out. It really is confusing, and I’d like to write a clear guide to it.

    • #20
    • January 29, 2016, at 10:37 PM PST
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  21. Randy Webster Member

    Eric Hines: I do feel left out, though: I’ve never gotten anything from Marco or Ben asking me for money. I do get requests from Carly, but that’s because I’ve already given her money.

    Give them a dollar, and in the future, you’ll be inundated by requests.

    • #21
    • January 29, 2016, at 10:38 PM PST
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  22. Randy Webster Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: How come I keep getting e-mails from Marco and Carly and Ben asking me for money, but I never get an e-mail from any of them explaining how — and when — to vote for them in a primary or a caucus in my state?

    Claire,

    I want to break this to you as gently as possible, but France isn’t a state.

    • #22
    • January 29, 2016, at 10:39 PM PST
    • Like
  23. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Randy Webster:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: How come I keep getting e-mails from Marco and Carly and Ben asking me for money, but I never get an e-mail from any of them explaining how — and when — to vote for them in a primary or a caucus in my state?

    Claire,

    I want to break this to you as gently as possible, but France isn’t a state.

    If only the IRS accepted that logic.

    • #23
    • January 29, 2016, at 11:03 PM PST
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  24. OkieSailor Member

    Randy Webster:

    Eric Hines: I do feel left out, though: I’ve never gotten anything from Marco or Ben asking me for money. I do get requests from Carly, but that’s because I’ve already given her money.

    Give them a dollar, and in the future, you’ll be inundated by requests.

    However much you give it will be far exceeded by the expenses incurred asking for more. – OkieSailor’s Law

    • #24
    • January 30, 2016, at 4:14 AM PST
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  25. OkieSailor Member

    Every state has its own rules and schedules for voting in the primaries as the Constitution doesn’t specify when or how it is to be handled. Here is a good place to get the specifics based on your current address:

    http://www.vote411.org/enter-your-address#.VqywQbxVK1E

    We recently moved from Oklahoma to Kentucky and had no trouble getting registered or finding out where we would be voting. In Oklahoma our polling place moved around even though we didn’t, but it wasn’t hard to find out where we needed to go or when, even pre-internet. Frankly, if a person can’t get that much information or isn’t interested enough to try, I’d rather they not vote (horrible of me, I know.)
    We haven’t made democracy too hard, we’ve made people too soft.

    • #25
    • January 30, 2016, at 4:57 AM PST
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