The field within the Democratic primaries is narrowing, and California voters will now be eligible to affect the course of the American presidential election. On Tuesday, March 3rd, 14 states will cast their votes in preliminary caucuses that will help to determine the eventual Democratic presidential nominee.
About 40% of Americans have the opportunity to vote on Super Tuesday. In California, voters are split into 53 congressional districts. Delegates are awarded to presidential candidates based on how they perform in both a statewide election and within each district, and candidates must win at least 15% of a district to be awarded any delegates.
If candidates fail to reach that benchmark, they will be ineligible to receive delegates and the pool of votes narrows.
However, due to the complicated nature of the voting system, it will be unclear who has ‘won’ California until nearly a month after voters indicate their personal preference.
Come July, California will send 415 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. In order to win the presidential nomination, candidates must win 1,991 delegates. Therefore, California accounts for about 20% of the delegates required to win the nomination.
After a disastrous display in Iowa consisting of extreme technical difficulties, Democratic officials appear to have worked out systemic kinks in the voting process since then. However, California election officials are making the transition to a new system in compliance with a 2016 state law known as the Voter’s Choice Act. The Act is meant to expand voting capabilities by mailing each constituent a ballot, allowing voters to cast a ballot at any center within their county and expanding in person early voting. California counties have the ability to refuse the Act, but many are making the jump this year.
Election officials are replacing many of the traditional polling booths with new voting machines in Los Angeles and Orange County, aptly named “Voting Centers”, and an increased push toward the use of mail-in ballots.
Currently Senator Bernie Sanders is in the lead after the South Carolina primaries with 60 votes. Despite former Vice President Joe Biden’s poor performance in the first three states, an overwhelming victory in South Carolina allowed him to secure second place in the delegate race.
Despite Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s performance in the first three states, a lack of support in South Carolina and dismal prospects in the future lead to his exit from the race. Senator Amy Klobuchar has also dropped out as of March 2nd.
The first few states are a momentum contest. Despite excitement or despair from presidential supporters, these early caucuses award only 102 delegates out of the t0tal 3,979 that can be won – barely a drop in the proverbial bucket.
However, the importance of these states lies in garnering support. Especially in this race, electability is a major concern for Democratic voters. According to the Washington Post, 40 percent 0f polled voters cared the most about a candidate’s ability to beat President Donald Trump in the general election.
In this political field, being able to win early may be the key to continued momentum. With the second phase of the primaries nearly underway, candidates are scrambling to gain traction. Come Super Tuesday, many Democratic officials may see a clear way forward.