by Bob Roman
Chicago DSA has taken a few calls about voting for Bernie Sanders delegates. In Illinois, primary election voters will vote for the person they desire to be nominated for President. They will also vote for the delegates to the national convention. Nominally, the delegates are the ones who make the decision, so the callers were confused. There are more Bernie candidate delegates on the ballot than there are to be voted for. Who to vote for?
It turns out this is probably true for about two thirds of the Illinois Congressional Districts: more Bernie candidate delegates than spots to fill. I don’t know why but it seems to be deliberate. Each delegate on the ballot must be approved by the campaign they’re supporting. Without approval, they would be dropped from the ballot. The people on the ballot are those for whom Bernie supporters circulated petitions, minus one or two in several Districts.
Possibly it has something to do with the Democratic National Committee encouraging the representation of previously under-represented constituencies, something they’ve been doing since 1992. The Illinois Democratic Party uses a formula based on the turnout in the previous primaries. Thus the delegation, as a whole, should include 60 African Americans, 17 Hispanics, 1 Native American, 9 Asian / Pacific Islander, 10 LGBT, 6 disabled. Shortfalls in any category can be made up in the at-large delegates. The total number of District level delegates (and the Illinois delegation as a whole) needs to be equally divided between men and women.
It turns out there are several classes of delegate to the Convention.
There are the delegates elected in each Congressional District. 102 of the 181 total delegates from Illinois are District level delegates. The important thing to remember is: For Illinois Democrats, this primary is a binding preferential election. That is: It’s binding because the elected Sanders and Clinton delegates are obliged to vote for their candidate. It’s preferential because the delegates elected from each District is proportional to the popular vote in that District for each Presidential nominee candidate, unless that candidate gets less than 15% of the vote. Those don’t count.
So your most important vote is at the top of the ballot: Vote for Bernie. I suspect it would be unwise to skip voting for the delegates, but it becomes somewhat less important just which of the delegate candidates you vote for. This year the process is a bit less complicated as there is no election for District level alternate delegates, though there will be for Republicans.
Another class of delegates are the Pledged and Unpledged Party Leaders. The Unpledged total 25 and the Pledged total 20. The Unpledged are basically Illinois’ Congressional Delegation, Democratic National Committee members, Senator Durbin, President Obama, and others. The Pledged subcategory includes people drawn from State government, county and municipal officials, and party officials from those levels. The selection of the Pledged group takes place after the primary, in May, by the elected District level delegates and will reflect the state-wide vote. Candidates receiving less than 15% are not considered. This is another reason why the top of the ballot is your most important vote.
Unpledged, incidentally, does not mean uncommitted. It just means those delegates can change their minds at any time.
And then there are 34 At-Large delegates, apportioned by the statewide vote for Presidential nominee. Once again there’s a 15% threshold of the statewide vote to receive delegates, and these at large delegates are selected at the same meeting where the Pledged Party Leaders are chosen. 13 at-large alternates will also be selected. Once again, your preference at the top of the ballot is important.
The Illinois Democratic Party is taking applications for these positions through 5 PM on April 11. You will, however, need the approval of the Sanders campaign.
For more of the gory details of this process, see the Illinois Democratic Party 2016 Delegate Selection Plan and the Illinois State Board of Elections 2016 Candidate’s Guide. This is a very nice selection process for a Convention that, since the 1980s, has become nothing better than an overpriced, boring info-mercial for an already victorious nominee and a Platform that is forgotten even before the event is over.
Remember: Vote for Bernie. And the delegates, too, but don’t sweat the selection.