How many 2016 DNC delegates will Michigan get?

(This is part 2 of a series on Michigan's role in the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating process and the 47th Democratic National Convention.)

How does a political party decide who will carry its torch into a presidential election? In the Democratic Party, the process for selecting presidential nominees is quite complex. It needs to be in order to ensure that the process is fair and inclusive to all Democrats.

While the nomination will be settled long before the convention - and maybe even sooner, if Hillary runs - there's still a lot of thought and planning that each state must undertake as part of this process. With fewer than 18 months to go until the Democratic National Convention convenes in July 2016 - and with just three more months before each state Party decides how its delegates are selected - now's a good time to consider how many delegates Michigan will have at the convention.

Number of Delegates

Michigan will have between 150 and 190 delegates. The exact number depends on three factors: the timing of our primary or caucus; whether we hold our primary or caucus on the same date as neighboring states; and the exact number of superdelegates, who are automatically delegates based on offices they hold.

As I said recently, holding a May caucus does come with its advantages - including the right to send more delegates - but in the event of a contested nomination battle, we may opt for a March primary or caucus in order to gain some influence on the nominating process.

Types of Delegates

Delegates are divided into four categories:

  • Superdelegates - They are automatically delegates based on positions they hold in the Party or in elected office. They include:
    • Distinguished Party Leaders (such as current and former Presidents, Vice Presidents, House and Senate Democratic Leaders, and DNC Chairs);
    • Members of the Democratic National Committee;
    • Democratic governors; and
    • Democratic US Senators and Representatives.
  • Party Leader and Elected Official (PLEO) Delegates - The term "elected officials" seems more or less clear-cut, but the DNC doesn't really define what constitutes a "party leader." Regardless, these seats are awarded to candidates based on how well they did in the statewide caucus or primary vote.
  • At-Large Delegates, whose seats are are awarded to candidates based on how well they did in the statewide caucus or primary vote (though in a separate calculation from PLEO delegates).
  • Congressional District Delegates, whose seats are awarded to candidates based on their performance within that congressional district.

How Many Pledged Delegates Does Each State Get?

To apportion delegates to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the DNC uses a formula that equally weighs two factors:
  1. 1. The number of electoral votes the state (or DC) has, divided by 538;  and

  2. 2. The total number of votes cast in the state for Obama in 2012, Obama in 2008, and Kerry in 2004 compared to the number of votes cast for those candidates nationwide.
The resulting number is a state’s “allocation factor,” which is then multiplied by 3,200 to get a “base” delegate total. 25% of a state's base delegates are at-large, while the other 75% are allocated to congressional districts in a formula that varies from state to state but which generally measures Democratic strength in that district. In addition, 15% of the base delegate number is added on in the form of PLEO delegates.

Michigan’s allocation factor is .03618; multiply that by 3,200 and you get 116 “base” delegate votes. That gives us 29 at-large delegates and 87 district delegates to be divvied up among 14 congressional districts. We then add 17 PLEO delegates to give us 133 pledged delegates which will be allocated to presidential candidates according to the results of the primaries and caucuses.

When you add on the 17 superdelegates, that gives a total delegation of 150 delegates (which must be evenly divided between men and women; more on that in another post).

Bonus Delegates?

Ah, but Michigan might have more delegates than that.

In the past, states used to try to rush to be among the first to have primaries or caucuses. To alleviate this, starting in 2012 the DNC is offering states “bonus” delegates if they hold their primaries and caucuses later in the cycle.

For any state that holds its primary or caucus in April will get a 10% bonus in its "base" delegate total. A state which holds its primary or caucus in May or June gets a 20% bonus. Those bonus delegates and the base delegates are then allocated either at-large or district-level delegates. (PLEO delegates are not added.)

Holding a caucus in April will give us a base delegate total of 116 x 1.1 base delegates, which rounds to 128. A May or June caucus will give us 116 x 1.2 base delegates, or about 139. So the actual number of pledged delegate votes Michigan gets will be:

DateDistrictAt-LargePLEOTotal Pledged+17 Unpledged

There's another chance for bonus delegates as well. If a "cluster" of 3 contiguous states holds its primaries and/or caucuses on the same day - and if that day is March 24 or later - those states get an additional 15% bonus in base delegates. (That 15% is calculated separately from the other bonus delegates.) So holding a late March primary or caucus as part of a cluster will result in Michigan getting 133 base delegates. For an April contest, that goes up to 145; for May, 156.

How many delegates would we get if we took part in a regional cluster?

DateDistrictAt-LargePLEOTotal Pledged+17 Unpledged

A Word about Superdelegates

As you see, Michigan has 17 unpledged delegates, or "superdelegates."

  • 5 members of Congress who are not DNC members;
  • 10 members of the DNC who are not in Congress; and
  • 2 who serve in both Congress and the DNC (Debbie Stabenow and Debbie Dingell). (While they hold two positions that would give them a superdelegate vote, they each only have one vote.)
The fact that superdelegates still have a vote comes despite a lot of questions about the role of superdelegates in the presidential nominating process during and after the 2008 primary campaign. 19% of the more than 4,400 delegates at the 2008 Convention were unpledged; this included more than 700 "Unpledged PLEO" delegates (the party leaders, members of congress, governors, and DNC members I mentioned above), plus 80 "add-on" delegates. There were talks about removing the "super delegate" status of DNC members, but those didn't come to fruition.

What ended up happening is that the 80 add-on delegate spots were removed, and the "base" number of delegate spots allocated to states increased from 3,000 to 3,700 in 2012. (That base number is going back down to 3,200 for the 2016 convention.) There are 733 superdelegates for the 2016 convention, or about 16% of the 4,502 total delegates. That 4,502 does not include bonus delegates for states that cluster or hold later primaries or caucuses; as base delegates are added to those states, the total number of delegates will go up, while the share of superdelegates to total delegates will go down.

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