Saturday, February 16, 2008


In the debate over the proper role for superdelegates, I don't understand why some advocate that the supers should follow the pledged delegates.

If the reasoning is that the process would be more democratic, then shouldn't the argument be that superdelegates should follow the popular vote?


permathreeseat said...

I think that there are some supers who are saying that they should follow the popular vote, since that will better express the voice of the people, since it allows for correction for the bunching of votes into various states. But the supers who say they should follow the pledged delegates say that they are following the voice of the people, since the electoral college doesn't adjust for population bunching. Then some are saying that they should go with whoever won their state (since the super delegates are chosen because they are big muckety-mucks in their local parties), so they're strenghthening their own state's voice. And then there are still other delegates who plan to vote however they want, regardless of how the vote goes, because they are super delegates and why shouldn't they be able to. I think it's clear from this whole system that we have that there is no real system, and it's kind of just a free-for-all when it come to how we decide who should be the leader of the free world.

Scarlet Panda said...

The popular vote is a problematic way to measure things because people in different states don't have the same opportunity to vote in primaries.

Imagine a country made up of two states with identical populations. State A has a Washington state-style caucus system: To vote, you have to show up at 10 a.m. on a certain day and stay for three hours. State B has a Texas-style primary system: you can go to the polling place at any time on election day, and if that's inconvenient, you can vote early in person or by mail.

In State B, massively greater numbers of people are going to be be able to vote, simply because of the structure of the election. If we then decided the winner of that election by the total popular vote nationwide, the popular vote would not represent the will of the nation; it would represent almost entirely the will of the people of State B, regardless of the fact that the states have identical populations.

Given the wide variety of primary, caucus, and absentee voting systems we have now, that's essentially what we'd be doing by relying on the popular vote in this primary season.

Matt said...

The free for all nature of the system is a real problem for me. An ideal system should: first, not be spread out over multiple months. All contests should happen simultaneously. Second, only voting primaries. Caucuses are quaint but silly. Straight up voting give us a representative idea of who the people want.

But since we don't have one of those systems, what does the superdelegate do? The popular vote isn't accurate, but is the alternative better? Following the pledged delegate count is even less representative than the popular vote method. Pledged delegate counts suffer the same primary type bias (caucus vs voting) and add the additional distortion of delegate apportionment.

Following the pledged delegates, there's a hard number at the end, it tracks the results of the contests, and it reflects the results of the game. It's more democratic than rock paper scissors, but I'm not sure by how much.

Scarlet Panda said...

It's a difficult problem. I guess I agree that primaries are a better measure of what people want. But this isn't an actual election--it's how a private political party picks its nominee. Isn't it legitimate for the party to pick its nominee however it wants? They're a private entity, so are they under any obligation to do things democratically?

In the present situation, if we want to follow the will of the people, maybe the most accurate thing to do would be to allot each state a given number of "delegates" based on the state's population, then allocate each state's delegates based on the popular vote in that state, then decide based on those delegates.

Also, while I see the problems with the current system, I think there are advantages to starting out in a couple of small states. If we had a single-day nationwide primary, wouldn't it just become about who has more money for tv ads? No upstart candidate would have the resources to compete nationwide. I like that people with little money can win Iowa or New Hampshire, and that people with tons of money can lose in those places if people who have a chance to scrutinize them closely don't like them.

I don't know what should be done.

permathreeseat said...

I think that one solution to the problem of the timing of the primaries, though not how to count the delegates, is to have regional primaries on a rotation schedule. So one year the northeast would vote first, then four years later the south would vote first and the northeast would be pushed to second, and so on. That way candidates can focus on region at a time, which still allows for a lesser know candidate to build up support over the voting season. But setting up a rotation system regularizes the schedule while preventing one particular state from having an undue influence over the system year after year. The could also avoid the arguments over which state decided to move its primary too early. And it could also push the voting back some, so we could avoid election fatigue that the country is now in because this campaign has been going on now for over a year.

While that does nothing to address the problem of how to count delegates, it does set up a framework for the primaries to happen in. And once that happens, perhaps it would be easier to work out the problems with the delegates.