Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem

From the diaries (I've added the image to the right), Jerome

For political nerds like me, there is a tendency to get as excited about the process of politics as we are about the horse-race of politics; and this year's Democratic presidential nominating contest is as much about the process as it is about the horse-race.  Today, I will attempt to explain, in reasonable detail, how the process of electing delegates in Georgia may result in Illinois Sen. Barack Obama winning the state-wide popular vote but also may result in him losing the delegate count in seven to eight of Georgia's Congressional districts.

Article I.B. of the Call for the 2008 Democratic National Convention establishes 3,000 as the total number of base delegate votes that will be distributed among the fifty states and the District of Columbia using a formula that gives "equal weight to the sum of the vote for the Democratic candidates in the three (3) most recent presidential elections and to population by electoral vote"[Source:  Article I.B., Call for the 2008 Democratic National Convention].  Using the delegate allocation formula, Georgia has been allocated a total of seventy-six base delegate votes.

Under the 2008 Delegate Selection Rules for the Democratic National Convention, Rule 8.C. states that "Seventy-five percent (75%) of each state's base delegation shall be elected at the congressional district level or smaller. Twenty-five percent (25%) of each state's base delegation shall be elected at large"[Source:  Rule 8.C., 2008 Delegate Selection Rules for the Democratic National Convention].  What this means is that, as it pertains to this state, fifty-seven of Georgia's base delegation will be elected at the Congressional district level, and nineteen of the state's base delegation will be elected at the state level.  

At the Congressional district level, the fifty-seven delegates were apportioned among Georgia's thirteen Congressional districts using the guidelines enumerated under Rule 8.A.2. of the Delegate Selection Rules [Source:  page 5, Georgia Delegate Selection Plan for the 2008 Democratic National Convention].  Specifically, Rule 8.A.2 states "Apportionment of district-level delegates within states shall be based on one of the following:  A formula giving equal weight to the vote for the Democratic candidates in the most recent presidential and gubernatorial elections;"[Source:  Rule 8.A.2., 2008 Delegate Selection Rules for the Democratic National Convention].  Pictured below is a chart of how many delegates each Congressional district received under Rule 8.A.2.:

Georgia Delegate Allocation (Congressional District)

As you can see, the Congressional districts with the larger populations and the higher Democratic performance (districts two, four, five, twelve, and thirteen) gained more delegates than the Congressional districts with smaller populations and lower Democratic performance (districts one, three, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven).  It should be noted that the five Congressional districts with the highest Democratic performance also have a African-American voting age population of 35% or more [Source: Statsheet for 2005 Congressional Districts (unifiedgeorgia), Carl Vinson Institute of Government Legislative Reapportionment Services Office].

What does all this mean?

Well, recent polls have shown that the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is breaking down along racial lines with Sen. Barack Obama (D - Illinois) winning overwhelming support among black voters and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D - New York) gaining a high level of support from white voters.  For example, yesterday evening, MSNBC and Mason-Dixon Polling & Research released a South Carolina poll that showed Obama leading Clinton 38% to 30%.  When the poll was broken down along the demographics, Obama lead Clinton among African-American voters 59% to 25%.  Among white voters, Clinton lead Obama 36% to 10% with John Edwards receiving 40%.  In fact, just today, Rasmussen Reports released a poll that showed Obama leading Clinton in Georgia 41% to 35%.  However, once again, among black voters, Obama leads Clinton 59% to 28%; and among white voters, Clinton Leads Obama 44% to 25%.

If this trend continues, then on February 5th, a safe prediction could be made that Barack Obama would win a majority of the at-large delegates and a majority of the district-level delegates in the four Congressional districts with an African-American voting age population of 40% or more.  But, as I stated above, Georgia has seven Congressional districts with an African-American voting age population of 35% or below.

Pictured below are the demographics for each of Georgia's 13th Congressional districts:

Georgia Congressional District Stats

What's my point?

My point is this:

59% of the black vote in a Congressional district with a 11.08% black voting age population (that's the 11th Congressional district by the way) isn't going to put any candidate, black or white, in a position to win a majority of district-level delegates there.  You need between 35% and 45% of the white vote to win, and right now, Barack Obama doesn't have that in Georgia.  To me, that poses a serious problem for him when it comes to racking up the delegates in the Peach State.

So, I'm going to make a prediction, and you can hold me to this if you want.  In Congressional districts two, four, five, and twelve, Barack Obama will receive a majority of the delegates.  However, in Congressional districts one, three, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven, Hillary Clinton will receive a majority of the delegates.  The thirteenth district, I believe, will break even with Hillary and Obama receiving three delegates a piece.  And at the state-level, Obama will win a majority of the delegates.

When you add those delegate totals up, Obama (who, as I said, may win the state-wide popular vote) may end up with forty-one of Georgia's eighty-seven pledged delegates (25 district-level, 10 at-large, 6 PLEOs) and Hillary may end up with forty-six of Georgia's eighty-seven pledged delegates (32 district-level, 9 at-large, 5 PLEOs).

In other words, Obama won the state-wide popular vote (which I believe he will) but lost the delegate count.  There's less than two weeks until Georgia's primary, so we'll see how my predictions hold up, but I'm pretty confident in what I believe may happen.

Tags: Barack Obama, delegate selection, Georgia (all tags)

Comments

32 Comments

Re: Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem

Very interesting.  If the results shape up according to your scenario, I wonder if Obama will again be posting the delegate count on the front page of his website in place of the popular vote...

by Steve M 2008-01-25 06:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem
Heh
by Big Tent Democrat 2008-01-25 08:49AM | 0 recs
Small point

Among white voters, Clinton lead Obama 40% to 10% with John Edwards receiving 36%.

You have the Clinton/Edwards numbers reversed.

by Shawn 2008-01-25 06:36AM | 0 recs
Thanks for the heads up...

...Sometimes the numbers get blurring and start to run together.

by Andre Walker 2008-01-25 06:39AM | 0 recs
Edwards 40%; Clinton 36% among SC whites....

...even according to your link ... check for yourself---The way Teagan Goddard has written it, it reads "sloppy" and is easy to confuse but Edwards is leading Clinton amongst whites in South Carolina

by Progressive Populist 2008-01-25 10:17AM | 0 recs
Nice analysis

I've been starting to look at the Texas race in the same way, as it looks like the race may get that far. Clinton may have issues since her heavy support is in districts which have high primary turnout, while some Obama favorable districts have terrible primary turnout. Statewide numbers that look outstanding for Clinton may not translate into a big delegate margin.

by IVR Polls 2008-01-25 06:41AM | 0 recs
Only in the minds of the Obama fans

"as it looks like the race may get that far."

This is largely a media fantasy which appeals to Obama's fans. How ironic that this poster is advocating a deeply undemocratic outcome.  

by ottovbvs 2008-01-25 06:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Only in the minds of the Obama fans

You say that it is "media fantasy" like any of us know for sure what is going to happen. Obama could fail to meet expectations in SC and it will be all over but the shouting.

However, it is just as likely that he hangs tough and goes into Super Tuesday with some momentum. If New Hampshire has taught us anything it is to not rely on polls, pundits, or predictions.

If I were to bet on an outcome I would bet on Hillary getting the nomination but I still have no idea what path it is going to take or how quickly she will have it wrapped up.

As complaining about someone advocating a "deeply undemocratic outcome," if such an outcome is possible we shouldn't ignore the possibility. What I find more insidious is people calling any outcome they have distaste for "undemocratic."

We know the rules of the game are broken. We know they need to be fixed. This is true regardless of what the ultimate outcome is. In the mean time people are going to hope for the outcome which is best for their choice candidate- and we shouldn't belittle them for it.

by JDF 2008-01-25 07:03AM | 0 recs
Huh?

I assume that you are referring to my post above. I'm not advocating anything, just pointing out some similar analysis that I had started doing. South Texas is the Democratic stronghold in Texas. Down there, primaries are the important elections, since the GOP usually have no shot in November. Turnout can be >15%, while Houston and Dallas might be 5%. Delegates are doled out based on General Election turnout, which is much more balanced. Ergo, it takes fewer primary votes to get a delegate in Obama-friendly inner-city Dallas than it does in South Texas, where Clinton is hugely popular. Obama will get a higher proportion of delegates than he will get statewide votes.

And it is not a fantasy that the race may get as far as Texas. Mathematically, it may last longer than it does practically, but the month after 2/5 favors Obama enough that he can regain some strength if he is not knocked out that day.

by IVR Polls 2008-01-25 07:59AM | 0 recs
The multi racial candidate in SC: Clinton!!

36% of whites and 25% of blacks. Ironic isn't it.

by ottovbvs 2008-01-25 06:50AM | 0 recs
Re: The multi racial candidate in SC: Clinton!!

Exactly.

by Jerome Armstrong 2008-01-25 06:52AM | 0 recs
You've got a problem

You need to look at the percentage of AAs who are Democrats in each district, not the percentage overall.

by andgarden 2008-01-25 06:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem

the Congressional districts with the larger populations and the higher Democratic performance (districts two, four, five, twelve, and thirteen) gained more delegates than the Congressional districts with smaller populations and lower Democratic performance (districts one, three, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven)

I'm pretty sure all congressional districts have approximately the same size population.

by lorax 2008-01-25 06:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem

I assume he means the Democratic population.

by Steve M 2008-01-25 06:56AM | 0 recs
He means large AA percentage

But his analysis is still flawed, because AAs make up an overwhelming percentage of the Democratic vote.

by andgarden 2008-01-25 06:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem

As a fellow political nerd who follows delegate selection pretty closely, I love this kind of analysis. I've got a few of comments on your math

% of voting age population that is black doesn't necessarily correspond to the % of Democratic primary turnout that is African-American -- in southern states (generally) you need to (approximately) nearly double the black % to figure out what percentage of the Democratic primary electorate is African-American -- so in a district that is 25% black, 45-50% of the primary turnout is likely to be black. Assuming a fairly racially polarized electorate (not automatically a given, but for the sake of this discussion, let's go there), this means several additional congressional districts that Obama is likely to be competitive in.

Also remember that because of the threshold rule, a candidate need only get 15% to get delegates -- I'm going to assume that both Clinton and Obama will meet that threshold in every district - and the delegates are divided by % of popular vote in each CD - in CDs with 4 delegates, the likely result is a 2-2 split unless one candidate carries the district with 63%+ of the votes

Finally, you haven't accounted for Edwards in your analysis -- if he is still running on Feb 5th, he may very well get 15% in several of these districts, which dramatically would impact the Clinton/Obama math, and the division of delegates in different districts.

But assuming on a 2 way race and racially polarized voting, and accounting for the higher % of black  Demorcatic primary voters, my district by district analysis would come out differently that your's:

CD 1 = Clinton 2, Obama 1
CD 2 = Clinton 2, Obama 3
CD 3 - Clinton 2, Obama 2
CD 4 - Clinton 2, Obama 4
CD 5 - Clinton 3, Obama 4
CD 6 - Clinton 2, Obama 1
CD 7 - Clinton 3, Obama 1
CD 8 -  Clinton 2, Obama 2
CD 9 - Clinton 2, Obama 1
CD 10 - Clinton 2, Obama 2
CD 11 - Clinton 2, Obama 1
CD 12 - Clinton 2, Obama 3
CD 13 - Clinton 3, Obama 3

Total district - Clinton 28, Obama 29. Add on the AL and the PLEO and Obama would still be likely to take a majority of the pledged delegates, even while narrowly losing the district level totals.

Obviously a shift of a few % here and there could impact the distribution in different districts -- but I think your math overestimates Clinton's likely delegate haul in some districts. (I also think a viable Edwards effort would throw this off entirely.)

We'll see.

by lifelongdem 2008-01-25 06:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem

I agree.

If Edwards is factored in, you may have a case where he picks up delegates in the 8th and a few other rural districts.

But that's one of the things that is so exhilarating about this process.  A few changes here and there and the overall outcome is drastically different.

As you said, we'll have to see.

by Andre Walker 2008-01-25 07:06AM | 0 recs
interesting analysis

Even though a primary avoids many of the problems of the caucus system, there are still potential inequities in the allocation of state delegates.

by desmoinesdem 2008-01-25 06:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem


But if we play by Hillary's rules...

We only talk about the popular vote- like in Nevada, where similar rules made the delegate count favor Obama despite Hillary's popular vote win.

So... the media narrative (and the narrative on MyDD) will be Obama won Georgia??? Right?

by jgkojak 2008-01-25 06:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem
Should be
by Big Tent Democrat 2008-01-25 08:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem

What's always amused me is that the media--especially the 24 hour news networks--will glom on to the easiest, most simplistic narrative they can come up with despite any and all complexities, and then repeat that narrative for hours and hours.  For some reason, they seem to feel that taking a little longer to explain the complexities would be a waste of time they could otherwise spend repeating their oversimplifications.

It's a funny calculus.

by Jay R 2008-01-25 11:32AM | 0 recs
How do I become a delegate?

Interesting diary. Just today, one of my African American friends(he is active in some local Democratic campaigns and he is an Obama supporter) approached me and told me he was thinking of attempting to be a delegate and asked me to try the same. I live in a white area. And I have decided to vote for Obama after waffling back between Edwards and Obama.

Is it still possible for me to become a delegate? Or are the odds too high for a political novice like me?

by Pravin 2008-01-25 07:14AM | 0 recs
Re: How do I become a delegate?

I live in Sandy Springs, GA, just north of the Atlanta city limits.

by Pravin 2008-01-25 07:15AM | 0 recs
Re: How do I become a delegate?

Well, first things first, you should attend one of the delegate training sessions that the state Democratic Party is holding.

There's going to be one in each of the 13 districts,  and you can get more information on those trainings by clicking here.

I'm not sure what your Congressional district is, but let me tell you that if you're in the 6th district, you've got a decent chance.  The fifth district?  Well, that's always a competitive district to run in for anybody.

Honestly, I'd suggest that you run and that you find out who else is running or plans to run, and form an alliance.  All you have to do to win is get as many of your family, friends, neighbors, associates, etc. as possible to come and caucus for you, and you're in.  

If you form an alliance with another delegate candidate where you tell all your people to vote for him/her, and he/she does the same, your chances have definitely increased.

But yeah, I definitely think you should run.

by Andre Walker 2008-01-25 07:40AM | 0 recs
Re: How do I become a delegate?

Thanks a lot for the information.

by Pravin 2008-01-25 08:13AM | 0 recs
Re: How do I become a delegate?

Does Georgia have affirmative action-type rules for selection of national delegates?  When I looked at the Michigan rules I was surprised by how many different groups they want to ensure are represented at the convention.

by Steve M 2008-01-25 09:16AM | 0 recs
Georgia does have affirmative action...

...Goals similar to Michigan.

Under Georgia's delegate selection plan, the goal is to have 63 African-American delegates, 1 Hispanic, 1 Native American, 1 Asian/Pacific American, 10 LGBT delegates, 10 People w/Disabilities delegates, 18 Senior (60 years and older) delegates, and 26 youth (18 - 29) delegates.

by Andre Walker 2008-01-25 09:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Georgia does have affirmative action...

I assume gender balancing also factors in there somewhere.

I like these rules because it gives a diverse group of people incentive to get involved in Democratic politics.  Nobody has to say to themselves, "why should I bother, it's going to be the same group of old white men going to the convention as always."

One suspects the Republican rules might be drafted a little differently in this regard.

by Steve M 2008-01-25 09:50AM | 0 recs
Well, four years ago...

...I was told by someone that, at least in Georgia, unless you're heavily involved in the state Republican Party, you have no chance of going to the Republican Convention as a delegate.

Four years ago, I was a delegate to the Democratic Convention, and I was just getting my feet wet when it came to being active within the state Democratic Party.  I think that's the great thing about the Democratic delegate selection process; anybody can go as long as they run and get elected.

by Andre Walker 2008-01-25 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Well, four years ago...

You should also consider yourself lucky (at least in that respect) to live in the South!

I live in NYC and if you want to get involved in Democratic politics, you're welcome to but you have to stand at the end of a very, very long line.

by Steve M 2008-01-25 11:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Georgia Delegate Selection Problem

I've been dabbling in this sort of analysis too.  Without even launching a spreadsheet, there is a good rule of thumb (which does not always hold true -- the system is quite complex, but is a good starting point):  given roughly the same level of support, the district delegate allocation system favors the candidate with more geographically spread out support.

So far, we have seen this borne out in three places, off the top of my head:  In NH and NV, Clinton got more of the "popular vote" (whatever that means in a caucus system like NV), but didn't do as well in delegates because her votes were more concentrated in the cities than Obama's.  In IA, Edwards benefited from this effect.

by tilthouse 2008-01-25 07:36AM | 0 recs
The White Elephant in the Room

 You are missing the salient point that Edwards, not Clinton is wining more white votes, so your transmogrification of SC polling aside (they are not the same states or population groups), ignoring that Edwards, not Clinton, is drawing more white votes, somehow makes Obama losing the delegate take in Georgia misguided at best. If Obama take over 40 of the 80 plus delegates in Georgia, and CLinton and Edwards split the "white" vote and the at-large-delegates, Obama wins the delegate race in the state.

by lestatdelc 2008-01-25 09:30AM | 0 recs

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