Voters in California, like others throughout the nation, have lengthy assumed that just one candidate can win an election. And most often, they’re proper.

However most presidential primaries work in another way — a truth obscured in years previous when the race was all however over by the point Californians solid ballots. On March 3, the Democratic presidential marketing campaign shall be removed from over and the arcane guidelines for profitable within the Golden State will come into play.

There are 54 Democratic primaries in California

California will ship 494 delegates to the Democratic Nationwide Conference in Milwaukee, Wis., this July. Most of them — 271 delegates — will signify one of many state’s 53 congressional districts.

In essence, the March 3 primary is made up of 1 statewide election and 53 district-level elections. Candidates shall be awarded delegates primarily based on how they do in every of those distinct contests and the remaining delegates shall be divided by the highest statewide vote-getters.

Not all of those 54 races will award the identical variety of delegates. The statewide outcomes determine who wins 90 of California’s “at-large” conference delegates, the only largest subset, as properly as 54 delegates representing occasion leaders and elected officers. Within the particular person congressional districts, the Democratic Occasion makes use of a system that takes into consideration inhabitants and voting knowledge from the final two presidential elections. No congressional district will award greater than seven delegates to the Democratic conference or fewer than 4 delegates.

Delegates are (form of) divvied up by vote totals

Right here’s the place issues get sophisticated, as a result of a Democratic candidate for president can win votes in one among California’s congressional districts and nonetheless not be awarded any delegates.

The important thing in every of those micro-primaries is {that a} candidate should win a minimum of 15% of the votes solid to stroll away with conference delegates. Find yourself with lower than 15% of the vote in both a congressional district or the statewide primary, and the candidate will get nothing. In actual fact, these votes are fully solid apart: The unfortunate candidates are crossed off the record and the vote percentages are recalculated.

In different phrases, if three candidates break up 50% of a district’s uncooked vote — with 19%, 16% and 15% of the ballots solid, for instance — all different candidates and totals are discarded. The method then begins over and every candidate’s share of what’s recognized as the “certified” votes is calculated.

The best strategy to describe it is to think about a district the place 100 voters solid ballots. After the preliminary evaluation, solely 50 of these ballots — 19 solid for the first-place candidate, 16 for the second-place candidate, 15 for the one in third place — are used to award delegates.

Of the certified votes, the first-place candidate obtained 19 of 50 (38%). The second-place candidate obtained 16 of 50 votes (32%). And the third-place candidate obtained 15 of 50 votes (30%).

These percentages at the moment are used to award delegates to every of the three candidates.

Rounding off for the ultimate delegate complete

Within the hypothetical district talked about above, three candidates will obtain delegates. Let’s assume that the district is situated in one among California’s larger cities and voted strongly for former President Obama in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 — and due to this fact will ship seven delegates to the Democratic Nationwide Conference.

The primary-place candidate obtained 38% of the certified primary vote. Multiply that by the entire delegates out there and the result’s 2.66 delegates, which might be rounded as much as 3.

The second-place candidate obtained 32% of the certified primary vote, which interprets into 2.24 delegates — rounded right down to 2.

And the third-place candidate obtained 30% of the certified primary vote, which leads to 2 delegates.

The identical system applies for delegates awarded to those that do properly within the statewide vote complete. There are 144 delegate seats awarded on this contest, a few of which shall be taken by state occasion leaders and elected officers. Solely candidates receiving 15% or extra of all California Democratic primary votes will obtain a portion of those delegates.

The outcomes may not all the time appear logical — or honest

The strict 15% threshold might sound simple to assist in concept however a lot tougher to defend in observe — notably as a result of there’s an excellent probability that three or extra Democrats shall be robust contenders as soon as the polls shut throughout California at eight p.m. on March 3. There’s more likely to be little or no distinction in assist on the congressional stage between candidates receiving 13% and 15% of the vote, however an enormous distinction when it turns into clear a type of contenders will come up empty-handed. However, it’s potential {that a} Democrat might be thought-about by nationwide political watchers as having been shut out of the California primary primarily based on statewide returns — solely to have really been awarded a smattering of delegates from congressional districts unfold throughout the state.

Delegate totals might not be recognized till April

Maybe the toughest factor for everybody to simply accept is that the sophisticated course of signifies that California’s Democratic delegates actually can’t be awarded till state elections officers certify the vote totals on April 2. Even a fraction of a share level in ballots might shift a candidate from profitable a number of delegates to none. As well as, official election returns` aren’t reported by congressional districts till the tally is full — which might doubtlessly depart no neutral voice to counter the notion peddled by a candidate’s supporters or opponents within the first few days and weeks after the California primary.