Only 7 States Have More Presidential Primary Delegates Than the U.S. Territories Have


Gotta love U.S. politics. Not one person I talk to understands the presidential primary process that began in January and continues through June 2012. But regardless it is fascinating to watch.

There are 57 presidential primaries. One for each state, except Louisiana, which splits its primary into two (a primary and a caucus). In addition, Washington D.C. and 5 U.S. territories, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa, participate in the process.

In addition to the Louisiana caucus, the states of Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Kansas, Hawaii, Missouri, Nebraska and Montana, as well as Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands hold caucuses.

The difference between a caucus and a primary is that a primary is a statewide process open to all registered voters by secret ballot whereas a caucus is more of a local meeting where people cast their votes in a public setting.

Why some states do primaries while others do caucuses is beyond me. Though I do notice that the caucus states tend to have smaller delegate totals.

Now about those 5 U.S. territories, Puerto Rico, Guam and the others. The U.S. President serves as President of these territories. However, citizens of these territories may not vote in our presidential elections (unless they are U.S. citizens). Yet, these territories are given delegates for each party's primary conventions. Huh?

These U.S. territories have a combined total of 59 delegates in the 2012 Republican convention, yet the vast majority of the 4 million citizens of these territories cannot vote for President.  59 delegates is more than all but 7 states; Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, California, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. To me this is bizarre.

The number of delegates per state ranges from 12 in New Hampshire to 172 in California, and nine in four of the five territories (Puerto Rico has 23). There are a total of 2,286 Republican delegates at stake in 2012 and 1,144 are need to win the nomination. So it is possible for the winning candidate to receive less than a majority of delegates from states where residents can vote in the Presidential election.

Also confounding is the diversity in how delegates are allocated to candidates. Fourteen primaries have a "winner-take-all" allocation, 21 allocate delegates proportionate to delegates based on votes, five use a hybrid approach and 16 use a convention or committee for allocating votes. And nine of the non-winner-take-all states convert to winner-take-all if a candidate receives a majority vote.

Why don't they just use a simple proportional system in all states? Beats me. That seems to be the fairest way to do it. California, which has the largest delegate count at 172, uses winner-take-all. Go figure. Texas allocates its 155 Republican delegates proportionally. However, many states convert to winner-take-all if a candidate receives a majority of the vote.

Mitt Romney so far has benefitted the most from the winner-take-all approach, with wins in winner-take-all states Florida and Arizona and receiving all delegates in Massachusetts, Idaho and Virginia. But the race is far from over.

Thanks to sources at Wikipedia as well as for helping educate yet continue to confuse me on this topic.