Are you confused about how (and why!) to vote for delegates in the 2020 Alabama presidential primary? Don’t blame yourself. The presidential primary happens just every four years, so voters forget and rules change!
In addition, after four years, there are a lot of first-time voters. Think about it: you’re so excited to cast a ballot for the first time, but then get hit with this confusing mess of “vote for a candidate then vote for delegates but not too many delegates and they have to match your candidate….” It’s no wonder that so many voters leave the delegate slots empty – or just cover all their bases and vote for delegates all over the ballot!
We’re hoping that this article will help all voters decipher the Alabama 2020 primary ballot, and encourage everyone to consider supporting individual delegate candidates.
What happens if I vote for a presidential candidate and also vote for my friend who is running as a delegate for someone else?
This happens a lot if you’re really active in politics, and especially when there’s a large field of candidates to choose from. It’s natural to want to support your friend, even if your friend supports a different candidate. But it doesn’t help your friend.
The short answer is: your vote for the presidential candidate counts for the presidential candidate, but your vote for a friend running as a delegate for another candidate or running as an “Uncommitted” delegate does NOT get tabulated, so it doesn’t help your friend win a delegate spot.
You may remember that, in 2016, the delegate votes didn’t tabulate properly. The software counted ALL delegate votes, no matter who you selected for president or how many delegates you voted for! We wrote about how the delegate vote counting software didn’t work properly in the 2016 primary:
What was different in 2016 – in many Alabama counties – were new voting machines equipped with software that isn’t capable of accurately counting delegate votes according to party rules. It was possible for a Republican primary voter to select Ted Cruz for president and then vote for delegates pledged to Cruz, Bush, Trump, etc. In the Democratic primary, a voter could select Clinton for president then vote for Sanders, O’Malley, Clinton, and Uncommitted delegates. All of those votes were counted as valid.
On Wednesday, 2/26, I attended the public test of voting machines in Madison County, and fortunately, that problem we had in 2016 has been fixed! The vendor updated the software, so now the system works as planned.
I completed three different sample ballots and ran them through the machine as a test:
|Voted for Candidate A & only delegates pledged to Candidate A||1 vote for Candidate A and 5 delegate votes correctly tabulated for Candidate A|
|Voted for Candidate B – who had no delegates listed – and voted for Uncommitted delegates only||1 vote for Candidate B correctly tabulated. NO votes for Uncommitted delegates registered.|
|Voted for Candidate C and multiple delegates for Candidate C & other candidates too, including Uncommittted||1 vote for Candidate C correctly tabulated. Delegate votes for Candidate C registered. NO votes for other delegate candidates tabulated.|
If anyone has any questions about it, I have screen shots of the test ballots and the tape printed by the voting machine.
In any case, the big takeaway here is that, for example, you can vote for Michael Benet or Michael Bloomberg for president – and your vote will count. However, if you also vote for delegates for any other candidate or uncommitted delegates, those delegate votes are will not be counted. The software ignores the completely.
There are people on social media telling voters that “if your candidate doesn’t have any delegates, just vote for the Uncommitted delegates and you’re covered.” This is not correct. It won’t void your ballot, and your vote for President will count, but the “Uncommitted” delegate votes will not count.
How do I know how many delegates to vote for in the presidential primary?
That’s easy! It’s written at the top of the ballot. For example, in CD-05, Democratic voters can vote for a maximum of 5 delegates. Totals vary by congressional district. Read the first question in the article to understand why.
Anyway, look for this box at the top of your ballot. Again, this is a ballot for CD-05; your delegate total will vary depending on where you live.
How many delegates can I vote for and how are the votes counted?
In the presidential race, voting is a two-step process.
- Choose the candidate you want to win the nomination – or if you can’t decide, selected the “Uncommitted” option.
- Look for that candidate’s pledged delegates and choose the people you think would best represent your candidate and your views.
There’s a little box at the top of your ballot that tells you how many delegates you can vote for. Each of the state’s congressional districts gets a different number of pledged delegates. That’s based on some relatively arcane calculations of Democratic turnout and vote percentages in previous elections.
NOTE: Anybody who says “my vote doesn’t count” in Alabama in national elections, please pay attention to the above paragraph!! The turnout percentage affects how many delegates your congressional district gets for the convention. That matters a lot to the people hoping to attend as delegates.
- Don’t “over-vote” for delegates – meaning that, if your ballot says you can vote for a “maximum” of 5 delegates, don’t vote for more than that.
- Also, don’t vote for delegates pledged to other candidates.
- You can vote for fewer delegates than allowed or not vote for delegates at all.
Why do I have to vote for delegates?
The good news… you don’t “have” to, but here’s why you should!
The Democratic presidential primary is a two-step process. You vote for your favorite candidate (or Uncommitted if you can’t decide) and then for a specific number of delegates “pledged” to your favorite candidate. Pledged delegates are required to vote for their candidate on the first ballot at the convention in Milwaukee and they also get to vote on the platform and other important issues. “Uncommitted” delegates are free to vote however they wish at the convention. They are not pledged to any candidate.
It’s not just a job where you get to attend a week-long political party – although that’s part of it! Delegates attend meetings, mandatory morning breakfasts, and the evening convention proceedings. On TV, it looks like fun, but I was a delegate in 2016, and I can tell you that it’s also exhausting. The late nights and early mornings hit you hard. By the last morning of the convention, most of our Alabama delegates looked like extras from The Walking Dead.
In 2016, we offered Alabama Democratic delegate candidates the opportunity to share their stories with the LIA community and ask for votes. It was very successful, so we repeated it this year in 2020. A few days before the primary, we’ll publish a list of all the delegates who participated, listed by congressional district and pledge candidate.
My candidate doesn’t have any pledged delegates. Should I vote for the Uncommitted ones?
No, NO, NOOOO!!
There has been some misinformation spread by well-meaning people, but it’s wrong!
There are people on social media telling voters that “if your candidate doesn’t have any delegates, just vote for the Uncommitted delegates and you’re covered.” This is not correct. It won’t void your ballot, but it also won’t elect any Uncommitted delegates.
Read more about this issue in our article: