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Saturday, February 25th, 2017Last Update: Friday, February 3rd, 2017 01:39:14 PM

Oklahoma Presidential Primary Election Allocates Delegates

By: Constitution Staff

Oklahoma's Presidential Preference Primary was held on March 1 and was part of "Super Tuesday" which included eleven states. Oklahoma has used a primary since 1988, and the election results allocate the delegates to each presidential candidate. But, the actual delegates who will attend the Democrat and Republican national conventions which will nominate the candidate of the respective parties this summer are determined in a separate process.

The Republican Party will have 2,472 delegates at their national convention and the Democratic Party will have 4,764 delegates. Oklahoma Republicans are entitled to 43 votes at the Republican National Convention which will be held in Cleveland, Ohio. State Democrats will have 42 votes at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans award delegates according to the share of votes that a candidate receives statewide and by congressional district, provided they reach the minimum threshold. And, both major parties in the state follow a nearly identical process in selecting the actual delegates who cast the votes at the respective national conventions. Party members attend meetings in their local voting precinct, the delegates elected at the Precinct Meetings attended their County Convention where delegates are selected to attend both the congressional District Convention and the State Convention. It is at the District Convention and the State Convention where the actual delegates are selected go to the National Convention. A few additional delegate positions are held by party leaders who are automatically delegates and go to the National Convention and are not required to vote for a particular candidate. These are the so-called "Super Delegates" who could determine the presidential nominee in a close race.

The delegate selection process for both parties actually began before the primary election. Democrats held Precinct Meetings on February 20, and County Conventions in March. The District Conventions were held in conjunction with the State Convention on April 9, with delegates breaking out into district caucuses to select delegates, and then met jointly to make the statewide selections.

The schedule for Republicans was not as concise. Precinct Meetings were held starting in January and extending though February, depending on the date of the County Conventions which had to be held no later than March 12. District Conventions for the 3rd and 4th congressional districts met on April 2, district 5 on April 9; and districts 1and 2 on April 16. The state convention will be on May 14.

Oklahoma Democrats allocated their 38 "pledged" delegates to the top candidates competing for the nomination. Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders won the primary in Oklahoma with 51.9% of the vote. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received 41.5%. Other minor candidates received a combined total of 6.6% and did not qualify for any delegates. Based on these results, Sanders received 21 delegates while Hillary Clinton was awarded 17 delegates. Oklahoma Democrats will also send four "unpledged" delegates to the national convention. These delegate positions are held by the state party chairman, the vice chairman, the National Committeeman, and the National Committeewoman. These last two position represent state Democrats as members of the Democratic National Committee. The "unpledged" delegates are free to support the candidate of their choice. At this time, one is reported to be supporting Sanders, and one Clinton, with the other two not yet announcing their intention.

In the Republican contest, Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz finished first with 34.4 %. Businessman Donald Trump finished ahead of Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, with Trump receiving 28.3 % and Rubio 26.0 %. The remaining 11.3% went to other candidates who did not meet the threshold to be awarded delegates. As a result of the voting, Cruz will have 15 delegates, followed by Trump with 13, and Rubio with 12. In addition to these 40 delegates, the GOP state chairman, the National Committeeman, and the National Committeewoman will each have a vote. The three "unbound" delegates have agreed to split their votes with Cruz, Trump, and Rubio each receiving one vote.

Since there are only two Democrat candidates, it is likely that one will receive sufficient delegate votes to be nominated on the first ballot. However, the "unpledged" delegates could shift their support to a different candidate if neither candidate has enough "pledged" delegates.

While only Trump and Cruz have the potential to amass sufficient "bound" delegates to get the Republican nomination, it is possible that neither might reach the required number. However, if Rubio or other candidates who won delegates before they suspended their campaigns release their delegates prior to the national convention, those delegates could put Trump or Cruz over the top on the first ballot. If there is not a winner on the first ballot, many more delegates will no longer be bound and could shift to another candidate. According to Oklahoma GOP rules, the "bound" delegates must vote for the candidate they are awarded to, for as long as that candidate is still on the convention ballot.

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