I’m taking a mulligan on my most recent column because it may have been confusing and misleading. Let’s try is a chronological description of Arizona’s “election” process for choosing President and Vice President of the United States. This describes the process of the Democratic Party in Arizona. Other states and parties may do things differently.
The first “election” in the 2020 campaign in Arizona is the Presidential Preference Election March 17, 2020. A voter must be registered as a Democrat by Feb. 18 to participate in this election. Registered Democratic voters will indicate which Democratic candidate they want to be President. All Arizona votes will be tallied and delegates for candidates will be sent to the Democratic National Convention in July in proportion, percentage-wise, to the votes the candidates received.
At the convention, the delegates vote for the candidate they are designated to vote for, at least on the first ballot. After that, if another ballot is needed because no candidate got enough votes to win, delegates might change to a different candidate, and the votes of some of the people back in March are therefore wiped out or disregarded. Also, if more than one ballot is needed, more delegates are added in (Old Guard party members, big donors, etc., called Superdelegates). Once the presidential candidate is chosen, the nominee and party leaders get together to choose the nominee for vice president, often basing their choice on “balancing the ticket” (choosing someone from a populous state or from a group the presidential candidate doesn’t represent) and the delegates to the convention almost always rubber-stamp the choice. The voters at home have no part in choosing the vice presidential candidate.
Republicans are not holding a PPE in Arizona for 2020 and in several other states even though they have at least one credible Republican challenger to Donald Trump, Bill Ward. He is not pleased that he isn’t even getting a chance to be voted on in some states. Other parties are also relying on their summer conventions to choose their candidates for President and Vice President.
As we are seeing now, four states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, have a major effect on who is chosen as the presidential nominee because their presidential preference “elections” come first. Those states are not representative of the bulk of the population of the country. Also, at least one of them, Iowa, which has the most influence because its “election” is first of all, uses the caucus method of choosing delegates to the convention. Many fewer voters participate in that process than would if Iowa held a primary-like “election” as Arizona does. Candidates who lead in the early states gain influence and credibility, which increase as the process goes on. Candidates who might lead if the whole country voted on one day, often fall by the wayside based on how they do in the first one to four states.
When we vote in the PPE, our vote goes to a delegate to a convention, not directly to a candidate for president. Also, we voters have no say at all in who is chosen to run for vice president. It is not a “democratic” process, not a one-person-one-vote procedure.
After the candidates for President and Vice President for all parties are chosen at the parties’ national conventions in the summer of 2020, the prehistoric beast called the Electoral College takes over. We’ll cover that next time.
Sheryl Eaton is president of the White Mountain Democrats.