From left, democratic presidential candidates, former brand-new York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, previous South Bend market Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., previous Vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer stand on stage prior to a autonomous presidential primary debate, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

California’s presidential primary on Tuesday could prove decisive in selecting the autonomous nominee — yet figuring out that gets the gold State’s desire delegates is around as confusing together a Mike Bloomberg tax return.

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So, welcome come California Delegate mathematics 101. Pull the end your calculators and also pay attention. No dozing off, Yuba County: This gets complicated.

The outcomes of California’s democratic primary won’t just be determined by that gets the most votes. Instead, the biggest trove the delegates of any state in the country will it is in divvied up among all the candidates that earn at least 15 percent of the vote, both statewide and in every of the state’s 53 congressional districts.

Unlike the winner-take-all an approach used in part Republican primaries, the Democrats’ device is aimed at tenderness pushing the lowest-polling candidates out of the gyeongju to winnow the field, when still dividing delegates on a mostly proportional basis.


The real-world ramifications are huge: Sen. Bernie Sanders could walk away with a large delegate majority in California even if he only gets about a 3rd of the statewide vote, due to the fact that so many of his rivals are splitting the more moderate voters. That would certainly make it complicated for any other candidate come overtake the in the national delegate race.

For assist explaining the procedure to those of us who battle with dividing a restaurant bill, us turned come Andrew Walter, a previous high institution math teacher in Stockton (and a san Jose native) who won a national presidential award for math education.

“When you an initial look in ~ it, that comes across as really convoluted and also confusing,” Walter said of the system. “But it’s pretty amazing how you have the right to have a relatively small amount of the complete votes but end up winning the entire state.”

First vital question: How plenty of delegates space at play?

The magic number to win the democratic nomination is 1,991 — that’s one over a majority of the 3,979 pledged delegates indigenous primaries and caucuses approximately the country. California has much more delegates in ~ stake than any type of other state: 415 pledged delegates, much more than a fifth of the total needed for victory.


Quick-but-important next note: The state will also send an additional 79 superdelegates — party leaders and also elected officials — come the democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in July. Yet superdelegates can only poll at the convention if no candidate wins a majority of the pledged delegates based upon the state-by-state results, therefore they don’t variable into Tuesday’s primary.

About a third of California’s pledged delegates — 144 — room divided based on the statewide results. The other 271 delegates get split up based upon the results in each congressional district.

Pay attention here! no every district is equal: Those that voted much more Democratic in past presidential vote get more delegates. So house Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ultra-liberal san Francisco district has seven delegates to award, if GOP minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s Trump-loving Bakersfield ar only has actually four. That renders the deep-blue bay Area a major prize.

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How well perform the candidates have to do to win delegates?

When you’re watching choice returns Tuesday night, the most important number to keep in mind is 15 percent. A candidate needs to reach that threshold statewide in order come receive any kind of statewide delegates, and has to reach it in any type of individual congressional ar in order come get any kind of delegates from the district.

The mechanism “magnifies the toughness of the winners,” claimed Paul Mitchell, the vice president of the nonpartisan California firm political Data, Inc., who has written about the delegate process. “It practically eliminates or renders disappear the votes going to lower-ranked choices.”

But don’t let the make you think your vote doesn’t matter. Any single voter could cast the deciding ballot that brings a candidate from 14.99 percent to 15 percent — and also potentially take it them native zero delegates to dozens, Walter spicy out.

“You might be the vote that pushes someone right into contention, and also potentially readjust the race,” he said.

The biggest impact would be if only one candidate it s okay over 15 percent statewide — and several recent polls have discovered Sanders doing just that. In the case, he would walk far with every one of the 144 statewide delegates, offering him a large lead end his rivals.

Meanwhile, a front-runner like Sanders will likewise likely with the 15 percent threshold and also qualify because that delegates in the vast bulk of the state’s 53 conference districts. So candidates reduced in the polls — together as previous South Bend, Indiana, market Pete Buttigieg (who is heading to mountain Diego this weekend) or Sen. Amy Klobuchar — could be best served by concentrating on a few districts where they think they have actually the the strongest support.

The individual districts are choose “53 little laboratories for presidential races,” Mitchell said. “You have districts that are greatly LGBT, or Asian, or more urban or suburban, or have actually a large tech influence. … It renders it more interesting and gives various candidates more opportunities to pick off a couple of congressional seats.”

How carry out the delegates get separation up?

This is where it really gets complicated. Every the votes of the candidates that didn’t gain 15 percent room eliminated, and brand-new percentages that the “qualified” poll that remains are calculated because that the candidates who survived the cut. So, if one just candidate is over 15 percent, they’d get 100 percent of the qualified vote.

For example, imagine a district v 7 delegates obtainable where Sanders received 30 percent the the vote, previous Vice president Joe Biden obtained 25 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren gained 20 percent, former new York City market Mike Bloomberg got 15 percent, and everyone rather was listed below 15.

Votes for the candidates who didn’t make the cutoff would certainly be excluded, and also the 4 survivors would each get a new re-calculated percent that the standard vote that remains. Then, every candidate’s standard vote percent is multiplied by the total number of delegates available in that district.

But wait, there’s more. Delegates have to be forgive in totality numbers — friend can’t obtain 1.5 delegates, for example, due to the fact that they’re real civilization who will be poll in human being at the convention.

So the number of delegates each candidate gets is constantly rounded under to a whole number. Then, any kind of remaining delegates available in the district room awarded in bespeak of who has the highest number after the decimal place prior to the round off took place.

Yes, we gain it, that’s confusing.

In the theoretical district, the math functions out to Sanders, Biden and Warren obtaining two delegates each, when Bloomberg it s okay one. That reflects that even a considerable lead in votes doesn’t always mean a candidate winning much more delegates, as long as multiple contenders with 15 percent.

When will we understand who won?

If early returns display Sanders through a large lead, news networks could contact the gyeongju for that on choice night. But us may have to wait much longer to know how numerous delegates each candidate in reality received.

California has constantly taken a lengthy time to counting votes, and also the state’s growth of vote-by-mail and also its new rules enabling voters to change their registration all the means up till election day will most likely drag the process out also more.

And even tiny changes in the results as the votes room counted might have a big impact ~ above the delegate division. If Sanders is leading and several various other candidates space hovering close to 15 percent statewide, we might not recognize for main how massive a delegate command the vermouth senator will have the ability to rack up.

The Secretary the State’s results website, which will be live on election night, will present the presidential outcomes in each congressional district. For this reason you’ll be able to follow along and check the math yourself.

And a warning to Walter’s students in the Stockton college district — your teacher was so intrigued by the process that you may be see California’s delegate mathematics on a future quiz.

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“It might be interesting and engaging for students to think with this mechanism that will certainly actually affect who their leaders are,” Walter said.