Chaos and controversy: the presidential primaries

Liam Higgins, Copy Editor

The news of the past several months has been dominated by the upcoming presidential election, which has become mainly focused on the primaries, the process by which each party chooses its candidate to represent the party in the general election for president. This system is a bit complicated and not as democratic as one may assume.

The two main parties, Democratic and Republican, differ slightly in the way in which they select candidates. Both of these parties use “pledged delegates” to show the progress of a candidate and determine the party’s winner. The amount of pledged delegates a candidate receives is generally proportional to the amount of votes they receive. During each state’s primary, pledged delegates are allocated based on the state’s population and the percentage of votes that a candidate receives in that primary. However, the process becomes slightly more complicated.

In lieu of primaries, certain states, such as Iowa, Nevada, and Maine, use the caucus system to determine who will win delegates. Caucuses require individuals to go to certain caucus sites, such as schools, and stand by the representative of their chosen candidate and wait to be counted. Additionally, ardent supporters of a candidate may attempt to win over caucus-goers who are undecided or supporting other candidates by explaining why they believe their candidate is more capable. So instead of simply voting for a candidate, individuals must wait to be counted at their polling place to ensure that their “vote” is cast. This generally leads to lower turnout than primaries as it requires more effort on the part of the voter.

Every four years, both parties hold conventions, in which they will decide the party’s candidate. Delegates and other prominent Democratic figures attend in order to decide the nominee. In a non-contested convention, the candidate with the majority of pledged delegates would win. However, contested conventions work slightly differently. After President Jimmy Carter’s crushing defeat in the 1982 election, the Democratic Party enacted a series of reforms in the primary process. One of these changes involved the establishment of “superdelegates.”

According to the Congressional Research Service,  superdelegates are elite members of the party, typically governors, Congressmen, and former presidents, who vote for the candidate that they prefer. Superdelegates vote at the convention, and in a contested convention, they will decide the party’s nominee. Such was the case in the 2008 contested Democratic convention, in which then-Senator Barack Obama narrowly beat Hillary Clinton in pledged delegates, and was able to win with the help of the superdelegates. There will mostly likely be similar circumstances in this election; However, it seems that Hillary Clinton will be the one to win this time, as she holds the lead in superdelegates over Senator Bernie Sanders.

This disparity is certainly a significant factor in Senator Sanders’ struggle for the nomination.  Despite holding his own in many primaries and clinching victories in several states such as Washington and Minnesota, Clinton has the upper hand on superdelegates, and thus the nomination in general.

“I’m sad that the media did not cover Bernie’s primary wins and cut to the victories of other candidates, but I’m glad he was able to win so many primaries anyways,” sophomore Samantha Cupolo said.

Here in New York, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won with commanding victories. Many believe that Clinton won in part due to her tenure as a Senator from New York from 2001-2009.

“Once she was our Senator from New York, I followed her actions, especially regarding education policies. I also like to reminisce about the days of Bill Clinton,” MHS Chemistry teacher Mrs. Friedman said.

However, many also believe the victory was heightened by tactics of voter suppression. According to CNN, over 125,000 voters were removed as Democrats in Brooklyn alone. This means that they were unable to vote in the Democratic primary, since New York’s primaries are closed to only registered voters. In other words, voters must be either registered as members of the “Republican” or “Democrat” party— members of third parties or independents are barred from casting their vote. This also occurred to a lesser extent in other counties throughout the state.

For a few months, it appeared that the Republican Party, in an attempt to stop Donald Trump in his path, was trying to organize its base into producing a contested convention. At the time, there were three contenders remaining: Ohio Governor John Kasich, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump. Kasich and Cruz both hoped to prevent Trump from securing the nomination by earning enough pledged delegates for a contested convention. In a Republican contested convention, delegates are free to vote for whomever they please.. However, after a series of crushing defeats by Trump, Cruz and Kasich dropped out, leaving Trump as the presumptive nominee.

“[Trump] is going to put America on the right track to fix the economy, and he’s going to ‘Make America Great Again,’” junior Hannah Mott said.

As of right now, it appears that the presidential race will be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, neither of whom are an incredibly popular choice. Both candidates have low favorability ratings, with Trump at 60% and Clinton at 53%,  according to a recent poll by ABC News. In fact, when placed in a three-way Monmouth University poll alongside Clinton and Trump, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 10%, which is a rarity for a third-party candidate to achieve. Additionally, there is a group of many Sanders supporters known as “Bernie-or-Busters” who refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. These individuals plan to either not vote, write in Sanders’ name on the ballot, vote for the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, or even vote for Trump. And so every day it seems that this election will be more and more unorthodox.

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