Pennsylvania Delegates: More Than You Want To Know

by hilzoy

Via Matt Yglesias, it turns out that the Clinton campaign didn't manage to field a full slate of delegates in Pennsylvania:

"Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign failed to file a full slate of convention delegate candidates for Pennsylvania's April 22 primary.

This despite the possibility the primary proves critical and despite Clinton owning the full-throated support of Gov. Rendell, state Democratic Party leadership, Mayor Nutter and, presumably, the organizational skill all that entails.

And despite a Rendell-ordered extension of the filing deadline that could be viewed as more than just coincidental.."

My first reaction was to think: this probably has no practical effect, as long as the missing delegates are spread out among Congressional Districts. A candidate has to win a very large percentage of the vote within a given CD to send all of his or her delegates for that CD to the convention (how large depends on how many delegates that CD gets.) So in most cases, having, say, one delegate too few wouldn't be a problem. But then I read Atrios, who actually lives in PA, and who suggested that this was wrong. He notes that in PA people vote directly for delegates, and "not having named delegates on the ballot is a problem."

Hmm, I thought: wouldn't that mean that if everyone voted for his or her preferred candidates' entire slate of delegates, the PA primary would essentially be winner-takes-all for each CD? And doesn't that violate Democratic Party rules? So, reluctantly, I decided to do some research. And since the Iron Law of Blogging holds that no good research should go unpublished, I'm about to inflict it on you.

First: in PA, people do, in fact, vote for delegates, as well as for President. But the votes for delegate determine not which delegates will actually go to the Convention (so that if, say, all of Clinton's delegates got more votes than any of Obama's delegates within a particular CD, that CD would send a 100% Clinton slate to the Convention.) Rather, the candidates are given (pdf) a certain number of delegates based on the candidates' share of the popular vote, and the votes for delegate (along with other rules designed to ensure roughly equal representation for men and women) determine delegates' rank on a given candidate's slate.

Second, as the original article notes, the DNC's rules (pdf) state that "if a presidential candidate (including uncommitted status) has qualified to receive delegates and alternates but has failed to slate a sufficient number of delegate and alternate candidates, then additional delegates and alternates for that preference will be selected in a special post-primary procedure." (13c, p. 19.) So there's really no possibility that Clinton could wind up ceding delegates as a result of her failure to submit complete slates.

It's another unforced error, and it comes at a time when the Clinton campaign does not need any more questions about competence. But as far as I can tell, it will not affect the actual allocation of delegates.