5 weird things you need to know about how Super Tuesday works.
Ladies and gentlemen of the electorate, Super Tuesday is upon us.
And no, that's not the day that "Batman v Superman" comes out, nor is it the day when your workplace cafeteria serves soup. (That's Soup-er Tuesday. Try the minestrone.)
Super Tuesday is the day when 13 states (as well as the territory of American Samoa and Democrats living abroad) hold either primaries or caucuses.
In honor of America's super-est of electoral weekdays, here are five things you might not know about Super Tuesday:
1. Super Tuesday is usually when one candidate pulls ahead — big time.
The fact is, Super Tuesday is such a massive lurch forward in the election process that whoever comes out on top is likely to be their party's nominee.
A nomination for the general election presidential race comes down to delegates (party representatives who are chosen to do the actual nominating at a convention). On Super Tuesday, roughly 20% of those representatives are up for grabs.
The Democratic candidates are competing for 865 delegates, which is about 18% of the total they have available.
The GOP is competing for fewer, with only 595 delegates at stake. But those 595 delegates make up 24% of the total GOP delegates, making today a pretty huge deal for whoever comes out on top.
Heading into Super Tuesday today, Hillary Clinton and Donald Drumpf are leading in most of the states, so we'll either see an incredibly anticlimactic confirmation of polling data or a pretty major upset. Either way, the winner today will probably be on a one-way train to general-election land.
That being said...
2. Super Tuesday is not (always) a winner-take-all scenario.
At least not in some states. In Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Virginia, delegates are awarded proportionately to the actual votes a candidate receives.
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas have a winner-take-most policy, where the winner of the primary or caucus receives the majority of delegates — and, effectively, the support of that state.
All that nuance, however, doesn't stop Super Tuesday from being a proper competitive bloodbath. Several candidates are backed into make-or-break situations.
Ted Cruz, for example, is making a last stand in his home state of Texas that would make Gandalf proud:
Many commentators have predicted that Cruz failing to win the state he represents would be too big a loss for his campaign to recover from.
As we've seen in all the early primaries, winning isn't just about the delegate math. The ever-growing number of undecided voters look at these primary events to inform them about where the race is going. Early wins often lead to later wins.
But speaking of delegates...
3. Super Tuesday has nothing to do with superdelegates.
Superdelegates are Democratic delegates whose hands aren't forced by the results of a primary or caucus. They can support whichever Democratic candidate they want, and they can even switch their decision right before the Democratic National Convention in July.
Only the Democrats have superdelegates, and if you're thinking there's not enough of them to make a big difference in the outcome, think again.
There are 712 total Democratic superdelegates, which is about 15% of the total Democratic delegates available. Even though there are about 40 undecided superdelegates in Super Tuesday states, their decisions won't necessarily be affected by the results of Super Tuesday.
The Clinton vs. Sanders superdelegate split is not exactly down the middle. A whopping 451 superdelegates have said they will support Hillary Clinton, with Bernie Sanders boasting a mere 19. So even if Sanders wins every primary and caucus from now on, there will still be 451 delegates for Clinton (although they can change their minds up until late July).
We've already seen that little bit of weirdness in practice too. Despite Sanders' landslide victory in the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton actually won more delegates in that state.
4. Super Tuesday was created to help nominate more moderate candidates.
The idea behind Super Tuesday when it became a thing in 1988 was to create a big primary day to counteract the momentum that candidates would get after early state primaries, a phenomenon known as "Iowa syndrome."
Early primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina tended to produce non-Southern, progressive Democratic candidates with a lot of momentum. Those candidates would then go to primaries in the South and not do so well.
The plan was to group a bunch of Southern states together on an early day so moderate Southern Democrats would have more of a chance and the whole election process would be a little more national.
It didn't work at first — the first Super Tuesday saw Al Gore and Jesse Jackson going on to split the Southern states in their race.
Of course, we have two of the least moderate candidates imaginable in a race that seems to be a contest to see who can yell "anti-establishment" the loudest.
That being said, on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders had lots of momentum from the primaries earlier this year, especially in Northern states like New Hampshire, but with Clinton's recent huge win in South Carolina and her lead over Sanders in today’s 13 states, we might just get the moderate Democratic nomination that Super Tuesday's founding fathers dreamed of.
5. In a lot of states, you can vote on Super Tuesday even if you're not a party member.
In many cases, states hold "open" primaries and caucuses, meaning that even those who are not officially registered with a party can participate and vote. If that's you, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO GO GO!
(Seriously. I can wait. Find out if your state has an open primary here.)
With 39% of Americans not affiliated with a political party, Super Tuesday is a good opportunity for them to make their voices heard. It's easy to think of the 2016 election as something that's happening on the news or far away from you, but if you're in one of the Super Tuesday states, then the news is happening in your backyard. And you get to go — you get to decide.
The stakes are high on Super Tuesday, as they are for the rest of the election.
Whether your main voting issue is health care, foreign policy, student debt, religious freedom, gun control, or, frankly, anything else, we have a roster of potential candidates with an incredibly wide array of views.
Not only are you voting for a candidate to participate in the general election, but you're voting for a candidate who might help fill a key Supreme Court vacancy, who might repeal (or not) a significant health care law, who might save a crumbling American infrastructure and take on a million other things that still need to get done.
This election isn't just happening on TV. It's happening for real, and it's happening right now. So whatever you do, make sure you vote.