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.)


Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

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.

Obama accepting the nomination for president at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

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.

Volunteer Rudy Anderson at Hillary Clinton's headquarters in Dallas. Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images.

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:

"You shall NOT win Texas's 155 Republican delegates thereby all but invalidating me in this RAAAACEEEEE." — Ted Cruz the Grey, to the Balrog of Texas. GIF via "Lord of the Rings."

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.

Hillary Clinton has secured the vast majority of unmovable superdelegates already. Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images.

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.

Al Gore in 1988. Probably still mostly thinking about whales. Photo by Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images.

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.

If she can make it out, so can you. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

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.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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