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April 20, 2014

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The actual impact of the at-large precincts

Are you wondering how those suddenly controversial at-large precincts on the Strip will affect Jan. 19 Democratic caucus? Could they dominate the statewide results? Or are they really going to be a modest bump in the overall results?

My colleagues and I say reports of the at-large's influence are greatly exaggerated in today's story.

But here's the math formula so you can see for yourself. Just grab a calculator, try to channel high school math, and away we go.

First, make your best guess on what turnout will be in the at-large precincts on the Strip (assuming they survive the legal challenge filed Friday). Now divide your guess by 9, making the assumption that turnout will be equal among the nine sites.

We'll call that number X, and it represents how many people will show up at each Las Vegas Boulevard site.

Then plug X into this formula of how many delegates are awarded to each precinct depending on caucus turnout, as laid out in the state Democratic Party rules.

If X is not greater than 400, divide it by 5.

If X is between 401 and 600, divide it by 8.

If X is between 601 and 800 divide it by 10.

If X is between 801 and 1400 divide it by 15.

If X is between 1401 and 2000 divide it by 20.

If X is between 2001 and 3000 divide it by 30.

If X is between 3001 and 4000 divide it by 35.

If X is above 4000 divide it by 50.

Call this new number Y. It is the number of delegates at each at-large caucus site.

Now multiply Y by 9, and that's resulting total number of delegates created on the Strip. Call that number Z.

Still with us?

Now take Z and add it to 10,446, which is the total number of delegates elsewhere in the state. This new number is ZZ.

Divide Z by ZZ. Multiply by 100.


That's the percent of delegates these at-large precincts will contribute to the state's total.

So here's our math (the algebra teacher at our public school would be so proud).

We took a robust prediction of 10,000 people showing up to the Strip at-large caucus sites this coming Saturday. We divide that by 9, and get 1,111-and-change showing up to each at-large precinct on Saturday.

Now plug 1,111 into the handy-dandy formula provided by the state: 1,111 divided by 15 = 74-and-change. Round down to 74.

That means that given our scenario, 1,111 people will show up at each of 9 caucus locations. And each caucus location will get 74 delegates.

Now multiply the 74 by 9. We get 666. That's the total delegates from the at-large precincts.

What percent is that of the total delegates? Well, there are 10,446 delegates elsewhere in the state. So by doing the last step, it equals a little less than 6 percent.

Whether those extra Strip delegates will be enough to change the outcome of the caucus remains to be seen, of course.

To clarify a reader's misunderstanding, Schwartz notes:

As in Iowa, the results that will be reported in Nevada's caucus will be the percent of delegates each candidate won - not the number of individuals caucusing for each candidate.

So in Iowa, Sen. Barack Obama got 38 percent of the delegates, Edwards got 30 percent and Clinton 29 percent.

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