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October 25, 2014

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Bill and the counting game

President Bill Clinton today stepped up his attack on at-large caucus sites on the Las Vegas Strip, telling reporters in Oakland that people who caucus at those locations would have votes “worth five times as much as people who voted in their own precinct."

Is that right? Yes, mathematically, it is possible. In fact, the imbalance could be worse.

But it is also mathematically possible – and more likely - - that a caucus-goer in regular precincts off the Strip would have their support count for more than those on the Strip.

The calculations are highly complicated and they all depend on turnout Saturday.

An example:

If 400 people show up at a Strip caucus site on Saturday, under Democratic Party math, those 400 people would get to choose a total of 80 delegates (the number of delegates for an at-large site depends on the size of the turnout at each site.) Under this example, each person’s vote would be worth one-fifth of a delegate.

Now let’s turn to any of the more than 1,700 regular, off-Strip precinct precinct caucuses around the state. The number of delegates for each precinct is determined not by the number of people who turn out on Saturday, but by the number of registered Democrats in that precinct. An example: If a precinct has 400 registered Democrats, under the party’s formula, that precinct’s caucus site would be eligible for eight delegates. If on caucus day, all 400 people show up, they still get to choose a total of eight delegates, which means each person’s vote would be worth one-fiftieth of a delegate, which is far less than the value of a vote on the Strip.

So that makes Clinton’s point. The caucus could give more weight to voters at the Strip sites—which means, largely, the Culinary.

But wait. What if just one person shows up to caucus at that regular precinct site in our example? That person gets to choose all eight delegates.

Who’s got the advantage now?

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