How the Ohio and Texas Primaries Work

Ben Pershing Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 4, 2008; 9:34 AM

There will be plenty of focus Tuesday on who "wins" the primary contests in Texas and Ohio by taking the majority of the popular vote. But as has been the case repeatedly this election year, winning delegates is the real name of the game, and both states use complicated formulas to hand out those valuable political chits.

Texas's Democratic contest is being called a "two-step" because two types of presidential election are being held on the same day. Voters are being asked to cast a ballot in a regular primary election held during the day, and then to participate in local caucuses in the evening.

Ohio Republicans will also vote twice, but during the same trip to the polls. They will vote for their preferred presidential candidate in a "statewide" race and then in a congressional district race.

For both Texas Democrats and Ohio Republicans, delegates to the national convention will be allocated based on the two separate votes. The process is a bit complicated in both states. Here's how it works.


Most states use a primary system to determine presidential nominees. Others, Iowa most famous among them, use caucuses. At least on the Democratic side, Texas takes a little from column A, and a little from column B, making it a "hybrid" state.

Texas will send 193 "pledged" delegates to the Democratic convention, with 126 handed out based on Tuesday's primary voting. Each of Texas' 31 state senate districts will choose between two and eight delegates. The exact number of delegates for each district is based on Democratic turnout in the 2006 gubernatorial election and the 2004 presidential election; the higher recent Democratic turnout has been in a district, the more delegates that district gets.

The other 67 pledged delegates -- 42 at-large and 25 elected officials and other party leaders -- will be chosen based on a poll of state convention delegates. The first step in choosing those state convention delegates happens in local caucuses, known as "precinct conventions," which will convene at 7:15 p.m. local time Tuesday. Voters at these "precinct conventions" will choose precinct delegates, who will in turn attend county or district conventions March 29. Those county and district conventions will then elect delegates to attend the state convention, which will take place June 6-7 in Austin. Attendees at the state event will be polled to determine how to apportion out those 67 pledged delegates among the Democratic contenders

On top of the 193 pledged delegates, Texas Democrats will "certify" at their state convention 35 unpledged, or super delegates. They include members of Congress and DNC members, and are free to back whichever candidate they choose.

Texas Republicans, meanwhile, will use a somewhat simpler system to apportion their 140 delegates -- which includes 137 pledged delegates and just three party officials who are unpledged.

Texas has 32 congressional districts, and each one has three pledged delegates, for a total of 96. Win a district, and you get those three. Another 41 delegates will be chosen "at large," and will be distributed based on the statewide vote. If McCain gets more than 50 percent of the statewide vote, he will get all 41 of those delegates. If no one gets 50 percent, than each candidate who gets more than 20 percent of the vote will get a proportional share of the 41.


Of Ohio Democrats' total of 162 delegates, 92 will be district delegates, with each of the state's 18 congressional districts getting between four and seven. Even within each district, the delegates will be handed out proportionally based on the popular vote there.

There are also 31 at-large delegates and 18 "Public Leaders and Elected Officials," or PLEO's. Those 49 delegates will also be handed out proportionally, based on the statewide primary results. The state also has 21 unpledged superdelegates.

Ohio Republicans hand out a total of 88 delegates -- 54 district delegates, 31 at-large delegates and three "unpledged" Republican National Committee members.

The statewide winner of Tuesday's GOP primary automatically gets the 31 at-large delegates. The 54 district delegates are split up among the state's 18 congressional seats, so the winner of each district gets three delegates.

But there is one quirk -- Ohio voters will actually pick those two types of delegates separately. So Republicans will vote twice Tuesday -- once for which presidential candidate should get their congressional districts' delegates, and then again for which candidate should get the at-large delegates.

The Overall Delegate Count

According to the Associated Press, on the GOP side, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) currently has 1,014 regular delegates and 102 "unpledged" delegates, while Gov. Mike Huckabee has 257 delegates and five unpledged delegates. Locking up the Republican nomination requires a minimum of 1,191 delegates.

And among Democrats, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has won 1,386 delegates and has the support of 199 super delegates, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) has the backing of 1,276 delegates and 241 super delegates, according to AP. Winning the Democratic nod requires 2,025 delegates.

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