Presidential primaries have a way of confusing people unnecessarily, what with the little wrinkles in the rules and the slight variations in procedures from state to state; so I thought it might be helpful if I used this space to clear the cobwebs. There are a couple of procedural changes for 1980, however, that ought to be mentioned at the outset: this year the New Hampshire national convention delegates will be listed in alphabetical rather than preferential order. Also, in Illinois the state part will decide whether or not delegate-candidates will be identified by presidential preference in the primary ballot, though at the moment it is thought that Democratic delegates will be identified by preference, but that Republican delegates will not, leaving open the question of exactly how Republican delegates will be identified, if at all.
Otherwise, the procedures are straightforward as usual, with 34 states, including our own District of Columbia, revving up excitedly for their primaries, except for Arkansas, where only Democrats will hold a primary this year, and Michigan, where the Democrats will hold a primary only if the legislature enacts a law by Oct. 1 (which regrettably has passed), and Mississippi, where the Democrats will not hold a primary and the Republicans will not decide whether to hold a primary until December.
As in every year, there are three types of primaries, the advisory presidential preference primary being that used in eight states, in each of which, except for Montana and Vermont, this year's delegate-candidates will be elected if they receive the highest number of votes in their districts, although, unfortunately, the Democratic National Party has prohibited this system, and now requires proportional allocation of delegates who receive the threshold percentage of votes -- that, as you'd expect, being determined by dividing the number of delegates by 100, unless the threshold exceeds 25 percent. In Montana and Vermont this does not apply.
The winner-take-all primary is popular in 10 states, where, needless to point out, the congressional district delegates are bound to the winner of the preference primary in each district and at-large delegates are bound to the statewide winner; or, at least they are so bound for one ballot in Indiana, and for two in Florida, Georgia and Maryland; that is, the Republicans are, unless, of course, the delegates are released on the second ballot, which may occur if the presidential candidate in question receives fewer than 35 percent of the vote needed for nomination on the first ballot, which is highly likely in a topsy on the first ballot, which is highly likely in a topsy-turvy year. California and Vermont remain special cases as, in the former, all delegates are bound to the statewide winner and, in the latter, 10 of the state's 19 delegates will go to the top vote-getter, provided, naturally, that he receives at least 40 percent of the vote.
Proponents of the proportional representation primary will be pleased to learn that in Massachusetts this year delegates will be allocated to candidates receiving 2,381 percent of the vote, while in Idaho 80 percent of the delegates will be given to candiates receiving 5 percent of the vote, or more, which is a far cry from New Hampshire (where delegates are to be listed alphabetically) and North Carolina, in which at least Republican delegates are allocated proportionately to candidates receiving 10 percent of the vote, and a farther cry still from six other states where the percentage is 15. In Oregon, delegates are allocated proportionately to the nearest whole number, whatever that happens to be, in Oregon. .
Which brings us to how names get placed on ballots (a procedure that frankly confuses even me sometimes). In 25 states and our own District of Columbia, the candidate or his supporters, or both, must file a petition signed by a minimum number of voters, which number varies from state to state, or paying a filing fee, or both, or do neither in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Oregon, where the matter is left to the secretary of state (of the state, of course) or, in some states, to the state party, whose decision may be appealed, or in six other states, come to think of it, where the filing is done by a nominating committee. It goes without saying that candidates not named by such a committee may file either a request or a petition, although not in South Dakota, which requires a writ of mandamus. or in Kentucky, where the candidate must post a fee of $250, refundable if he receives less than 3 percent of the vote.
That leaves only the withdrawal of candidacy, which is simply a matter of filing an affidavit (in eight states -- unless, as in the case of Nebraska, a candidate's name appears on another state's ballot) or of notifying the secretary of state (in 12 states) or of failing to raise $250 in Kentucky. In Connecticut, candidacy withdrawal is not permitted, unlike our own District of Columbia, where there are no provisions for it.
And that's about it, really, if you don't count such bits and pieces as Texas, where delegates are bound to the candidate on the third ballot, if the candidate receives more than 20 percent of the vote on the second ballot and -- oh, yes -- Alabama, where delegates are bound to the candidate on all ballots unless released by a two-thirds vote of the state's delegation similarly bound.