The California Democratic delegate count

Let me preface this by noting I was NOT a math major.

California had 370 pledged delegates up for grabs in last night’s election. By my count, based on the latest unofficial returns, it looks as if Hillary Clinton gets 206 while Barack Obama gets 164.

It looks as if Clinton won 43 of the state’s 53 Congressional districts. Obama’s strongest showing in any California Congressional District was right here in the East Bay — the 9th District represented by Barbara Lee, who was the state’s first House member to endorse Obama — where he got 61.5 percent of the vote. And it looks like Clinton had her biggest number in the 34th District — Lucille Roybal-Allard‘s seat down in L.A. — where she got 73.3 percent of the vote.

Please keep in mind that these counts don’t include hundreds of thousands of absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted; the district percentages will change, and with them, perhaps, the delegate assignments. THESE ARE NOT FINAL NUMBERS.

UPDATE @ 1:30 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Sources close to Clinton’s campaign tell me that, based on the current numbers, they are indeed expecting either 205 or 206 pledged delegates with Obama winning 164 or 165 delegates. They claim she also leads in currently committed California “superdelegates” by a 2-to-1 margin.

Go ahead, tell me how I got it wrong. I tried my best to adhere to the formulas provided yesterday by California Democratic Party honcho Bob Mulholland, the full text of which can be found after the jump…

To: Key Reporters
From: Bob Mulholland
Campaign Advisor
California Democratic Party
Date: February 4, 2008
RE: Odd & Even Delegates per CD

Here’s the answer to the question you were thinking of asking.

California Democrats have 241 district-level delegates up for grabs on Tuesday in 53 congressional districts (three to six per CD) as well as 129 statewide delegates.

It is clear that only Clinton or Obama will get more than 15 percent (minimum threshold) in every CD and of course statewide as well.

[I’m paraphrasing this part of Bob’s memo, as the table he’d included doesn’t transfer into WordPress. He noted there are two Congressional districts with three delegates each; 26 with four each; 19 with five each; and six with 6 each — five of which are in the Bay Area, the sixth in Los Angeles.]

You can see the list of 53 CDs by going to our website at www.cadem.org/Delegate 08.

Thus, in 32 CDs there is an even number (either 4 or 6) of delegates to be allocated.

In the 26 congressional districts that are allocated four delegates, one candidate would have to get more than 62.500% of the vote, otherwise, both candidates will get two delegates each.

In the six congressional districts that are allocated six delegates, one candidate would have to get more than 58.330% of the vote to get four delegates, otherwise each gets three delegates.

In the 21 CDs with an odd number of delegates, the presidential candidate with the most votes gets the most delegates in each of those CDs.

A reminder: when you look at the election returns on the Secretary of State’s website (www.ss.ca.gov), the percentage you see for each candidate is not the one we will use to allocate delegates.

Under the DNC Rules we must recalculate the percentages by eliminating all candidates who receive less than 15 percent of the vote.

[Again, a paraphrase: If candidate A gets 53 percent of the vote, candidate B gets 44 percent and others get 3 percent, the 3 percent are discarded. Then…]

You add 53 + 44 = 97
Divide 53/97 = 54.464% (real %)
Divide 44/97 = 45.536% ( ” )

In all cases, at the CD level and statewide, both Clinton’s and Obama’s percentages will be higher for delegate allocation than what you’ll see on the Secretary of State’s website.

The California Democratic Party and the campaigns will figure out the actual percentage but California’s presidential results are not official and final until Tuesday, March 4, 2008. On February 6, people can speculate a number, i.e. Clinton got X delegates and Obama got Y delegates, but there are another Z delegates to be finalized.

There could be more than 700,000 Democratic ballots (late absentees and provisional ballots) that will not be counted until days or weeks after the election.

For background, here’s the 2004 Kerry/Edwards numbers:

Kerry got 64.56% of the total statewide vote

Edwards got 19.8 % of the total statewide vote

After the recalculations, Kerry had 76.5% and Edwards had 23.5%.

As in this year, there were 241 district-level delegates in 2004.

76.5% of the statewide vote balanced out among all 53 CDs came to 184 delegates. Actually, Kerry got 189 delegates and Edwards got 52 out of the 241, but since this time Clinton and Obama are neck and neck, it may be hard to predict the number of delegates even as of Wednesday morning.

And Kerry’s 76.5% statewide vote meant he got 99 delegates out of the 129 delegates allocated statewide, and Edwards got 20 statewide delegates.

The actual delegates are chosen at the April 13, 2008 caucuses held by both Clinton and Obama in each of California’s 53 congressional districts.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.