Voting wasn't meant to be an algebra problem. It's supposed to be simple. One voter. One vote.
But selecting a presidential candidate in New York isn't like electing the mayor or a school board member, where you cast your vote, they add up all the votes at the end, and the candidate with the most votes wins. Not even close.
In a process that will give you a throbbing headache faster than drinking cheap wine or playing in the NFL, a vote in either of New York's political primaries is just one element of a complex and undemocratic selection process.
The candidate selection process is contaminated with rules and qualifying votes and extra non-elected delegates that also factor into determining a winner. Here are a few highlights to show you how messed up it all is.
Let's start with the Democrats. Primary voters are not electing a candidate at all when they go to the voting booth, but rather a delegate assigned to represent that candidate. They’re also not voting along with all the residents of the state, but rather only among voters in the voter’s own congressional district. In The Gazette's circulation area, that's basically the 20th Congressional District (represented by Paul Tonko) and the 19th district (Chris Gibson’s seat).
In the 20th district, Democrats allow voters to vote for seven candidates. The 19th allows for just five. (Even congressional districts aren't created equal in this scenario. ) You vote for these delegate candidates, and the votes are split proportionally among the two candidates. That's as close to one-person, one-vote as this thing gets. But it doesn’t end there.
Democrats add in 44 super-delegates, who are party elite and other big shots (Bill Clinton and Gov. Cuomo are two of them), who are selected not by voters but by party leaders. They can vote for whomever they want. Since the party establishment favors Hillary Clinton, she's getting the lion's share of the super-delegates and it's why she can actually win the most delegates in the state, even if she loses the "popular vote." There are also 84 at-large and pledged party leader delegates who vote based on the statewide results.
Unfair? Rigged? Democrats aren’t alone.
Onto the GOP. Like the Democrats, Republican votes are confined to congressional districts. But with the Republicans, you vote for a candidate's name. Still, the outcome isn't based on one-voter, one-vote. Each congressional district in the state gets three delegates. That means places with fewer Republicans, like most New York City districts, get the same number of delegates as districts that have more Republican voters — such as upstate counties like ours.
A candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the vote in each district wins 100 percent of the district's three delegates. The runners-up get none. But if that candidate get fewer than 50 percent, he receives two delegates and the runner-up gets one. If a candidate doesn't come in first or second, he doesn't get any delegates, no matter who many votes he actually gets or how close the race is.
The GOP has no super-delegates, but it does have 14 at-large and automatic delegates who vote based on the proportion of the statewide vote. Republicans also add in 200 nationwide delegates who are unbound by the results of any primary and who can vote for whomever they want at the party convention.
Wouldn't it be much more fair to voters, much more democratic, and much less convoluted, if the political parties determined the winners of the presidential candidate races based on who actually gets the most votes?
That's the way America is supposed to work, right? Then why doesn't it work that way when we're picking the candidates for the highest office in the land?