Is each states primary value based on delegate count alone, or is any consideration given to the likelihood of states actually voting for their party?


Utah is historically red and will likely not vote for any democratic candidate in the general;

Vermont is historically blue and will likely vote for whoever the democratic candidate is in the general;

Virginia is purple and therefore the specific candidate matters a great deal.

Are states like Virginia weighed more heavily in presidential primaries?

  • 2
    Even if a key swing state was weighted higher in the primary that wouldn't necessarily help the party win those states. For example if in a key swing state Bernie gets 60% of the primary voters and Hillary gets 40%. If Bernie got all the progressive hard-liners who always vote for Democrats but Hillary got most of her votes from the kind of moderates who will swing the election, then giving Bernie more delegates for the swing state hurts the party, since Hillary would be more likely to win it in the general election.
    – lazarusL
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 19:35
  • That makes sense, but I feel by that logic the most conservative democrat and the most liberal republican would almost be ushered into the nomination. Which I guess seems preferable to the establishment
    – Conor
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 20:22
  • strategically, that's the only thing to do to win in a 2 party system (unless you believe another choice could significantly effect voter turnout).
    – lazarusL
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 20:31
  • @lazarusL - both Reagan and Obama weren't the most centrist/moderate yet won GE by large margin.
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 17:39
  • @user4012 It's interesting that they're both politicians who won when the country was in the grip of a severe recession that they were able to blame on their predecessors. There are other factors besides policy that effect elections.
    – lazarusL
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


States like Virginia are not weighted any more heavily. The formula for base delegate allocation is based on two numbers: proportion of Democratic votes in the last three elections, and proportion of electoral votes. For the former, you add up the number of votes in that state for the Democratic ticket in 2004, 2008, and 2012; add up the number of votes nationwide for the ticket in those three years; and divide the first number by the second number. For the latter, you just divide the number of electoral votes by 538. The two factors are equally weighted: a state's base delegate allocation is 3,200 times the average of the two factors. After the base is computed, adjustments are made based on scheduling of the primary (you get a bonus for a later primary, and if your primary is later and is on the same day as the contests in at least two neighboring states you get an even bigger bonus), and a bonus of 15% of the base is added for pledged party leader and elected official delegates (not superdelegates, those are totally separate).

Within each state, 25% of the base delegates must be awarded at large, based on statewide results. The remaining 75% of the base delegates must be awarded at the congressional district level or smaller. For allocation of district delegates between districts, there are four acceptable ways to determine it. You can give equal weight to population and to total Democratic votes in the last two presidential elections; or equal weight to Democratic votes in the last presidential and last gubernatorial election; or equal weight to total Democratic votes in the last two presidential elections and number of registered Democrats as of January 1, 2016; or equal weight to those three formulas.

With this approach, states with more support for the Democratic candidate in the past few cycles get more delegates than equal-sized states with less support. However, a bigger state with fewer Democrats might get more delegates than a smaller state with more Democrats. At the district level, you can do that, but can also choose to ignore population and exclusively consider the number of Democrats (or people who supported Democrats).

No bonus is given for being a swing state.

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