What You Need To Know About The Super Tuesday Primary
It’s the biggest one-day vote of the presidential primary, with 14 states and American Samoa all voting for which candidate they want.
What is Super Tuesday?
Super Tuesday is the single day in the presidential primary process in which the most number of states vote, meaning the greatest number of people are voting on the same day. This year, it falls on Tuesday, March 3, when 14 states will hold primaries, and the U.S. territory of American Samoa will hold caucuses. Why is this important? Because more than a third of all delegates available to Democratic candidates will be awarded on this one day.
Which states are voting on March 3?
Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. Because it’s a territory and not a state, American Samoa gets to vote in the primary election per Democratic party rules, but they cannot vote in the general election in November. American Samoa has 11 delegates to give.
Just a little over one million Democratic voters have cast ballots so far in the race; by this time next week, millions and millions of more will have done so. More early votes have already been cast in California and Texas than all of the early voting states so far. CNN reported on Feb. 21 that almost 2 million early voting ballots had already been returned in Super Tuesday states. Alabama is the only state in this group that does not permit early voting. (There is currently proposed legislation in the Alabama state house to allow it in future elections.)
Why is Super Tuesday important?
Given the number of states participating, the biggest delegate haul of the entire primary is up for grabs on this one day: 1,357 of them, to be exact. In the Democratic primary, 3,979 delegates total are up for grabs, and a candidate needs 1,991 of them to clinch the Democratic nomination.
To give you some perspective, by Monday, March 2, four states will have voted, and awarded a total of 155 delegates (that’s the combined total from Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina). That’s less than 5% of the delegates available. After Super Tuesday, March 3, that number shoots up to 38%.
Super Tuesday matters because it could have a significant impact on the race. Given that so much of the primary race is about momentum (at least, perceived momentum), if Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to hold his lead in delegates and the popular vote, he becomes that much more likely to be considered the presumptive nominee. If one or any of the other candidates — Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, etc. — are able to win a good number of delegates on Super Tuesday as well, which is possible-to-likely, Wednesday’s headlines will be all about the race tightening.
One important thing to keep in mind is that delegates are awarded proportionally, based on the popular vote, so the margin of victory in each state between candidates matters more than the total number of states won by any candidate. Bear with us: if a candidate squeezes out a narrow win in 10 out of 14 states, they could still end up behind a candidate who wins just a couple large states by a big margin (like California and Texas). Context is key!
When do polls open and close?
From The Washington Post: “Poll closing times vary by state: Vermont’s close first at 7 p.m. Eastern, and California’s last at 11 p.m. Eastern. We won’t know all the results Tuesday, since tabulating votes could go late into the night, especially on the West Coast. California’s results will take days, at least, as mail-in ballots must be postmarked by election day.”
How can I watch results?
We’ll be hosting an all-night livestream and bringing you the latest updates, including from teams on the ground in Virginia, Texas and California. Tune in on the NowThis Facebook, Twitter or YouTube!
Who currently has the most delegates?
As of March 3 at 1pm ET:
Bernie Sanders: 60 delegates
Joe Biden: 54
Pete Buttigieg: 26 (dropped out)
Elizabeth Warren: 8
Amy Klobuchar: 7 (dropped out)
Michael Bloomberg and Tulsi Gabbard currently have zero delegates each.
This year’s Super Tuesday packs an extra punch because California moved up its primary to be on March 3 — in previous primaries, it’s been in June, at the tail-end of the nomination process. This means California voters have a bigger and earlier say in the process this time around; given the population, California awards a whopping 494 delegates, the most of any of the 50 states. Texas, which also votes on Super Tuesday, awards 228 delegates — the third highest of any state. New York is in second place with 274 delegates up for grabs, but doesn’t vote until April 28 this year.
It’s worth noting that the Super Tuesday electorate is much more diverse than the four early voting states, which we've pointed out is a problem. “Nearly 130 million people live in the 14 states with primaries on Super Tuesday — more than 10 times as many people who live in the four states with caucuses and primaries before Super Tuesday,” the Post points out.
So what comes next?
The primary race isn’t over after Super Tuesday. There are other major contests happening in March, like Michigan on March 10; Florida, Illinois and Ohio on March 17; and Georgia on March 24. See a full calendar of the primary, which goes through June, here.
Here are some of the latest developments and things to keep in mind:
- Former VP Joe Biden racked up the endorsements of former candidates Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke last night. Moderates are coalescing around Biden's candidacy after his win in South Carolina this weekend.
- If any candidate gets 15% or more of the votes in a state, they earn delegates from that result. That means even if Sanders wins California, Biden and Warren could still get a number of delegates depending on the vote breakdown.
- Speaking of California, don't expect all the results from that state to be available tonight: they'll have millions of mail-in ballots that need to be counted over the next few days or week. Learn more here.