Which states vote in primaries today and what’s at stake

Tuesday is the most consequential day in the race for both parties’ presidential nominations — a day political junkies have come to call “Super Tuesday.”

Sixteen states and one U.S. territory are holding presidential nominating contests Tuesday in some form. For both Republicans and Democrats, they will award more than one-third of the total delegates available throughout the entire nominating contest, all on one day.

Follow live updates on Super Tuesday 2024

Here’s a guide to what to expect as voters cast their ballots across the country:

When are the polls open? 

The first polls of the day open in Vermont at 6 a.m. ET, and the final polls close in Alaska at midnight ET. In between, here are the other most important times to know:

  • 7 p.m. ET: Polls close in the Virginia and Vermont primaries.
  • 7:30 p.m. ET: Polls close in North Carolina.
  • 8 p.m. ET: Polls close in Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee and most of Texas.
  • 8:30 p.m. ET: Polls close in Arkansas.
  • 9 p.m. ET: Polls close in Colorado, Minnesota and the rest of Texas.
  • 11 p.m. ET: Polls close in California and in Utah’s Republican caucuses.

Who can vote? 

That depends on the state. A variety of rules govern nominating contests in certain states — here’s a look at three of the most common:

  • Open: Voters may choose which primary to vote in regardless of their registration (in many cases, these states also don’t ask voters to register by party). Among the Republican contests Tuesday, Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, Texas, Virginia and Vermont are holding open primaries.
  • Partially open: These contests are typically restricted to members of the party, as well as unaffiliated voters. In some cases, voters are considered to be registered with a party if they cast their ballots in that primary, at least for the rest of the election cycle. The Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Tennessee primaries are partially open.
  • Closed: Voters must be registered with a party to vote in its primary or caucus. The contests in Alaska, California, Oklahoma and Utah fall into this category on the GOP side.

What’s at stake on the Republican side? 

For all the attention paid to the first nominating contests, those early states awarded just 11% of the total delegates in the GOP presidential nominating contest. 

There are 865 Republican delegates at stake in the Super Tuesday GOP nominating contests. That’s about 36% of all the delegates in the entire race.

Once all of the delegates from Super Tuesday and the previous contests are allocated, more than 47% of the delegates will have been awarded. And after the four contests March 12, more than 50% of the delegates will have been awarded. 

Are the contests winner-take-all or proportional? 

While the Republican National Committee’s rules don’t allow most states to hold true winner-take-all contests before March 15, many Super Tuesday states will turn into de facto winner-take-all states because of the one-on-one nature of the race. 

Five states will award every single delegate they have to a majority vote-winner: California, Maine, Massachusetts, Utah and Vermont. Tennessee awards all its delegates to one candidate if he or she wins two-thirds of the vote. Minnesota awards all its delegates to one candidate if he or she wins 80% of the vote. 

Five other states — Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia — award all their statewide delegates (at-large delegates) to a candidate who wins a majority of the vote, and then they dole out congressional district delegates separately. A candidate who wins the majority of a district wins all three congressional district delegates. 

In all of these states, delegates are awarded proportionally if no candidate wins a majority. 

And in others, all the available delegates are awarded proportionally.

What’s the GOP’s ‘magic number’? 

The GOP nominee will be the candidate who clinches the majority of the party’s delegates to the national convention, or 1,215 of the 2,429 delegates. 

What do I need to know about the Democratic side? 

There’s not much you need to know about the Democratic contests because President Joe Biden is the far-and-away favorite in every one.

Unlike the Republican side, Democrats always award delegates in each state proportionally to candidates who hit a 15% threshold. So it’s possible that one of Biden’s opponents wins some delegates to the convention based on the results (or, like what happened in Michigan, “uncommitted” wins delegates).

Are Democratic superdelegates still a thing? 

Yes, but their power has been greatly diminished since 2016.

Only “pledged delegates,” those won by virtue of the results in nominating contests, can vote for the nominee on the first ballot (those delegates have pledged to cast their ballots for the candidates to which they were allocated, and those candidates’ campaigns play a big role in selecting those pledged delegates). 

They can still endorse whatever candidate they please. But the only ways superdelegates are given votes for the nominee at the convention are if: 

  • A presidential candidate has clinched the required number of pledged delegates and there’s no doubt about the outcome. That way, superdelegates can technically cast their votes for the party’s presumptive nominee without putting their thumbs on the scale. 
  • No candidate has clinched the required number of pledged delegates and the race moves to subsequent ballots in a contested convention. The superdelegates can’t vote on the first ballot, but they become free to cast votes on the subsequent ballots.

First appeared on www.nbcnews.com

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