Two of Stephens County’s political leaders spoke to a group of Rotarians in Duncan and taught them about delegate selection at the local and national levels at a meeting Wednesday.
Republican Stephens County Chair Hope Sutterfield and Democratic Stephens County Chair Roger Calger addressed the audience separately before answering questions together.
Calger spoke first and explained how Democrats use national party rules.
“In Oklahoma, the Democratic Party dictates that you have to have a proportional number of delegates distributed based on how it goes at the end of caucus or the vote we have before the primary,” he said.
Calger said Bernie Sanders won 50% of the vote this year in Oklahoma’s preferential primary, so Sanders was awarded 21 delegates and Hillary Clinton 17 delegates.
“We have four delegates who are basically our National Committee Chairpersons and National Committee Chairpersons and our State Party Chairpersons and State Party Vice Chairpersons,” he said. “They also have votes but they are not linked to anyone.”
Calger used the recent primary election to show how it worked for the Democratic Party.
“After the primary, we had our convention, but the thing was that you had to provide all of our information to be someone who could even vote as a district-level delegate about a month, or a month and a half, before congress,” he said. “So they end up reducing the number of people who actually have a say when you come to the state convention.”
Calger said the problem was that so few people handed in their documents, causing skewed results for a candidate.
“That’s one of the issues for delegate selection…there are so few people having a say…we need to change the rules to involve more people because it’s so exclusive,” Calger said. .
The rules of the Oklahoma Democratic Party come from two places: the National Party and the rules of the State Constitution. Calger said any meaningful changes would have to come from those entities because the local level doesn’t have the power to change the rules.
Calger ended with a piece of data he found that highlighted some of the differences between the parties.
“I found a breakdown to compare because the games have such different sets of rules,” Calger said. “If the Oklahoma State Republican rules had been used in the Democratic primary, it would have actually turned out that Mr. Sanders would have gotten 33 delegates and Hillary Clinton would have gotten only five.”
Sutterfield then took the microphone and began by explaining the two different voting systems.
“There are two different systems we are talking about here – one is the main system where you go to vote as a voter and the other is the party system, the two are mixed together but they are different,” said- she declared. “Who votes for whom in the primary is used to determine how those delegate slots are proportioned.”
Sutterfield said Oklahoma is a “winner takes the most” state, meaning a candidate needs 50 percent or more.
“We have 43 delegates to the national convention to select the Republican nominee,” Sutterfield said. “Fifteen of them are from congressional districts – three for each of the five congressional districts. These are proportional unless a candidate gets 50% of the vote in one of those districts – they get all those delegates.
Sutterfield said she preferred the majority winner to get all the delegates because it gave the state more power at the national level.
“Three of those 40 are party officials: the Republican state chairman, the Republican National Committee member, and the Republican National Committee wife – these are what people consider ‘super delegates’ because they are not technically related (to a candidate) but they are in the Republican Party,” she said. “The Republican National Convention rules of the Republican Party state that they must be related to how the state voted.”
Sutterfield said the road to becoming a delegate starts at the local precinct and then goes to the county convention. She said the only requirement was to be a registered Republican in the county. After the county, the next level is the district convention and the state convention, then the national convention.
Sutterfield is one of four elected delegates from the districts.
Sutterfield said that unlike the Democratic Party, delegates do not have to run under a certain candidate, although she decided to become an engaged delegate.
“Oklahoma delegates are bound until released,” she said. “I am a delegate of (Marco) Rubio and until he releases me I cannot vote for anyone but Rubio.”
She explained this further by giving examples of how committed delegates could be released from their candidate.
“Just because a candidate suspends their campaign doesn’t mean they won’t be on the ballot at the national convention,” she said. “So pausing your campaign is not giving up the race.”
If a candidate drops out altogether or does not appear on the ballot, their delegates are released and can legally vote for someone else.
Voting for someone else while remaining tied to a particular candidate is a crime because delegates sign an affidavit attesting to their vote.
Calger said in his research he found only two people who had previously been arrested for voting while still related.
County parties meet once a month and meeting times and locations are posted on their Facebook pages. The Stephens County Democratic Party is at www.facebook.com/SCDPOK. The Stephens County Republican Party is at www.facebook.com/StephensCountyGOP.