‘People need to understand their vote counts’

Typically, by the time Hoosiers cast their primary ballots in the spring, the nominees for the presidential race unofficially have been selected and are often gearing up for their fall campaign.

But this year, with hotly contested races for both Democrats and Republicans, Indiana’s voters could help select the next presidential nominees.

Whether your vote will be reflected in who our state picks depends on multiple factors, including your political party, how the votes shake out statewide and how many rounds of votes are needed before a candidate is selected at this year’s national conventions.

This election, the hot topic is delegates, who will name their party’s nominee at conventions this summer after the states conduct their primary elections. But officials from both political parties said the process is confusing, and the public is asking questions about how it works.

The key point party leaders are trying to make: your vote counts.

“People need to understand their vote counts in so many ways,” said John Zody, Indiana Democratic Party Chairman.

The Republican and Democratic parties select the delegates who are sent to the national convention to name the presidential nominee, and both have requirements for who those delegates can vote for.

For both parties, at least in the first round of voting, most delegates’ votes will reflect who voters picked in this year’s primary election, party officials said.

“The public perception is that delegates go to (the convention in) Cleveland, and we do what we want. That is not the case, and in Indiana, we vote for who wins our primary, so voters do get to decide,” Johnson County Republican Party Chairwoman Beth Boyce said.

For Democrats, delegates’ votes are divided among candidates who garnered at least 15 percent of the vote in the primary election, except for the state’s nine super delegates, who can vote for any Democratic candidate, Zody said.

For people who aren’t familiar with the process, it can seem outdated, said Kathy Stolz, secretary of the Johnson County Democratic Party.

But the procedures serve a purpose, she said. For example, super delegates were created in response to riots at the national convention more than 40 years ago, where people felt they didn’t have a voice in the process, she said.

“A lot of people don’t understand how the national convention delegate process works, and it feels very archaic, and a lot of those archaic rules were developed for a reason,” Stolz said.

Voters do get to elect their state delegates, who select their party’s nominee for certain state offices at their state convention. This year, they are selecting the lieutenant governor, attorney general and state superintendent of schools. You will be voting for those state convention delegates in this year’s primary — just look at the bottom of your ballot.

Both parties are having their state conventions in June.

And sometimes those delegates are the ones selected by their party to also attend the national convention, but not always, party officials said.

Before the national conventions this summer, both parties will be tasked with selecting their national convention delegates. That typically was always done at the party’s state convention, but Republicans are having a special meeting April 9 for each congressional district to select their delegates. That will give them time to get all delegates cleared by security before the national convention, which is also earlier this year — a change made by the national Republican Party, Boyce said.

One of the key areas they look at is a person’s voting history and making sure they truly represent the party, Boyce said.

But the delegates must also be able to afford the trip and expenses that come with it, such as the hotel stay and transportation, Stolz said. Those costs are estimated at $2,000 to $3,500 for the two conventions this summer, with the Democrats in Philadelphia and the Republicans in Cleveland.

Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.