How Many Delegates Are At Stake On Super Tuesday?

by Andi O'Rourke

Super Tuesday is, well, on Tuesday, and the stakes have never been higher. On March 1, around 20 percent of the total number of delegates will be up for grabs. Drilling down deeper reveals a complex electoral landscape where the rules vary from state to state and party to party. Just how many delegates are at stake on Super Tuesday makes for a convoluted day for not only the candidates, but the journalists and citizens who are interested in the electoral process as well.

A total of 13 states — and one overseas territory — will have a primary or a caucus on Super Tuesday. A majority of the states, eight to be exact, are clustered in the South, giving rise to the nickname "SEC Primary" after the South-Eastern Conference of collegiate athletic teams. The Democratic Party will have 865 delegates at stake for their convention in Philadelphia. This represents 18.1 percent of the total 4,763 who have voting privileges at the convention, and 36.3 percent of the total needed to clinch the nomination. These are only the delegates who will be pledged to vote based on the results of the primary or caucus — not the so-called superdelegates.

Some superdelegates use their influence to endorse a candidate before citizens go to vote; others choose to wait until people have voted before making up their minds. It just depends on the individual's preference. A total of 105 superdelegates in Super Tuesday states have already made up their minds, with 99 of them standing with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and eight for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The GOP candidate will compete for 595 delegates to send to their national convention in Cleveland. This is 24 percent of the total delegates available, making Super Tuesday a more critical day for the Republicans than the Democrats. However, on the Republican side, two of the states will be holding a caucus in name only. Due to a suite of recent changes in the GOP electoral process at the national level that have cascaded down to states, Colorado and Wyoming will not allocate their 37 and 29 respective delegates based on the results of their caucuses. That means that their delegate counts are not reflected in the 595 that will be in play on the Republican site tomorrow. Rather, at the national convention in Cleveland this summer, the delegates will be compelled to vote for whoever they initially supported when they signed up to become a delegate. They are among five total states which will be awarding convention delegates in this fashion.

This appears to be a definite departure from the intended spirit of the changes to the GOP delegate allocation process announced after the 2013 spring Republican National Committee Meeting which were designed to prevent a repeat of the hotly contested 2012 primary process where Mitt Romney lost national appeal fighting the fringes of his party. Commenting on the rule changes in a press release from the party, RNC Chair Reince Priebus said: "We all agree the grassroots are the center of this party and are vital to winning elections. This change makes clear that the grassroots will pick their delegates." Ironically, it appears that by empowering the grassroots, the RNC has created the ideal conditions for the implosion of their former brand, as He Who Should Not Be Named continues to maintain commanding leads in several Super Tuesday battleground states.

Regardless of the changes, it seems as if the grassroots is as energized as ever. Early voting in Tennessee is already reportedly up 16 percent over 2008, Georgia is also reporting greater than anticipated interest.

How Super Tuesday will end up shaking out is anyone's guess. Clinton just celebrated her first statistically significant win in South Carolina yesterday, while Trump's rise continues to shock and baffle many commentators. Returns should start arriving for the East Coast races after voting begins to close at 7 p.m. ET; it's guaranteed to be an interesting night.

Believe it or not, both primaries and caucuses can be laugh-out-loud hilarious. Don't believe us? Have a listen to Bustle's "The Chat Room" podcast...

Image: Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle