Texas Primary Primer

Over the course of the primary season, America has gotten up close and personal with the way Americans vote. It's ranged from the simple to the arcane. Two models have dominated: the small-town feel of the Iowa caucuses, and the traditional electioneering we saw last night in the Potomac primaries. Along the way there have been variants, such as West Virginia's mini convention, and Washington State's primary-and-caucus. But the single most confusing primary is yet to come, and, naturally, it's in Texas.

Because you don't want to find yourself trapped in the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer without any knowledge as to how the vote is going to get decided in Texas, the explainer provided by the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder is a piece of essential reading. Dubbing the Texas process as "primaucus" - over the poetically preferable "caucumary" - Ambinder confronts the vagaries of "the most un-primary of primaries there is."

For one thing, there aren't any delegates awarded to the winner of the state -- no statewide bonus delegates, nothing. For another, a third of the delegates will be chosen through a complicated caucus system.

It's almost as if Texas, having found nothing to dislike about the primary process, set out to prove they they could create a system that included everything but the West Palm Beach butterfly ballot. Ambinder, rather heroically, parses the entire system down to the nub, analyzing how demographics get diluted and delegates get assigned. Here's one more point of interest:

...instead of proportional allocation by congressional district, the rest of the delegates will be proportionally allocated by state senate districts. George W. Bush's '04 performance really changes the math. That's because the number of delegates allocated in those districts are based on how well (or poorly) John Kerry did, as well as the performance of the last Democratic gubernatorial candidate (who himself had votes taken away by a liberal third party challenger.)

Who was that "liberal third party challenger?" As Washington City Paper blogger (and Texan extraordinaire) Kriston Capps reminds us, 'twas Kinky Friedman! And just to add to the confusion, Capps warns that "those voters who supported Friedman have all glommed onto the 'Paulistinian' plight."

As the late, great, Molly Ivins once said: "The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion." Texas has clearly taken this to heart.

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