On Tuesday, March 1, 11 states will bind their GOP delegates. It can be very difficult to track the allocation of Republican delegates because the rules wildly differ from state to state, much more so than on the Democratic side. But maybe too much is made of those differences: While details like the exact threshold to qualify for delegates or rounding rules mean that no two states have the exact same rules, most have modeled their rules according to a few basic templates.
So here I will be grouping states into groups for a simpler account of who uses what method—and what you should be keeping track of on Super Tuesday.
1. Statewide proportionality: Alaska (28), Massachusetts (42), Vermont (16), Virginia (49)
These four states distribute their delegates proportionally based only on the statewide vote. This is the same method used in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. (For instance, Ted Cruz received 27.64 percent of the vote in Iowa. Iowa allocates 30 delegates. And 27.64 percent of 30 is 8.24. So Cruz received 8 delegates, the nearest whole number.)
The main variation here is the so-called viability threshold that a candidate has to cross to be eligible to receive delegates. In Iowa, there was no threshold; in New Hampshire, the threshold was 10 percent, which Chris Christie failed to cross; in Nevada, it was 3.33 percent, which every remaining candidate crossed, though John Kasich only barely. So here are the viability rules in these four states: In Virginia, there is none; in Massachusetts, it is 5 percent; in Alaska, it is 13 percent; and in Vermont, it is 20 percent.
An important consideration: Super Tuesday states allocate their statewide delegates based on a candidate's share of the qualified
vote, which is to say the share of all votes received by candidates who have crossed the viability threshold. (Thank you to Josh Putnam
this point.) This is important because it could enable Donald Trump to near a majority of delegates with just 40-42 percent of the vote. For instance, in South Carolina, Kasich and Carson received 15 percent combined; if they were to get the same result in states with a viability threshold that would exclude them, Kasich and Carson would receive no delegates, and 42 percent would be sufficient for a candidate to receive half of the statewide delegates. While that might seem like a lot, this constitutes one of the hidden opportunities for delegate accumulation in what is said to be a proportional Super Tuesday—especially when combined with some Super Tuesday states' method of attributing a portion of their delegates at the district level on a winner-take-most basis.
2. Winner-take-most: Alabama (50), Arkansas (40), Georgia (76), Tennessee (58), and Texas (155)
These five states all distribute their delegates in two ways:
A. At-large delegates are allocated proportionally based on the statewide vote, just as in Alaska or Massachusetts. (Each of these states has a viability threshold of 20 percent, other than Arkansas where the threshold is 15 percent.)
B. District delegates are allocated based on the results in each congressional district. Each district gets three delegates. The winner of the district gets two delegates, and the runner-up gets one delegate.
There is a twist: thresholds that activate a winner-take-all rule. In Alabama, Georgia, and Texas, the statewide winner will get all the at-large delegates if they get 50 percent; in Tennessee, if they get two-thirds of the vote. Similar rules apply for district delegates: In Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Texas, a district's winner gets all three of the district's delegates if they get 50 percent of the vote in the district; in Tennessee, if they get two-thirds of the vote. While these thresholds appear unlikely to be breached statewide, Donald Trump did receive 46 percent of the vote in Nevada.
3. A potential of flattening: Oklahoma (43) and Minnesota (38)
Just like the five states listed above, Oklahoma and Minnesota allocate at-large delegates proportionally based on the statewide vote (there is a 15 percent viability threshold and 50-percent winner-take-threshold in Oklahoma, and a 10 percent viability in Minnesota); and they allocate 3 delegates based on the results of each congressional district. The twist here is that the way these states allocate district delegates could result in a 1-1-1 split in most districts.
In Oklahoma, if more than two candidates receive more than 15 percent of the vote in a district, the top three vote-getters each receive one of the district's delegates. This means that, if the distribution of the vote were to be 45 percent—22 percent—16 percent—10 percent—7 percent in a district, the top three candidates would each receive one delegate despite the wide margins between them.
In a narrowed, five-person field, it is likely that at least three candidates will cross this viability threshold in most districts. This should flatten the distribution of delegates in Oklahoma. Consider: In South Carolina, Trump, Cruz and Rubio were all between 15 and 50 percent in all 7 congressional districts. Had the Oklahoma method been used there, Trump, Cruz and Rubio would each have won seven district delegates, even though Trump carried each congressional district.
(This flattening would be mitigating if a candidate gets more than half of the vote in a district; that candidate would then get all three of the district’s delegates.)
In Minnesota, a district's three delegates are allocated proportionally between those candidates who received at least ten percent, so the district's winning candidate will need a high percentage to win more than one district.
There is a second reason why Oklahoma makes it hard for candidates to accumulate delegates, which Josh Putnam has pointed out: Unlike the states in the first two categories, it leaves the delegates that would have been won by the candidates who fail to meet the viability threshold uncommitted.
4. Colorado and Wyoming
Colorado are Wyoming also holding caucuses, but delegates will not be bound according to a presidential preference vote. In fact, Colorado will hold no such vote.
Much of this account is based on The Green Papers, which has great state-by-state descriptions of party statutes. You can also follow how the allocation of GOP delegates in states that have already voted on this spreadsheet. After the first four voting states, Donald Trump has 82 bound delegates, Ted Cruz has 17, Marco Rubio has 16, John Kasich has 6, and Ben Carson has 5.