Presidential Preference vs SDE: Iowa Results Explained

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Tonight, we’re actually going to see multiple results listed when Iowa finally declares the results of the caucus election. You’ll see something called SDE (state delegate equivalent) and you’ll also see two Presidential Preference results. Here’s what all of that means.


The SDE Determines Who Gets the Most Delegates from Iowa

The Iowa Democratic Party will officially report three numbers tonight. One of these will be the “state delegate equivalent” or SDE. This number ultimately determines how many delegates each candidate sends to the state convention and then the national convention, CNN reported.

The “state delegate equivalent” is the number typically used to show who “won” the Iowa caucus, even though more than one candidate can actually win delegates.

The Iowa Democratic party will also release the vote counts for the first and second/final preference, which are technically called first alignment numbers and second alignment numbers. It’s possible that there will be two different winners from these groups.


How Preference or Alignment Numbers Work

In the Iowa caucus, when it’s time to cast the Presidential Preference Vote in each precinct, people stand in a section of the room that has been designated for their preferred candidate.

If a candidate’s voters represent at least 15 percent of the people voting overall (sometimes more if the precinct is smaller), then that candidate is “viable” and people in that group must fill out a Presidential Preference Card. Then they’re free to leave. If your candidate is viable in the first round, you cannot realign and vote in the second round, according to the Iowa Democratic Party. This turnout is referred to as the first presidential preference vote.

If your preferred candidate does not get 15 percent of the vote, you can take part in a second and final vote. During this vote, you can join a different candidate’s group, stay in your candidate’s group and try to acquire enough new people to be viable, or choose to be uncommitted. The numbers are then counted again. This is the final count and delegates are awarded based on this count. Because unviable candidates’ voters can move to different candidates for round two, it’s theoretically possible for whoever won the first round to not win the second round.

More than one candidate can pick up state delegates, this isn’t a winner-takes-all situation. The state delegates are determined by a ratio of state to county convention delegates. This is the important number to follow, as it reveals how many delegates each candidate who received 15 percent or more of the votes will get.

Note that the Iowa Democratic Party does not declare a caucus winner, but simply presents results to the public and the SDE number (which is the number of state delegates allotted per candidate, technically called the State Delegate Equivalency number.) An approximate allocation of national convention delegates will also be reported, the IDP noted.

A total of 41 pledged national delegates are up for grabs in Iowa, CNN reported. Then there are eight additional unpledged delegates in Iowa, which include five members of the Democratic National Committee and three members of Congress. These unpledged PLEO delegates were previously known in 2016 as superdelegates. Unlike in 2016, they will only be able to vote at the Democratic National Convention if a candidate does not get a majority of votes on the first ballot at the DNC.

Today’s caucus isn’t the last step before the Democratic National Convention, however. After this, county conventions will take place on March 21, 2020, where candidates’ delegates are selected. On April 25, 2020, these delegates will attend district conventions, followed by a state convention on June 13, 2020, the Iowa Democratic Party reported. Then national delegates will be chosen to attend the Democratic National Convention in July, where the nominee is officially selected.

Presidential campaigns can ask for a canvas or recount of caucus results by district or statewide if a change might affect how many delegates they send to the DNC in July. The deadline to request either is February 7, 2020 at 12 p.m., CNN reported.


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