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Sanders Wins Colorado, But Ties on Delegates

Sanders's victory in Colorado didn't net him more delegates. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sanders's victory in Colorado didn't net him more delegates. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

When does a 59-40 victory result in a tie?  

When it’s the Colorado Democratic caucus outcome and most of the dozen super delegates, not elected by caucus-goers, support the loser.  

In this instance, that’s Hillary Clinton.  

And young supporters of Bernard Sanders are none too happy about the outcome.  

“I feel like it’s very unfair,” said Ally Malecha, an 18-year-old University of Denver student who supported Sanders at her first-ever caucus Tuesday. “It’s kind of unfortunate because of super delegates and the way that the DNC is very pro-Hillary.”  

Sanders won 59 percent of the caucus vote and a projected 38 delegates to Clinton’s 40 percent of the vote and 28 delegates.  

But the dozen super delegates – mostly elected officials and party leaders – don’t have to follow the votes of caucus-goers.  

The Denver Post reported that 10 of those super delegates are committed to Clinton, which brings the delegate count even, with two uncommitted.  

The super delegates for Clinton include Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Michael Bennet, U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis, and former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Gov. Roy Romer.  

Malecha and others questioned the democracy behind the super delegate system, which was developed in the 1980s to give elected officials and party activists a voice in the nomination process. In 2008, Clinton and Barack Obama competed vigorously to win support of these delegates, who comprise about 15 percent of those with a vote at July’s convention. The delegates can change their vote at any point.  

Ilana Schroit, 36, is a small business owner in Littleton. As an independent, she didn’t caucus. But she’s volunteering for Sanders’ campaign and operates the Millennials for Bernie Twitter account, @MillsforBernie.  

“Super delegates should not exist,” Schroit said. “If they do exist, they should be allocated proportionately based on the popular vote.”  

Even Julia Tremaroli, a 20-year-old University of Denver student who caucused for Clinton, said the system troubled her.  

“I did caucus for Hillary Clinton, but I’m not comfortable with the fact that even if someone does win 59 percent, they’re not going to win the entire thing,” Tremaroli said. “It skews the entire process.”  

Many of Tremaroli’s friends supported Sanders.  

“They’re pretty outraged.”  

The final delegate count for the two candidates is far from set, noted Rick Palacio, Colorado Democratic Party chairman. County delegates elected at Tuesday’s caucuses will attend county assemblies, where they’ll elect delegates to congressional district assemblies and the state assembly.  

It’s at those final two stops that national convention delegates are selected. And those delegates aren’t required to stick with the candidate they originally supported.  

That means the Clinton and Sanders campaigns likely will continue to work on holding on to or increasing their delegate counts through the state party assembly on April 16.  

About 122,000 people attended 3,010 Democratic precinct caucuses Tuesday, with many more turned away .  

“Colorado has been the only state that has met or exceeded turnout compared to 2008 numbers,” Palacio said. “We’re thrilled at the record turnout we saw. … We’re deeply apologetic to people who were not able to get in.”  

On the Republican side, more than 60,000 people showed up to caucus. But the state party didn’t conduct a presidential straw poll to avoid forcing delegates to the national convention to be bound by the caucus candidate selection.  

The Democratic caucus kerfuffle and the Republican caucus non-event may bring change come 2020, however.  

Palacio said it’s time for Colorado to return to a presidential primary, a goal he’s collaborating on with GOP party leaders. The state abandoned presidential primaries after the 2000 elections to save money. Last year, the GOP-controlled state Senate defeated a bill to revive the primary for 2016.  

“The caucus system is great, and I’d like to keep the caucus in place, but I’d like to supplement it by having a mail-ballot presidential primary as well,” Palacio said.  

In that instance, delegates elected via the caucus process would be bound to the primary results.  

Tremaroli, Schroit and Malecha agreed a primary system would be an improvement.  

“The caucus system is antiquated,” Schroit said. “A lot of people, three hours they waited in line and they couldn’t even get into it.”  

Malecha said it took about two hours of waiting “just to walk to one side of the room to say ‘I’m here for Sanders,’ and leave.  

“It’s kind of a pain.”  

Sandra Fish is a Colorado journalist who specializes in politics and data. Follow her on Twitter at @fishnette.

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