On Tuesday, June 7, 6 states — California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota — will hold Democratic presidential contests in what has proven to be a hotly contested race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. In total, there are 694 pledged delegates up for grabs, a big jackpot for the candidate who can garner the most votes.
However, on the eve of this major primary election day, the Associated Press (AP) announced that Clinton had the number of delegates needed to win the nomination, making her the presumptive nominee.
Hillary Clinton currently has 1,812 pledged delegates, while Sanders trails with 1,521 — a deficit of 291 delegates. A candidate needs 2,383 delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. The ace in the hole that Clinton has had since the beginning of the election, however, is the number of superdelegates she has committed to her, which now stands at 571 (according to AP). This would put her at exactly 2,383 delegates.
Superdelegates are Democratic elected officials and party insiders (including lobbyists) who are not bound to the will of voters at the Democratic National Convention, though people who defend the use of superdelegates say they have never gone against the will of the people. While that means these superdelegates can support a candidate even before the first votes are cast in Iowa, it also means that they can be persuaded to change their mind throughout the process or at the convention or decide on their own to switch their vote.
At 2,383 exactly, AP’s announcement leaves no room for Bernie Sanders to contest the nomination at the convention, which he still plans to do. According to AP’s Lisa Lerer, Sanders responded to the “breaking news”:
Sanders responds to @AP call: Clinton doesn't have the pledged delegates. Supers don't count until the convention so it's still on.
— Lisa Lerer (@llerer) June 7, 2016
Hillary Clinton also responded:
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 7, 2016
The danger of calling a race right as millions of voters are planning to head to the polls is that it may discourage some voters from participating, and that goes for both Clinton supporters and voters who planned to cast a vote for Bernie Sanders. This doesn’t just effect the presidential race, either.
AP’s announcement, along with some other media outlets, could also affect turnout in down-ballot races, since for many voters it is often select races (like the presidential election) or specific candidates that are their motivation to vote in the first place, along with the feeling that for the first time in a long time, their vote may actually matter in the presidential contest.
Announcing the race is over before it actually is essentially robs many voters of the belief that their vote will matter and discourages their participation. The media can influence our perception of an election, and our perceptions drive our motivations. There is no way of knowing what turnout would have looked like on Tuesday if certain media outlets hadn’t come out to tell voters that they might as well not bother.
Photo Source: AP