After the Wisconsin primary, what about voter id and contested conventions?

The Wisconsin primary is now in the books, with Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Bernie Sanders winning with similar margins of 12-13 percentage points.

Voter id in Wisconsin

As I’ve discussed, the Wisconsin primary featured an onerous voter id law that analysts believed would most affect elderly and disabled people, students and black voters. Turnout was strong, although higher among Republicans than Democrats.

It wasn’t clear before the election if the law would have a greater impact on voters Sanders does well with — students — or those who favor Clinton — African-Americans.

But what happened on election day suggests that students got a special boost.

A Wisconsin newspaper tells the tale of how students were able to get the needed id on election day.

UW-Madison senior Dylan Edwards was turned away from his Downtown polling place Tuesday morning because he had only a driver’s license from his home state, Pennsylvania.

Like thousands of UW-Madison students, Edwards needed to get one of the university’s separate voting ID cards Tuesday morning.

It took him about five minutes to wait in line and get a voting ID at an office in the Gordon Dining and Events Center, two blocks from his polling place. . .

UW-Madison printed voter ID cards at two locations on campus for students who didn’t have Wisconsin driver’s licenses and were not voting absentee in their home states.

In contrast, there were no special facilities set up for nonstudents in the state to ensure they had the right id.

Black voters in Milwaukee and elsewhere in Wisconsin didn’t have this assistance. Clinton won Milwaukee County, which includes the largest city in the state, 52-48, in part propelled by strong support from black voters, a group she won 3-1 statewide.

Because Sanders won the state by 12 points, his margin among young voters was very high (87-13%), and the percentage of the Wisconsin Democratic black vote is less than the national average, this difference in access to voter ids wouldn’t have changed who won the state.

However, pledged delegates are awarded proportionally and most delegates are allocated by congressional district, so depending on margins at that level (which I have not yet seen), a few delegates could have been different.

As to the impact of voter id on the general election, a Republican office-holder spilled the beans, saying that it could enable a Republican to win the state.

In other words, he acknowledged that voter id, passed by Gov. Scott Walker and a Republican legislature, would do what it was designed to do — disprortionately keep Democratic leaning voters from voting.

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAnd what about contested conventions?

The answer for Democrats in simple: It’s not going to happen.

Sanders staffers keep saying that Democratic presidential nomination could be decided at the convention because, they assert, no one will arrive with a majority of pledged delegates.

But that flies in the face of, well, arithmetic.

  1. There are two Democratic candidates with pledged delegates, the ones you get from winning primaries and caucuses.
  2. Because there are just two, one will have more than half and the other will have less than half.

Because one candidate will have a majority of pledged delegates — and at this point this looks quite likely to be Hillary Clinton — there will be no reason to have multiple ballots.

The superdelegates will go with whoever has most pledged delegates and that person will get the nomination on the first ballot.

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (Creative Commons)

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (Creative Commons)

Republicans very well could have a contested convention.

Here, too, it’s just about arithmetic.

Donald Trump is ahead in the delegate count right now but doesn’t have a majority in this multi-candidate field.

It’s not certain that any will have the 1237 needed to win the nomination on the first ballot.

Moreover, delegates from candidates that dropped out and unpledged delegates from some places complicate the picture.

It’s not certain that Republicans will have a contested convention with multiple ballots, but it’s certainly possible.

Who would emerge from such a process isn’t clear, but polls show that Republicans favor having it be someone who ran for the nomination.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.