Voters cast their votes at a polling station in Oklahoma City during the 2018 primary election. Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch

Securing first place won’t be the only thing on the minds of the five remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls competing in Oklahoma’s Super Tuesday contest. 

Like the rest of the country, Oklahoma will not use a winner-takes-all format for its Democratic presidential primary.

Instead, the delegates who will ultimately determine the nominee during July’s Democratic National Convention will be awarded proportionally based on the votes each candidate receives. 

But there is a catch: Candidates must receive at least 15% of the statewide vote or 15% in at least one of the state’s five congressional districts to be eligible to start accumulating delegates. 

That means in a close contest, one candidate might come away with just a few delegates more than the second-place finisher. And some candidates might struggle to meet the viability threshold.  

What’s at Stake 

Voters in 14 states (plus American Samoa) will head to the polls Tuesday in what could be a defining day in the Democrats’ presidential nomination contest.

A total of 1,344 pledged delegates – just more than a third of all pledged delegates – will be decided Tuesday.

Oklahoma will have 37 delegates up for grabs, making it the 10th largest prize among the 14 Super Tuesday states. 

According to the Oklahoma Democratic Central Committee, 24 delegates – or almost two-thirds of Oklahoma’s pledged delegate total – will be decided based on results in each of Oklahoma’s congressional districts.  

The congressional districts with more Democratic voters receive additional delegates. That means Oklahoma’s bluest district – the Fifth Congressional District that U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, a Democrat, won in 2018 – will decide six of the delegates.

The First and Fourth Districts will each decide the allocation for five delegates, and the Second and Third Districts will each decide how four delegates are awarded.  

Thirteen pledged delegates, meanwhile, will be determined by the statewide vote. All delegate allocations will be proportional and require a candidate to meet at least the 15% threshold.

In 2016, for example, candidate Bernie Sanders won Oklahoma with 51.9% of the vote, while Hillary Clinton received 41.5%. Because of the delegate allocation rules, which were largely the same as this year, Sanders came away with 21 delegates and Clinton with 17.

Among the five other candidates who made the 2016 Democratic ballot, no one recorded over 3%, so none received any delegates.  

Oklahoma also has six superdelegates, but those won’t be decided on Tuesday. The superdelegates, who are top party leaders in the state, are unpledged and can cast votes during the convention for candidates regardless of Tuesday’s outcome.  

Those superdelegates are Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairwoman Alicia Andrews, Oklahoma Democratic Party Vice Chairman Dave Ratcliff, Oklahoma Democratic Party National Committeeman and former Gov. David Walters, Oklahoma Democratic Party National Committeewoman Kalyn Free, National Young Democrats of America President Joshua Harris-Till and Horn. 

How It Might Play Out 

Although 14 names are on the Democratic ballot, as of Monday afternoon, only five remained in the race: Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren and Sanders. 

Little polling has been done in the state, and no polls have been released since Biden’s big South Carolina win or since Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer dropped out. 

But a recent SoonerPoll, which surveyed likely voters Feb. 17-21, found Biden in the lead with 21%, Bloomberg at 20% and Sanders just below the statewide viability threshold at 13%. 

Meanwhile, an earlier poll from Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates, conducted Feb. 10-13, had Bloomberg at 18%, Sanders at 17% and Biden at 11%. 

No other candidates topped 10% in either poll, meaning Warren and Gabbard could be at risk of failing to reach the viability threshold.  

It’s a much clearer race on the Republican side.

Like the Democrats, the Republicans’ presidential primary will allocate delegates proportionally based on statewide results and results in each of the state’s congressional districts. But unlike the Democrats, a candidate who receives over 50% of the vote is awarded all of the delegates.  

President Donald Trump is on the ballot along with five others, including one candidate who withdrew from the race. Trump is expected to easily clear that threshold and receive all of Oklahoma’s 43 pledged delegates. 


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Trevor Brown

Trevor Brown has been an Oklahoma Watch reporter since 2016. He covers politics, elections, health policies and government accountability issues. Call or text him at (630) 301-0589 or email at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org....