This is not one of those posts where I am saying that Ben Carson supporters are figuratively throwing their votes away by voting for a candidate who has no chance to actually, this is a post where I am explaining that votes cast for Ben Carson on Super Tuesday will literally count towards Donald Trump's delegate total (or, in the case of Texas, towards Ted Cruz's total).

Here is how this works. Every Super Tuesday state with the exception of Virginia has a minimum threshold that candidates must cross in order to be awarded any delegates at all. Any candidate that does not clear that threshold will have their votes lumped in with that state's overall winner for the purposes of allocating delegates. In other words, whoever wins the most overall votes in the state (even by one vote) will essentially be awarded proportional delegates according to their own vote total plus the votes of all candidates who did not clear the state's minimum threshold.

In other words, let's say that a state has a minimum threshold of 10%. In that hypothetical state, the results are Trump 30%, Rubio 29%, Cruz 25%, Kasich 7%, Carson 7%. Trump would be awarded delegates as if he actually received 44% of the vote, because he would get the votes of both Kasich and Carson, if they did not clear the delegate threshold.

So with that in mind, what are the delegate thresholds for next Tuesday?

  • Alabama - 20%
  • Alaska - 13% (Caucus)
  • Arkansas - 15%
  • Georgia - 20%
  • Massachusetts - 5%
  • Minnesota - 10% (Caucus)
  • North Dakota - N/A (delegates unbound by votes)
  • Oklahoma - 15%
  • Tennessee - 20%
  • Texas - 20%
  • Vermont - 20%
  • Virginia - none
  • Wyoming - N/A (delegates unbound by votes)

A whole slate of polling was released yesterday for Super Tuesday states and Ben Carson is not even close to clearing a single one of these thresholds. Donald Trump is heavily favored to win each one of these states, with the exception of Texas. Therefore, every vote cast for Ben Carson will serve no purpose other than to increase the delegate count for Donald Trump (or, in Texas, for Ted Cruz).

I get that Carson's voters are very loyal. I understand that most of them probably understand that their guy is not going to win, but they want to show loyalty and support towards him by preventing him from getting embarrassed in these contests.

If this were a flat out popular vote contest, that would be defensible, even if it weren't the path I would choose. But it isn't a popular vote contest, it's a contest for delegates. And every vote cast for Ben Carson next Tuesday will literally be counted towards Donald Trump's delegate total.