By Aubrey Harbin
It has been 20 years since the votes of Texans had a significant impact on the presidential candidate nomination, especially so late in an election year. Because Democratic delegates are not only based on the votes of the primary election, in 1988 Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson split the delegate votes almost in half, although the primary votes were split among four candidates. Registered voters in Texas are urged to vote in the primary election March 4. Of the remaining states to hold primary elections, Texas has the most delegates with 138 Republican and 228 Democratic delegates. After the primary election in Texas, precinct conventions are held; typically they are hosted at the same location where the voting took place. Voters who vote in the primary are eligible to attend and must participate with the same party for which they voted. Several states were penalized this year for holding their primary elections too early. The Democratic National Committee stripped Michigan of all 156 delegate votes for holding its primary before Feb. 5. Florida was completely stripped of 185 delegate votes. The Republican National Committee was more lenient. It took away half of New Hampshire's 24 delegates, 27 of Michigan's 57 delegates and 23 of South Carolina's 47 delegate votes. To win the presidential nomination, a candidate must receive at least 51 percent of the delegate votes. In the Democratic Party, there are a total of 4,049 delegate votes available; a candidate must have 2,025 to win the nomination. In the Republican Party, there are a total of 2,380 delegate votes available; a candidate must have 1,191 to win the nomination. If a candidate does not secure at least 51 percent of the delegate votes via the state primaries and caucuses, a brokered convention may be initiated at the national convention. They have been predicted in years past, including the 1988 election year, but have not come to fruition. Brokered conventions consist of superdelegates bartering with one another until one candidate is nominated. Superdelegates play an important role because their votes are not decided until the national convention; they can prevent a brokered convention from happening, which is beneficial to the political party involved because of the short time frame until the general election in November. As of press time, Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton has an estimated 1,211 delegate votes while Barack Obama has 1,253 delegate votes. For the Republicans, John McCain is sitting at 827 delegate votes, Mike Huckabee at 217 and Ron Paul with 16. Significant issues driving the presidential campaign this year include war, education, health, economy and immigration. Voting for a candidate who represents similar thoughts and opinions on these issues is the democratic way for voters to elect people into political offices who will make decisions based on those opinions. "The youth of today will be the leaders and decision makers of tomorrow," said Phil Wilson, Texas secretary of state. "Each and every vote is important and serves as one of the most powerful ways to ensure your voice and opinion is heard as you shape the future of this state and nation." Although the office of the president of the United States gains a great deal of attention during primary election time, it is not the only office voted on during the primary election. State, county and federal offices are elected as well. Elected officials in these positions will be making important decisions that effect voters at the state, county and school district levels. Positions such as U. S. representatives and senators, state senators and representatives, board of education members and various judges are elected at the primary election. Barbara Murray, president of the League of Women Voters of the Bay Area, suggested that voters visit www.vote411.org for non-partisan information on presidential candidates. She also explained that voter's guides published by the League of Women Voters would soon be available in Harris County public libraries, at www.vote411.org and on the Texas League of Women Voters Web site at www.lwvtexas.org. "Get informed and vote!" Murray said. "Get your information from a variety of sources - not just one type of media. You have the opportunity to make a real difference in this election. Make democracy work!" Other helpful links include the state political party Web sites. The Texas Democratic Party site is www.txdemocrats.org and the Republican Party site is www.texasgop.org. Voters can verify their registration on the Texas secretary of state's Web site at www.sos.state.tx.us. It is too late to register to vote for the primary election but not for the general election in November. A Voter Registration Application is available on the site.