“Super Tuesday” is a mainstay in our electoral lexicon, but today isn’t the only electorally important day in March. The focus on Super Tuesday overlooks the other important races happening in March and across the primary election cycle as a whole. As Democratic candidates race to gather the required number of delegates to meet the threshold for the nomination, candidates and their campaigns should balance their focus on winning Super Tuesday with a March-long strategy to build voter engagement and expand opportunities to participate.
Today the campaigns will compete in 14 states and American Samoa. With 1,357 pledged delegates up for grabs, it is no secret why Super Tuesday is a fixture in campaign strategy. The day can be a test of whether a campaign can go the distance or whether major investments in advertising, staffing, and infrastructure have paid off. But contrary to popular belief, Super Tuesday is not the be-all and end-all for this primary season, or even this month.
Between March 4 and March 31 there are 13 Democratic races taking place, with 1,091 pledged delegates in play. Among the post-Super Tuesday states, several represent opportunities to expand the electorate, such as elections in Arizona, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio. Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands also have primaries and caucuses happening in March. In addition to the Super Tuesday states, the other March states and territories are a reflective sampling of the diversifying electorate needed to win in a general election. Georgia is set to have a nonwhite majority population within the next two election cycles. Arizona is expected to shift from majority-white within the next 15 years. Planning for these demographic shifts is crucial with redistricting on the horizon. It’s a mistake for either campaigns or the media to treat these states as afterthoughts, dampening voters’ enthusiasm by conveying the message that Super Tuesday state voters are the only ones with a real voice. Shifting the balance of power and creating new pathways for potential voters to engage in the electoral process requires more than focusing on the delegate math and instead looking at the bigger picture of what states have to offer.
Building on the energy and excitement of 2018 across the later-in-March states lays the groundwork for electoral justice advocates going into the general election, folks whose work will be critical in ensuring that every potential voter turns out and is able to cast a ballot. Over the past several years, since the murder of Michael Brown, Missouri has seen a rise in electoral justice organizing efforts, including the 2018 election of St. Louis County Prosecutor Welsey Bell, who ousted Bob McCulloch. Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet, a Kansas City, Missouri-based organization, is working to increase the advocacy and power of Black women in their communities and beyond. Folks in Mississippi have been organizing to ensure that people who are incarcerated prior to trial and retain their voting rights can actually cast their votes. Groups such as Black Voters Matter have made it a priority to uplift the voices and work of those in the Deep South and other communities left behind by traditional political investment and engagement.
In Florida and Georgia, both states that have been central in the fight for election integrity and against voter suppression, voting rights advocates are scrambling to make sure upcoming elections are free and clear of issues. In Georgia, organizers are fighting to make sure newly rolled out electronic voting machines do not create new problems for voters. Florida organizers continue to fight against state attempts to undermine the 2018 passage of Amendment 4, when voters decided in favor of re-enfranchising formerly incarcerated voters.
Despite the allure of seeing who will grab the most pledged delegates in one fell swoop on Super Tuesday, the elections happening later in March provide an opportunity to engage a diverse electorate and expand voter outreach and engagement ahead of the November general election. Also, the later primaries and caucuses are the only forum in which voters in places still held as U.S. territories get to exercise an opinion in the process; the residents of the territories don’t get a vote in the general election.
Voters deserve the space to make their choice from the available candidates on the ballot, not simply to approve whomever the media has framed as the only option. By the end of March, nearly two-thirds of pledged delegates will have been awarded. As Super Tuesday voters head to the polls, early voting is already underway in several primaries scheduled for later in the month. Regardless of whether they’re in a Super Tuesday state or not, people throughout the country need to feel heard and feel that their voices and votes matter during the primary season.