AP Decision Note: What to expect in Hawaii’s Democratic presidential caucuses

President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 1, 2024, to travel to Camp David, Md., for the weekend. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — Hawaii Democrats will hold a presidential preference vote tomorrow as President Joe Biden moves closer to securing the delegates needed to clinch nomination for a second term in the White House.

Appearing on the ballot with Biden will be U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, self-help author Marianne Williamson, who recently reentered the race after dropping out early last month, and two lesser-known candidates. Voters will also have the option to select “Uncommitted.”

The event takes place in the wake of Super Tuesday, the largest day of voting on the presidential primary calendar with 15 states and American Samoa holding contests for the Democratic nomination. Hawaii Republicans will hold their caucuses less than a week later on March 12.

State Democratic party officials originally planned to hold an entirely vote-by-mail primary on April 6, but in January they submitted a new plan to the Democratic National Committee changing the event to a smaller scale and less expensive caucus vote, saying that they had been unable to raise the funds to hold the all-mail event. Unlike the better-known caucuses that the Iowa Democratic Party used to hold, where participants voted by moving around a room to form groups in support of a particular candidate, the caucuses in Hawaii and many other states are more straightforward. Voters show up at a polling site at any time during voting hours, fill out secret ballots on pieces of paper and then leave once they’ve cast their votes. It’s essentially a small primary that is paid for by the party, rather than the government.

Biden won Hawaii’s party-run primary in 2020 with 63% of the vote, compared to 37% for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The 2020 event was converted to an all-mail primary because of pandemic restrictions and concluded in late May long after Biden had sewn up the nomination. The votes in 2020 were tabulated using ranked-choice voting rules, in which voters ranked the candidates in order of preference, with the votes of the lowest ranking candidates reassigned to voters’ next-preferred candidate. This year’s event will not use ranked-choice voting.

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