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How Super Will Super Tuesday Really Be?

The odds are pretty good that if you are a reader of this blog, you’ll have the opportunity to vote today in one of the Super (Duper) Tuesday primaries. Here are today’s Democratic primaries and here are the Republican primaries.

Two Novembers ago, we wrote a column headlined “Why Vote?” that discussed the rationality of voting. One point we made is that close votes are far rarer than people think, which means, therefore, that a single person’s vote has almost no chance in changing an outcome. This may strike you as ludicrous, slippery-slope reasoning, but consider a more important element to this point:

[T]he closer an election is, the more likely that its outcome will be taken out of the voters’ hands — most vividly exemplified, of course, by the 2000 presidential race. It is true that the outcome of that election came down to a handful of voters; but their names were Kennedy, O’Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas. And it was only the votes they cast while wearing their robes that mattered, not the ones they may have cast in their home precincts.

Matt Bai, in a column in this past Sunday’s Times Magazine, offers a similar view, superbly laid out, about today’s primaries, which for months have been seen as producing each party’s nominees. As Bai argues, a close vote today may mean that the Democratic nominee at least is chosen by a handful of heavyweights rather than millions of common voters:

If the Democratic voters defy the designs of the party, though, and neither candidate can achieve a clear verdict, the battle will then enter a rare and little-understood phase: the scramble for superdelegates. These are the roughly 800 Democratic Party insiders – elected officials, state chairmen, national committee members – who will make up about a fifth of the total delegate count at the convention and who can vote for any candidate they want, regardless of what the voters in primaries and caucuses have said.

None of this, by the way, is meant to discourage a single person from going out and voting. But it may be worth thinking about the true value of your vote.