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Super Tuesday nearing

By By Lisa Tindell
Super Tuesday. Super Duper Tuesday. Tsunami Tuesday. The Tuesday of Destiny — you can pick your favorite term for Tuesday, Feb. 5.
With 24 states — including Alabama — set to hold a caucus or primary that day, the day will boast the largest-ever number of states holding presidential primaries.
But how exactly is your vote counted that day?
When voters go to the polls, not only will they be casting a vote for a presidential-hopeful, votes will also be cast to choose delegates who’ll make the final decision.
And with the races in both parties close this year, candidates are aiming not just to win states but to win the number of delegates needed to earn their party’s nomination.
Each political party sets the rules for its primary, said Escambia County Republican delegate-hopeful Jim Corman. But whether you vote Democrat or Republican on Feb. 5, you will be choosing a presidential candidate and the delegates who will vote for them at the party conventions later this year.
The GOP side
In the Republican primary, voters will first vote for a candidate running for president, Corman said.
After voters cast votes for a candidate, a vote must then be cast for a delegate.
Each Congressional district has a certain number of Republican delegates to be elected, Corman said. There are also a certain number of at-large delegates for each state.
With 48 total Republican delegates for Alabama, 21 are chosen from congressional districts, with the remaining 27 chosen as at-large delegates.
Delegates assigned to candidates from across the United States will determine who will be nominated by a party to be placed on the November ballot for a chance at becoming president.
Likewise, Corman said, candidates who receive 20 percent of the vote would receive 20 percent of the delegated votes.
A sample ballot for the Feb. 5 primary shows candidates vying for president as well as those hoping to be named delegates.
The Democrats
On the Democratic side, candidates must earn at least 15 percent of the popular vote in order to win any delegates, said Jesse McDaniel, communications chairman for the Alabama Democratic party.
The Democratic ballot instructs voters to choose a candidate and then choose up to four male delegates and four female delegates who are pledged to that candidate.
Candidate and delegate choices must match. If an individual votes for Barack Obama, for example, and then chooses delegates for Hillary Clinton, the ballot will be invalid.
In Alabama, 34 Democratic delegates and seven alternates will be elected on Feb. 5. They will be pledged to certain candidates. Alabama also has several other delegates, broken down as follows:
Alabama has no party registration, so voters can choose whether to vote either in the Republican primary or in the Democratic primary on Feb. 5.
A brokered convention?
The race is tight on both sides. U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are vying for the Democratic nomination, with former Sen. John Edwards in third place. Huckabee, U.S. Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are still in the hunt for the Republican nomination. Huckabee, McCain and Romney have all won delegates from the early primary and caucus states, with Romney leading the delegate count.
In Alabama, a poll by Alabama State University last week shows Obama and McCain in the lead for their parties — but a sizeable number of voters on both sides of the aisle are still undecided.
With so many states up for grabs on Feb. 5, a nominee for each party is finally likely to emerge. But if candidates — especially Republican candidates — share in the delegate pie that day, the race could get even more confusing.
When delegates reach the national convention, they will cast votes to support the candidate they are pledged to, Corman said.
If there is no clear winner at the end of all primaries, a brokered convention could happen, Corman said.
The November election results are still anybody’s guess, Corman said.