The California presidential primary traditionally has taken place in June, often well after the presidential candidates for all parties have been decided. But in 2020, California will join 12 other states for the Super Tuesday primary on March 3. What effect will this have on the election? Could California primary voters pick the next president?

This was the question panelists at a Zócalo/UCLA Downtown event explored on May 15, at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. Joe Mathews, Zócalo’s California and innovation editor, moderated the event before a full house.

The panelists were Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; Matt Barreto, UCLA professor of political science and co-founder of Latino Decisions; and Rose Kapolczynski, vice president of the American Association of Political Consultants.

So, how exactly does the California primary work? The state is divided into congressional districts and each district gets a certain number of delegates. In the Democratic primary, districts with more Democratic voters, such as Maxine Waters’s district, get more delegates, Kapolczynski said. In every congressional district, the votes for all candidates are tallied, and if a candidate captures at least 15% of the vote of that particular district, they are awarded a portion of the delegates that were assigned to that district. Another portion of delegates is allotted based on how the state votes as a whole.

Barreto said California can be very influential in 2020 both because of the earlier primary date and for other, more fundamental reasons. California is the most diverse state, has the most diverse Democratic electorate, and has the most Democratic delegates to award, more than 400. “It is the biggest prize,” Barreto said. And it could nudge the nation in its own forward-thinking direction.

Read the full story on the Zócalo​ Public Square website.