Some hints for getting the best out of SubCalc

SubCalc is the Minnesota DFL Subcaucus Calculator. It takes the pain out of the walking subcaucus process.

Starting a new meeting

When starting a new meeting you can create a single subcaucus and just put the count of people in the room into that one subcaucus. The summary text will then tell you the viability number you need to announce to the room so they can gather the right number of supporters to their causes.

Managing subcaucuses

You don’t actually have to delete non-viable subcaucuses. If you just delete the count of people in the subcaucus, you will still have a record that the subcaucus existed, but it won’t affect the distribution of delegates or the viability numbers at all.

When you start recording a new “walk” you can even zero out all the subcaucuses at once by clicking on the “participants” button (the button with the little person on it).

Sharing results

Don’t forget to use the email function (under the sharing menu at the top) to send yourself or others a record of what happened at the meeting. This is a great way to report your results.

Understanding tie-breakers

When two or more subcaucuses have the same number of members, SubCalc will automatically “flip a coin” to determine which, if any, should get remainder delegates. If someone insists on redoing this coin flip, you can change the coin settings in the meetings menu at the top. Remember, sometimes the new flip will have the exact same result as the old flip, so don’t be surprised if nothing changes.

Randomness is a funny thing on a computer. While in the real world we would get together the leaders of tied subcaucuses and ask them to yell heads or tails while we flip a coin, we don’t actually have that opportunity in a computer program. SubCalc won’t hear anyone yelling heads or tails. What we really want, though, is simply a random decision about which of the tied subcaucuses will get remainder delegates. We’ve come up with a very different process in SubCalc, but we still call it a “coin flip” so that people understand it serves the same role.

In SubCalc we actually assign every subcaucus what we call a “random rank” as we calculate the distribution of delegates. Imagine this as asking each subcaucus leader to draw a straw as you begin the distribution process. Each straw is a different length, and the subcaucus with the longest straw will get the first remainder in the event of a tie with another subcaucus. No “coin flips” to speak of, just a pre-assigned random rank (straw) handed out at the beginning.

When you ask SubCalc to “change the coin” it actually just assigns new random ranks to each subcaucus. This is as if you had asked each one to draw a new straw. Sometimes that results in the same order, sometimes the order of the random ranks (the straws) will change. When you see reports of “coin tosses” from SubCalc, the winner of the “toss” is always the subcaucus that had the better (lower) random rank.

SubCalc only has to save the “coin’s” random seed in order to reproduce the same random ranks (and coin “tosses”) the next time around. So when you quit SubCalc (or get a phone call on your iPhone, interrupting SubCalc) it won’t forget the order of the “straws” for the next time it has to distribute delegates. If someone insists on redoing this coin flip, you can use the coin settings to reset this random seed. Remember, sometimes the new coin settings will have the exact same result as the old, so don’t be surprised if nothing changes (it is random, after all).