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Trump delegates in Illinois with “Muslim-sounding” names didn’t do as well as white ones

A quirk of the Illinois primary — and his supporters' aversion to voting for a man named Nabi Fakroddin — could have cost Trump a delegate.

Trump supporters at an Illinois rally.
Trump supporters at an Illinois rally.
Scott Olson/Getty

Donald Trump won the Illinois primary last night. But he didn't get as many delegates as he could have — and it might be because his supporters were averse to voting for people with the last names Sadiq and Fakroddin.

Raja Sadiq and Nabi Fakroddin both ran as delegates for Trump in Trump-friendly districts. And because of Illinois's strange voting rules, both their names were on the ballot as well as Trump's.

But while Trump carried both districts Tuesday, both Sadiq and Fakroddin got many fewer votes than other delegates (with European-sounding names) running under the Trump banner. And in Fakroddin's case, at least, it kept him — and the Trump campaign — from winning a delegate slot.

We don't know the exact reason for Sadiq and Fakroddin's underperformance, which was first noticed by elections analyst Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. And it's unlikely to alter the fate of the 2016 election — it looks like it only swayed the result in one race, keeping Fakroddin from winning a slot at the convention alongside the other two Trump delegates in his district.

But if it's true that Trump voters allowed anti-Muslim sentiment to override their loyalty to the candidate, that's a bad sign for the Trump campaign — a sign that it still might not understand or be able to control the Islamophobia it's unleashed.

Why were delegate names on the ballot to begin with?

To understand how this happened, you need to understand how the Illinois GOP primaries work.

In most primaries, voters vote directly for a candidate. Then if the candidate receives enough votes, delegates who are pledged to that candidate are selected to go to the party convention.

In Illinois, it's a little different. Fewer than a quarter of the state's delegates are assigned to whichever candidate gets the most statewide votes. For the rest, voters vote directly for delegates themselves.

Each presidential campaign runs a slate of delegates pledged to that candidate in each congressional district. Each delegate is listed on the ballot alongside the name of the candidate he or she is pledged to, and voters pick a certain number of delegates from each district (usually three).

So a voter yesterday who liked both Donald Trump and John Kasich could vote for two of Trump's delegates and one of Kasich's.

As it turns out, plenty of congressional districts split their delegates. According to the Green Papers, Trump swept the delegate slots in nine districts (out of 18), and Ted Cruz and Kasich each swept 1. But in the other seven districts, voters selected two delegates from one campaign and one delegate from another.

So split-ticket voting isn't that unusual. But there's still reason to believe something weird happened with the two Trump delegates with "Muslim-sounding" names. Here's why.

Sadiq and Fakroddin both got thousands fewer votes than other Trump delegates

Nabi Fakroddin has some history in Illinois state politics. He was appointed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to the Illinois Human Rights Commission; he was also on the Regional Transit Authority but had to resign rather than serving on both commissions at once.

He ran as a Trump delegate in Illinois's sixth congressional district, in the western suburbs of Chicago. But he only got about five votes for every six that the other two Trump-pledged delegates received. And that was enough to cost him the third delegate slot in the district:

The results in Illinois' Republican presidential primary, 6th district.
The results in Illinois's Republican presidential primary, sixth district.
Screenshot by CBS Local Chicago; annotation by Dara Lind/Vox

In the 13th congressional district, which includes Champaign, the split is a little less clear. Only one of Trump's delegates cracked the top three there; neither Raja Sadiq, who's a family physician and longtime Republican donor, nor fellow Trump delegate Toni Gauen made the cut. But the gap between Gauen, in fifth place, and Sadiq in sixth was as big as the gap between the first-place Trump delegate and Gauen.

The results in Illinois' Republican presidential primary, 13th district.
The results in Illinois's Republican presidential primary, 13th district.
Screenshot via CBS Local Chicago; annotation by Dara Lind/Vox

Sadiq only got 85 percent of the vote total Gauen got, and only 75 percent of the votes that leading Trump delegate Doug Hartmann got.

We genuinely do not know why Sadiq and Fakroddin got fewer votes than their fellow Trump delegates. The only evidence we have that they were discriminated against because of their names is, well, the names themselves — and the vote totals.

But in a primary where two-thirds of Republican voters said that Muslims should be banned from entering the US — a policy position first advanced by Donald Trump — Islamophobia is definitely running high. And there is at least a possibility that the fears of Muslims that Trump's campaign has helped stoke are powerful enough, at least in some fraction of Trump supporters, that even seeing the name "Trump" next to a name that sounds foreign isn't enough to win those voters' support.

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