Primary Primer III: What Happens At Convention

The primaries are upon us and soon both parties will be selecting their nominees. But if the residents of States vote in the primary, what’s the role of the Party Convention? Where do SuperDelegates fit in? Who is really choosing the Presidential candidate?

As we covered in the last two posts, the Presidential nominee for a political party is not directly elected by all voters. Instead, delegates are selected in a variety of ways; most often exclusively by registered members of a particular party. These delegates are then sent to a party’s National Convention to pick the nominee.

Nothing Is For Sure
Oftentimes it is clear who will win the nomination before Convention. However, even with primaries done and delegates pledged, the results are not predetermined. People can walk in expecting to be the Nominee and walk out an also ran. How? Let’s find out.

Voting Share
Unlike in general elections, representation isn’t necessarily based on the number of residents, or even eligible voters. Instead, every State is given a certain number of delegates proportional to the number of votes people in that State cast for the Party’s Presidential candidate in previous elections. So, the more votes your state give to a Democrat (averaged over the last three elections) the delegates your state gets to the Convention.

Who Can Delegates Vote For?
At the Convention, elected (not Super) delegates are bound to vote for whoever won the primary or caucus in their state; and in the same percentage. So, if a candidate on 40% of the vote, they get 40% of the delegates. Whoever wins a majority of the of Convention Delegates receives the nomination.

If no one wins a majority, delegates are released from their pledges. At this point, horse-trading and deals can be struck in a Brokered Convention. Voting continues through successive rounds until one candidate wins a majority.

The Democratic Party actually changed its rules in 1936 because nomination required ⅔ of the delegate vote and made brokered conventions incredibly common. As a result, many nominees ended up being compromise candidates who weren’t even front-runners before the Convention!

And The Winner Is…
Whoever gets the required majority of delegates becomes that party’s nominee. This candidate will receive the prodigious support that a National Party can offer – from local organizing apparatus (like local parties and Democratic Clubs), to the Party’s political brand and, of course, money.

It is up to the Party to come together after a nominee has been chosen and put aside the differences which were expressed in the primary period. Whatever issues were raised, the job of the primary was to air them and give Party members a chance to make the decision of who would perform best in the General election with their eyes open.

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