WASHINGTON, April 27, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Presidential primaries will be wrapping up in the next couple months. And looking ahead to the summer, the political party conventions will be where candidates are officially nominated. Conventions can be exciting to watch if you know what's going on. This guide from USAGov can help you understand how political conventions and the nomination process work, as each party meets to choose its candidates for Election Day.
- What happens in a party national convention?
- Political parties meet to choose their nominees for president and vice president--known as their party's ticket. Conventions are also the time when parties create support for their platform--their beliefs and values about issues that are important to the country. This year, the Republican National Convention takes place July 18-21 in Cleveland, OH and the Democratic National Convention takes place July 25-28 in Philadelphia, PA.
- Who votes for the nominees at the conventions?
- Delegates - When a candidate wins a state primary or caucus, they are awarded a number of delegates. In the first round of voting at the convention, most of these delegates are bound, requiring them to vote based on the results of their state's primary or caucus. Every state party has its own method of choosing the people who will represent the state as bound delegates at the national convention.
- Superdelegates - The votes of these Democratic Party members are not pledged or bound to any particular candidate or tied to primary or caucus results. This year's superdelegates include members and former chairs of the Democratic National Committee, current Democratic members of Congress and governors, and other party leaders, including former Democratic presidents and vice presidents. There are just over 700 superdelegates, representing approximately 15 percent of total Democratic delegates this year.
- Unbound delegates - This is the name the Republican Party calls its delegates whose votes at the convention are not pledged to any particular candidate and are not tied to primary or caucus results. The Republican Party expects between 150 and 200 unbound delegates at the convention this year. They could include party members and leaders from some of the states and territories that don't hold primaries or caucuses, and from states that don't bind all of their delegates. They represent around seven percent of the party's total delegates at the convention. During each presidential election year, state party and national convention rules can change up to and during the convention. This affects who will become an unbound delegate and how many unbound delegates there will be.
There's been a lot of talk about a contested or a brokered convention, but what does that really entail?
- A contested convention is uncommon. It happens when no candidate has won over 50 percent or more of the total number of delegates from their party's primaries and caucuses. For the Democratic Party this year, a candidate would have to win at least 2,383 delegates in primaries and caucuses; for the Republican Party, it's 1,237 delegates. If no candidate accumulates at least this minimum number of delegates from primaries and caucuses before their party's convention, the event will begin as a contested convention.
- During the first ballot or round of voting, bound delegates will vote for a candidate based on the outcome of their state's primary or caucus. Unbound delegates will vote for the candidate of their choice, and this may give a candidate the number of delegates needed for the nomination. But if there is still no candidate with the minimum number of delegates after this first round of voting, one or more rounds of voting will follow. In the second round of voting, based on the rules of their state, bound delegates may become unbound, and can vote for a different candidate. At this point, the convention is referred to as "brokered," as political leaders try to persuade these newly unbound delegates to vote for particular candidates. Delegates will continue to vote, round after round, with some changing who they're voting, for until a candidate gets at least the minimum number of delegate votes to win the party's nomination.
The race for the White House can be exciting to watch, and even more exciting when you participate. Remember to register to vote at Vote.gov, and if your state's primaries haven't happened yet, you might still have time to join in.
Stay up-to-date with VoteUSA, USAGov's yearlong effort to help Americans become more informed about the 2016 election. Join the conversation using #VoteUSA or by following USAGov on Facebook and Twitter.
USAGov is a federal program that guides you to tips and tools in English and in Spanish from hundreds of government agencies, departments, and programs. We make it easier for you to find answers you can trust about government information and services--online, by phone, e-mail or chat, and in print.