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The Path to the Presidency: Conventions and delegates

As the primary season pushes into the spring and summer, the talk of both parties is whether a candidate has enough delegates to secure the nomination. While the math may be a little complicated, the concept of the delegate is not. Delegates are representatives of both parties’ primary voters, who pledge their support for a candidate. While the primary season may seem to last forever, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, until the mid-20th century, most parties didn’t even have primary elections. A party’s presidential nominee was selected during its convention, where the delegates make the selection.

These days, parties’ conventions are scripted events designed to showcase the likely nominee and running mate on TV and reach out to the party base. But back when conventions started in the 1830s, there was a lot more drama. Delegates would arrive at conventions not certain whom they would vote for as nominee. Party leaders would make deals in back rooms. The American public accepted the nominees because they had faith in the parties and conventions, presidential historian Michael Beschloss said in a PBS Online Newshour interview. That attitude shifted in the 1960s, when Americans decided it was more democratic to choose nominees in primaries instead of leaving it to party leaders in conventions, Beschloss said.

At conventions, delegates take up the baton from the primaries. That vote you cast in your local presidential primary or caucus? You weren’t directly voting for a candidate, but for delegates representing that candidate at the national convention. Each candidate has delegates committed to him or her.

There are two kinds of delegates. Most delegates are pledged, meaning they agreed to cast their vote at the convention based on the results of the primary election in their state. Some states, such as New York, operate on a “winner-take-all” basis in which the candidate who gets the majority of votes in the primary receives all the state’s delegates.

Other states, such as Pennsylvania, divide up their delegates to reflect the breakdown of the popular vote. Say, for example, your state had 100 delegates: Candidate A received 56 percent of the vote, candidate B received 44 percent. In that situation, candidate A would earn the votes of 56 of the delegates, while candidate B would earn the 44 others.

The other kind of delegate, unpledged, is sometimes referred to as a “superdelegate” by the Democratic Party (they are simply called “unpledged delegates” by the Republican Party). These are delegates who can vote for whomever they choose, rather than voting based on the outcome of their state’s primary. These unpledged delegates are often high-ranking members of their political parties – former members of Congress, former governors and former presidents – whose status earns them more say in the process.

So, once these different types of delegates have arrived at the convention, what happens?

Both parties set a “magic number” of delegates whose support a candidate must have in order to be declared the nominee. If a candidate collects more than half of the delegates before the end of the primary election season, that candidate is considered the winner. This is usually what happens – a party’s nominee is determined before the convention and the nomination process is just a formality.

But if a primary season wraps up and there’s no clear winner, the nomination “goes to convention.” This is what people are talking about when they say “brokered convention” – the votes at the convention actually do count, and the role of the unpledged delegates is more vital, since they’re essentially wild cards who could steer the nomination one way or another.

What do you think?

What do you think of the presidential nomination process? Are the primaries a good way to select a nominee? Is there a better way? What do you think of the conventions? Do you plan to watch? Would you change what happens at conventions in any way?
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11/4/2016
Washington / New Jersey
Jackie
Rokosny /Warren Hills Regional High School
I feel as though the nomination has become much more of a formality than a necessary part of a campaign. The primaries; however, have become more about the candidates trying to win delegates than public support

11/4/2016
Washington NJ
Tom
Mrs. Rokosny
I believe that presidential nomination process in our country is very broken. Firstly, the primaries barely lead to united parties, as people either want one candidate or the other not one entirely. The idea of delegates is a good one but could be executed so that people have more power in actually picking who runs the country. Secondly, debates should not be internationally televised and should be more about issues rather than a reality TV show. Conventions are a step in the right direction, because they try to unite a political party, but as seen by this election, it has not really worked out that way. Conventions should have a very detailed plan in what the party wants to do for the country and the policies that they intend to enact or change.

9/2/2016
Sidney Montana
Caden
Mr. Lewis SHS
I think that the presidential nomination process is not very good. First of all, I feel that it is unfair that people cannot directly vote in the election. The idea of delegates puts too much power in the hands of a single person, instead of the people. It does not make any sense that people cannot directly vote for their elected leaders. A better way would be for the people to directly elect the president. That way every single persons vote would matter in the election.

9/2/2016
Sidney/Montana
Laurel
Mr. Lewis/Sidney High School
I think the presidential nomination is a long and, honestly, a stupid process.

9/2/2016
Sidney MT
Brenley
Mr. Lewis Sidney high school
I think the presidential nomination is very long and confusing and the fact that it takes a year to elect a president. I think everyone's opinion matters and every individual vote should effect which person gets chosen for president. I think the conventions are very useful in persuading someone to vote for you or see what your cause . No, I don't plan to watch. No, i would't change how the conventions are.

9/2/2016
Sidney, MT
Jacey
Mr. Lewis
I think that the presidential nomination process isn't exactly fair. As it says in the article, "That vote you cast in your local presidential primary or caucus? You weren't directly voting for a candidate, but for delegates representing that candidate."

9/2/2016
Sidney, MT
Allyson
Mr. Lewis
I think that the presidential nomination process has a good intentions behind it, but is a little too long and is some what complicated because of all of the steps to it. I do think that the primaries are a good way to select a nominee but I would try and make it a little shorter of a process. The conventions seem to take up a good chunk of time and are somewhat confusing to me and seem complicated. No, I don't plan to watch because I do not understand politics much, to be honest, but I'm sure if I gain a better understand of politics, I would. Yes, I would make it a lot more simple and make it run smoother.

9/2/2016
Sidney MT
John
Mr. Lewis
I believe the presidential election is a very long overdrawn process. I think having the idea of having a delegate is a great idea. But being in Montana, we don't have as many delegates as California. Which somewhat is fair and it isn't. I understand the population gap, but it also seems like people from Montana should have the same say as somebody from Texas or Ohio. I also believe that super delegates should not be allowed. They shouldn't have more power than a regular delegate. This gets back to my point, the delegate power is uneven, and should be evened up. Every state should have a level playing field delegate wise.

9/2/2016
Sidney MT
Sierra
Mr. Lewis Sidney High School
I think that the process of the nomination is a good process except for the unpledged delegates. For one person to have that much power for their state, high-ranking political officials or not, is kind of ridiculous. When delegates are sent they should be voting in favor of what the residents of their states and should have to.

9/2/2016
Sidney/Montana
Trace
Mr. Lewis
I think that the presidential nomination process is very a little too long. However, some people like that it is very long so that they can truly get to know the candidate. The primaries are not a good way to select a nominee because I believe that everyone should get to vote for a nominee. I think that the conventions are very dumb to be honest. The conventions should not be scripted. Everyone that speaks could just make up a bunch of lies to tell everyone so that they can make themselves look good.

9/1/2016
Sidney/ Montana
Mackenzey
Mr. Lewis/ Sidney High School
To me i think the presidential nomination process is a little unfair with one vote in a state that state vote could change drastically because of the way that that state does its voting and it could determine whether the voting goes one way or the other. Also people vote in a state and then the highest percentage of that state chooses the vote. Does that mean the people who voted for the other guys votes dont matter? I think voting should be a simple time we should all vote and whoever gets the most votes wins now days everything is so complicated just one vote changes the elections drastically. I dont know if i would change anything to the conventions or what happens to the conventions but ill watch the conventions and everyone has their opinions so either way our country gets nominees and votes.

9/1/2016
Murrieta, CA
Maurice
Mr. Jabro
To me the presidential nomination process is apart of a dual- party choke hold on the government. Since everyone in power is one or the other, with little shown balance. But the primaries are a good way to select a representative of either party. The conventions are a good way to know what they say they're about and what they're for, etc. I don't plan to watch this year, but in four years I'm going to pay close attention. I wouldn't change anything since it's already what the founding fathers didn't want to happen so I wouldn't even attempt to change it.

8/31/2016
Sidney Montna
Autumn
Mr. Faulhaber Sidney High School
I think the presidential nomination process is correct and fine just the way it is. It is fair. On the other hand, I think conventions aren't very useful because voting doesn't matter in them. I do not plan on watching. But I think voting should count In Conventions or maybe we should change the way it should be done since we have been doing the same thing for years.

8/31/2016
Murrieta Ca
Brittany
MCA
Picking a President has its ups and downs. When voting its best to vote for what you want , not just because . Also some people who be running for president play dirty as in they sometimes pay people to vote for them or they bribe them in someother way. Conventions arent really useful as they make them sound like.

8/31/2016
murrieta
ajah f
MCA
i think the presidential nomination is a good idea. its a good way to select a nominee because everyone's opinion matters.the conventions are useful so we can see how strong and educated they are and they can show us how we can depend on them to run for our country because were not going to just point and say hey be our president .. we need to know their intentions. and yes i plan to watch. i also would not change how the conventions are.

8/18/2016
Murrieta California
Lauryn
MCA
I think the presidential nomination process is a great way to chose a president. Primaries may cause a little confusion but are a thought out process.

8/18/2016
murrieta
jazmine c
MCA
I think the presidential process is a bit rigged for the more popular candidate running. In my opinion the primaries could be a good way to select a nominee but i believe it could have been thought out a little more.

8/18/2016
Murrieta
Liam
Clower/MCA
Q. What do you think of the presidential nomination process? A. I think the presidential nomination process is way to complicated for no real reason, I feel we should just all vote and who ever is the most voted is President. Q. Are the primaries a good way to select a nominee? Is there a better way? A. Like I said earlier it would way easier to just do a normal vote. Q. What do you think of the conventions? A. The conventions take way too long and are unnecessary complicated. Q. Do you plan to watch? A. NOPE. Q. Would you change what happens at conventions in any way? A. Yes, I would get rid of it, we just need to pick a day where everyone in America votes for who they want.

8/18/2016
Murrieta, California
Jhun
Jabro/Murrieta Canyon Academy
I think that the presidential nomination process seems right and fair to me. The primaries are a good way to select a nominee because it's more democratic to choose instead of leaving it to party leaders in conventions and I don't think there's any other way because it seems fair enough as is. Conventions don't seem as useful as they can be and seem pointless to me because voting doesn't even matter at conventions as they go into nothing. I don[t plan on watching because they seem pointless and unnecessary. I would change voting in conventions to actually matter as much as they should be, they could also go so much smoother and easier, so yes I would change a lot of things.

8/18/2016
murrieta
alec buydos
Mr jabro
In my opinion, I think It makes perfect sense that you'd vote for a nominee instead of letting the parties to make the decision for us. you dont agree that they choose this person? well you should have the right to vote no then.

8/18/2016
Murrieta/CA
Elizabeth
Mr.Jabro/MurrietaCanyonAcademy
The presidential nomination process that is extensive and dense. Every single nominee are so against each other just so they can get as many votes they can and accept that they're superior than the other candidates. I notice that what they call "perfect" president, I don't think there is such thing as a "perfect" president its just all one big lie. Like think about it, every four years we get a different president, I mean sometimes we do but every time someone has been elected as president there are so many people who will have so much hate and anger. No matter what the president does no one will ever think that they are doing anything good. I don't plan on watching the conventions.

8/18/2016
Murrieta CA
Destiny
Mr. Jabro/Murrieta Canyon Academy
I think that the presidential is long, difficult and tiring. The primaries are the best way to select a nominee for becoming the next president of the United States. The convention's are important because the "wild cards" can help a nominee become president. I plan to watch the fight between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.I wouldn't change anything in the conventions.

8/18/2016
Murrieta
Robert
Mr. Jabro Murrieta Caynon Academy
I think the presidential nomination is very extensive in the fact that it takes a year to elect a president. No, I think everyone's opinion matters and that they should all effect which person gets chosen for president. I think the convention are very useful is persuading someone to vote for you or see what your cause is about. Yes, I do plan to watch. It is very important to see who wins and to see what each nominee is about. No, I would not change how the conventions are.

8/18/2016
Murrieta Ca
Evans James
Mr. Jabro / Creekside High school
What I think about the presidential nomination is that there is no other way to do it because of the long, hard process it has to go through which is worth trying to pick the best possible president for the future. And I don't think there could be any other way to do it. I plan to watch the conventions but i also think that conventions are worth the while especially for those who want to know more about the other nominees for knowledge reasons or maybe if the voters want to switch over from one nominee to another. What I would want to change is the protest outside the building. I may never go to a convention live but when a huge crowd of protesters block the entrances then the exits afterwards it just causes nothing but problems for the protesters, voters, and the policemen.

8/18/2016
Murrieta California
Rebecca
Mr.Jabro Murrieta Canyon Academy
I think the presidential process is very long and has a lot of critical thinking that goes into it. Its kind of funny because every candidate likes to make the other candidates look like their not good enough for the position. They talk badly about the others to make themselves appear much more fit for the job. I do think the primaries are a good way to select a nominee because it keeps everything organized and everyone has a fair opportunity. I do not personally think i will be watching because im not very interested in politics. In my opinion its kind of boring and not very entertaining. No i would not change anything that happens at a convention because i feel like its been the same way for so many years and the system really has not failed us yet.

8/18/2016
Murrieta,Ca
Jabril jones
Mr.Jabro creekside high school
In my opinion i feel like the presidential process is kind of rigged for the more popular candidate running. I think the primaries could be a good way to select a nominee but i could have been thought out a little better. I personally do not plan to watch because this years election is a joke. Yes i would change what happens at conventions.

8/18/2016
Murrieta/ CA
Jonathan
Mr. Jabro/ MCA
I think the whole presidential nomination process is a long and hard process. Each one of these candidates slams on each other just so they can get votes and make people believe theyre better than the other candidate. In my personal opinion I feel like its all one big lie and that no president will ever be good enough or "perfect" I mean think about it, the President has to run an entire country and no matter what they do no one ever think they are doing anything good theres always someone who has something to say. Honestly I think the President learns as he goes. The primaries are a great way to select a nominee that way we all get our opinion or vote. I definitely do not plan on watching the conventions because stuff like that to me is boring however I do catch up on whats going on and then I will discuss it with people

8/18/2016
Murrieta/California
Brian Massie
Jabro/Murrieta Canyon Academy
I think it is stupid. I mean I guess, selecting a nominee should go as easy as whoever gets the most votes. The better way is most votes win. The conventions should just be to select the 2 with the most votes. No, I do not plan to watch them. No, only because it does not affect me.

8/18/2016
murrieta
cameron
Mr. Jabro/ Murrieta Canyon Academy
The presidential nomination process seems like it has been doing just fine for our country even though the country itself is not in the best shape, with debt and the candidates that are running now, this has been the worst election year in the history of The United States. Seeing the conventions and them debating is a process that should have some changes, all they do is try to explain how bad that other person is, the candidates should just speak and let the people choose the best fit.

5/17/2016
murrieta
Marco
Mr Jabro creekside highschool
In my opinion how i see the preidential electio/nomination i feel like there will never be that perfect president or that perfect one the country will always have its flaws no one will be able to fix that and having nominations is funny i would say because its not just them showing how they're the best but they also diss on the other nominis saying why not to choose them and how they cant help us and what not when in the end they cant either no one is the right president this process is a long and hard process.

4/26/2016
murrieta ca
madison hamilton
mr.jabro creekside high school
I think the whole presidential nomination process is a long and hard process. Each one of these candidates slams on each other just so they can get votes and make people believe theyre better than the other candidate. In my personal opinion I feel like its all one big lie and that no president will ever be good enough or "perfect" I mean think about it, the President has to run an entire country and no matter what they do no one ever think they are doing anything good theres always someone who has something to say. Honestly I think the President learns as he goes. The primaries are a great way to select a nominee that way we all get our opinion or vote. I definitely do not plan on watching the conventions because stuff like that to me is boring however I do catch up on whats going on and then I will discuss it with people

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