Small Business Education Series – Delegates and Super Delagates – Post No. 020808-3

Super Delegates

What are delegates?

Delegates from the major political parties are involved in the selection of candidates for President of the United States by such assemblies as a convention. Some of the officials involved in the process are called superdelegates.

What exactly is a “delegate” and why are they so important to the candidates running for president?

Nomination process

To become the Democratic nominee for president, a candidate has to be nominated by a majority of delegates attending the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver, Colorado, in August 2008.

A candidate has to win a simple majority of 2,025 delegates out of a total of 4,049 to win the 2008 nomination. State primaries and caucuses select 3,248 “pledged” delegates, who are obligated to vote for the candidate their state chooses.

The number, however, could change if delegates leave office, leave the party, cannot make it to the convention or if the national party changes what states to include in the final count.

To become the Republican nominee for president, a candidate has to be nominated by a majority of delegates attending the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in September 2008.

A candidate has to win a simple majority of 1,191 delegates out of a total of 2,380 to win the 2008 nomination.

The number, however, could change if delegates leave office, leave the party, cannot make it to the convention or if the national party changes what states to include in the final count.

Who are delegates?

The Democratic Party has two types of delegates: Pledged and superdelegates.

Out of the total number of delegates, 3,253 are pledged. A pledged delegate is elected or chosen on the state and local level with the understanding that they will support a particular candidate at the convention.

However, pledged delegates are not actually bound to vote for the candidates. Consequently, candidates are allowed on a state-by-state basis to review lists of delegates who have pledged their support and can delete anyone whose support they consider unreliable.

Superdelegates comprise 796 out of the total 4,049 delegates. Superdelegates are usually Democratic members of Congress, governors, national committee members or party leaders (such as former presidents and vice presidents). They are not required to indicate a preference for a candidate, nor do they compete for the privilege like pledged delegates.

The Republican Party has two types of delegates: Pledged and unpledged.

Out of the total number of delegates, 1,917 are pledged delegates and have to indicate support for a particular candidate at the convention. They are usually elected or chosen on the state and local level.

Unpledged delegates comprise 463 out of the total 2,380 delegates and are not required to indicate a preference for a candidate.

A majority of Republican unpledged delegates are elected just like pledged delegates and are likely to be committed to a specific candidate. A sizable minority of unpledged delegates automatically become delegates by virtue of their status as either a party chair or a national party committee person. This group is known as unpledged RNC member delegates.

Winning delegates

The Democratic Party uses proportional representation to decide how many pledged delegates are awarded to each candidate.

For instance, a candidate who wins 40 percent of the vote in a state’s primary would essentially win 40 percent of that state’s pledged delegates. A second-place finisher in that primary who wins 30 percent of the vote essentially gets 30 percent of the pledged delegates.

However, a candidate has to receive at least 15 percent of the vote to get any pledged delegates. If a candidate gets 14 percent, tough luck — they aren’t awarded any delegates.

There is no official process to win superdelegates because they can vote for whomever they please. But a candidate can use whatever powers of persuasion they have at their disposal to win the support of a superdelegate.

Republican nomination process

State parties decide how pledged delegates are awarded to each candidate during the Republican nomination process.

Many states use a “winner take all” system. Some states use a proportional representation system in which a candidate’s share of the popular vote is the percentage of pledged delegates they are awarded.

The RNC does not require a 15 percent threshold, but individual state parties may have a threshold.

The unpledged RNC member delegates — party chairmen and committee persons who are not elected delegates — are free to vote for any candidate and are not bound by the electoral results of their state.

The unpledged delegates who are elected or chosen — though they are technically free to vote for any candidate — are likely to be committed to a specific candidate.

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