DemDaily: The Delegate Process Explained

February 27, 2020

There are 4,750 delegates who will attend the Democratic National Convention July 13-16, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The locally-elected representatives, public and party leaders will participate in the election of our Democratic nominee for the presidential election on November 3rd.

How it Works
The process starts a year before the presidential election, when the Democratic National Committee (DNC) allocates the overall number of delegates for each state based on the state's electoral votes, the average of the vote for the Democratic candidates in the two most recent presidential elections, and the timing of the state primary or caucus.

Each state then develops its own delegate selection plan, including affirmative action and diversity goals, which is submitted for approval by the DNC's Rules and ByLaws Committee.

The Delegate Math: There are two categories of delegates who participate in the Democratic National Convention: Pledged and Automatic.

Pledged Delegates (3979)
Pledged delegates, who cast the vote for the nomination at the convention, are elected during primaries, caucuses, or party conventions. They fall into three categories:

Delegates Per State (Ballotpedia)

District Level (2591): In primary states, which are the majority, they are distributed and elected at the congressional district level. In caucus states, they are elected in tiers, from precinct or county to congressional districts.

At Large (898): Nominated and elected at the state level, they are allocated based on statewide percentage presidential candidates receive in the primary or caucus.

PLEO (490): Pledged Party Leaders & Elected Officials, including big city mayors and statewide elected officials, state legislative leaders, state legislators and other state county and local elected officials and party leaders.

Alternate Delegates are also elected at the District and PLEO/At Large levels.

From the allotted state number, pledged delegates are allocated proportionally to presidential candidates based on the percentage of the vote they win in a state primary or caucus, which occurs between February 3rd and June 6th. A candidate is only eligible to receive a share of the pledged delegates at stake if they win at least 15% of the vote.

The candidate who secures a simple majority of the delegate votes in the presidential primaries, wins the nomination. For 2020, that magic number is 1,991.

Automatic delegates, a second category, also participate in the convention process and have a vote on all party matters, except for the first ballot of the nomination vote.

Automatic Delegates (771)
Automatic, or unpledged delegates are elected or allocated based on public or party office, and represent longer-term institutional members of the Party. They include:

DNC Members (445): Elected at the local level as Committeemen and Committeewomen for four-year terms. They represent their local and state Democratic party members and vote in national party business, policy and the platform. Membership is equally divided between men and women.

Included are 75 At-Large members, appointed by the DNC Chair and approved by the full DNC, comprised of local party leaders, officeholders, prominent supporters, labor and constituency representatives.

Other automatic delegates include Democratic Members of the US Senate and House (280), Democratic Governors (24), and Distinguished Party Leaders (22) like former Presidents, Vice Presidents and Party Chairs. *Automatic delegate numbers may be subject to change based on status of elected officials.

Under the new rules adopted at the 2018 Summer Meeting, Automatic Delegates do not have a vote on the first ballot in the nominating process -- unless a presidential candidate had already secured enough pledged delegates in the primary process to secure the nomination outright. 

However, if the nomination fight goes to a second ballot, known as a "contested convention," then they may cast a vote for the candidate of their choosing at that time. The simple majority number for victory on a second ballot is 2,375.5 votes.

Current Count
Following the first three contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Bernie Sanders leads with 45 delegates, followed by Pete Buttigieg with 25, Joe Biden with 15, Elizabeth Warren with 8, and Amy Klobuchar with 7 delegates.

Next Up
February 29th: South Carolina Democratic Primary
March 3, 2020: Super Tuesday! AL, AS, AR, CA, CO, ME, MA, MN, NC, OK, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA & Dems Abroad

DemList will keep you informed on all aspects of the presidential election and convention, and will once again be the key source and calendar for the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Democratic National Committee, Ballotpedia

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