Selecting a party’s nominee for president is a complicated process — believe me, I know. It’s my job to manage the delegate selection process for the Democratic National Convention. I work with state Democratic parties across the country to explain exactly how the process works and to ensure it is conducted openly and fairly so every Democrat can make their voice heard.
4,763 = Total number of delegate votes to the Democratic National Convention (including pledged and unpledged)
712 = Number of unpledged delegates (you may know them as “super delegates”)*
15 percent= Unpledged delegate votes as a proportion of total delegate votes
This means that a candidate needs 2,382 votes to secure the Democratic nomination. The vast majority of those will be from pledged delegates, meaning that the votes at stake during primaries and caucuses will determine who our nominee is.
Why we have unpledged delegates
The overwhelming majority of delegates — 85 percent of the people who will determine our nominee at the convention — are “pledged” and awarded based on primary or caucus votes. Every state is different, but each has a system to select convention delegates pledged to support the candidates based on what you, the voters, say in your state’s primary or caucus. Any Democrat has the opportunity to be elected as a pledged convention delegate — you don’t necessarily have to be a politician, you just need to be active and excited about having a voice in this process.
Over 30 years ago, the Democratic Party created the category of unpledged “super” delegates. These are Democratic leaders like governors, members of Congress, and party officials. We ensure these leaders have a voice in our convention outside of the primary and caucus process: Unpledged delegates mean interested voters don’t have to run against elected officials to attend the Democratic National Convention. Ultimately, each state’s delegation is comprised of a diverse group of citizens like you and the Democratic leaders you have elected.
This is why when you look at our Democratic National Conventions, they look like America and reflect its great diversity. Because our delegate selection process is open and inclusive, it provides an opportunity for anyone to run and participate in our presidential nominating convention.
What’s happening right now
Now, there are a lot of rumors out there about this process, so I want to clear up a few of the big ones.
1. New Hampshire has not awarded Hillary Clinton more delegates than Bernie Sanders, even though he won the popular vote. The fact is that there were 24 pledged delegate votes at stake in New Hampshire’s First in the Nation primary on the Democratic side. Those 24 delegate votes were distributed according to the results of those elections, with Bernie Sanders winning 15 and Hillary Clinton winning 9.
2. Super delegates do not have more power and more votes than regular delegates. Every delegate’s vote is equal, and unpledged “super” delegates represent only a fraction (712) of the 4,763 total delegate votes currently being contested.
3. The election is not rigged for one candidate or another. The rules that I just described were first established in the 1970s, long before any current candidate declared for office. All candidates run under the same rules.
4. The Iowa caucuses were not decided by coin tosses, and Hillary Clinton did not win all of them. Seven coin flips were reported through the Iowa Democratic Party’s reporting app out of more than 1,700 simultaneous caucus events, with Bernie Sanders winning six and Hillary Clinton winning one.
5. The Iowa Democratic Party did not change the delegate vote in some precincts. The Iowa Democratic Party ran more than 1,700 simultaneous caucus events. Because volunteers run each event, there were a handful of issues, as could be expected. However, because of the State Party’s months-long process of training volunteers, deploying new technology for reporting, and integration of campaign staff and volunteers, all of the results were triple checked. When the party found inadvertent reporting mistakes in a small number of precincts out of more than 1,700 caucuses, they corrected those mistakes.
Bottom line: Vote in your primaries and participate in your caucuses. Your voice will determine who Democrats will nominate for president this July. I hope to see you in Philadelphia.
Patrice Taylor is the Director of Party Affairs & Delegate Selection at the Democratic National Committee
*The number of unpledged delegates may vary slightly due to cases of retirement, special election, or death.