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Need a refresher on the role of state delegates in presidential elections? Here are 5 things you need to know.
Those people you see waving banners at the national conventions are state delegates. They are sent to the national convention to choose the party’s nominee, essentially serving as proxies for voters back home.
The number of delegates (i.e., votes) a state gets depends on its population and voting history. Some states allocate their delegates (votes) proportionally to candidates according to the number of votes they won in the primary (or caucus). Other states take a winner-take-all-approach, allocating all delegates to the single candidate who got the most votes.
Anyone can be a delegate. While some seats are reserved for party bigwigs (see below), most are wide open. Aspiring delegates simply pledge themselves to a candidate and campaign for a spot in the delegation.
There are different types of delegates. Most of the delegates who make up a state’s delegation are district-level delegates who represent a geographic area, and at-large delegates who represent the whole state. Most states have superdelegates, party influencers who are there to represent the party’s longer-term interests. Superdelegates do not vote in the first round of voting.
In a contested convention, delegates have major power. To become the nominee, a candidate must receive a majority of pledged delegates on the first ballot. If no candidate wins an outright majority, the convention becomes contested or “brokered.” Unpledged “superdelegates” can vote on subsequent ballots, and previously pledged delegates are free to choose how to vote as candidates become eliminated. Voting continues until one candidate wins majority support from all delegates.
Here are a few of the reasons NEA wants YOU to serve as a state delegate at the national conventions.
The parties need our diversity. States strive to reflect their diversity in the makeup of their delegations. NEA’s membership is largely female, and ethnically diverse to boot, making union members a natural fit.
It’s a powerful way to shape education policy. Educators’ voices deserve to be heard. As a delegate, you’ll help draft the party platform, including making public education a central issue in the upcoming election.
You could end up picking the party’s nominee. If nobody wins in the first ballot, delegates are free to shift their votes to the (pro-education) candidate of their choice.
We’ll help you. If you’re selected as a delegate, NEA will provide training opportunities, logistical coordination, and some financial support.
It’s fun. Getting to see democracy in action, up close, as a party VIP, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us.