State Delegate FAQ

When are the national conventions taking place?

The Democratic National Convention will be July 13-16, 2020 in Milwaukee; and the Republican National Convention will be Aug. 24-27, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C.

Why do NEA members make good delegates?

As experts in education and champions for our children, NEA members are strong choices as delegates to our presidential conventions. Being a delegate provides an opportunity to put the interests of our students and our profession at the top of our nation’s political and policy agenda. It might even provide opportunity to influence who will be selected as the party’s presidential nominee.

Who can be a delegate?

Every state has different rules and there are many different types of delegates — but in general, the field is wide open. Any voter who lives in a Congressional district is qualified to become a delegate for that Congressional district. Party activists and state affiliate leaders are natural candidates to become at-large delegates from the state.

What do state parties look for in a delegate?

The Democratic party has deliberate affirmative action plans, seeking to make its delegation look demographically like the state as a whole. These plans require an equal split by gender, as well as proportionate divisions by race, ethnicity and sexual orientation at the state and district levels. We should hold state Democrats to the demographic goals in the plans — especially on race and gender — and help them to achieve those goals. The Republican Party has not provided similar democratic targets.

What are my chances for getting picked to be a delegate?

Because our membership is majority women, we are naturally positioned to help increase the representation of women among party delegates. In past years NEA has had upward of 200 delegates at the DNC convention — one of the largest, if not the largest, single faction.

Why be a delegate?

Delegates have an opportunity to influence education policy and practice at the highest level. They help write the party platform and they help select the president. There is no better way to advance education than to have educators in the room. Plus, going to the convention as a VIP is fun.

How many delegates are there?

Delegates are elected from each state, in proportion to its size and voting history. The formula includes the state’s popular vote for the Democratic nominee in the previous three elections, the state’s electoral votes (which reflects size), and when the state’s primary is held (states get “bonus” delegates for delaying). In 2020, the Republican party will have approximately 2,550 delegates, including 172 from California and 16 from Delaware; the Democratic party will have 4,500 delegates, including 530 from California and 30 from Delaware.

How do states choose their delegates?

Under Democratic party rules, states have proportionate representation according to candidate preference. In other words, delegates are assigned to candidates based on the percentage of total votes they received in the primary. Delegates run for a selected candidate, and the number of delegates for each candidate follows the result for that candidate in that location. In the Republican party, states choose between a proportional share, winner-take-all, or some kind of hybrid.

What do delegates do?

First, delegates help draft the party platform, which defines the party policy preferences and priorities. NEA member delegates could push the party to commit to strong pro-public education language in its official platform.

Second, delegates vote for who will be each party’s candidate for president.

Third, delegates become spokespeople for parties, candidates and issues during the presidential campaign cycle — and often beyond. Simply being at the convention makes them part of the process and part of history.

Finally, if no candidate wins enough delegates in the first round of voting (very rare, but possible), the party is thrown into a “brokered convention.” In a brokered convention, delegates have more freedom to choose how to vote as candidates become eliminated and prior commitments break down. In this case delegates would have power at a historic level. If NEA has a large delegation we could make a historical difference.

What are the different types of delegates?

There are different kinds of delegates and each party has its own rules. Generally the breakdown is as follows.

District delegates: District delegates represent geographical units within states, generally following Congressional district boundaries. District delegates need only to live and vote in that district. Running for delegate is like any other campaign, seeking to influence people to choose you — and the candidate you represent — over others. Decisions are often made at caucus meetings among voters who choose to attend. In other cases they are made in coordination with the candidate campaigns, who want to choose their own district delegates. In both cases, our relationship with voters or with local campaign offices can make a difference.

At-large delegates: At-large delegates are chosen statewide. They are typically selected by party officials or influencers. In states where affiliates have strong relationships with their state party, leadership can suggest NEA members as their state at-large delegates.

Pledged Party Leaders and Elected Officials (PLEO): Many PLEO positions are reserved for big city mayors or statewide elected officials, but some are typically set aside for “party leaders,” creating space for our own member or affiliate leaders to be chosen.

Automatic Delegates (a.k.a. Superdelegates): Superdelegates are defined in advance: members of the national party committee who live in the state, along with party governors, members of Congress, Presidents, Vice Presidents or other party leaders. Superdelegates are not pledged to any particular candidate. In the Democratic nomination they do not vote during the first round of voting, entering only if nobody wins a majority in the first round.

The official state rules to become a delegate to the Democratic presidential convention have been published by each state and summarized by the NEA. Rules to become a delegate to the Republican presidential convention are not similarly available.

When is the deadline to apply to be a delegate?

Deadlines vary by state and by type of delegate. Most deadlines are in the spring of 2020, between January and May. Find exact dates for your state.

Does NEA help?

In past years, NEA has provided financial support and logistical coordination for members who become delegates. We expect to do so again this year, though details are still taking shape. We hope to send a delegation with a strong, shared identity as NEA members and supporters of public education and the students we serve.

How can I learn more?

NEA is committed to seeing our members and leaders become delegates at the presidential conventions. To share your interest and receive updates on plans, make sure to join our mailing list.

Have additional questions you need answered? Drop us a line at EducationVotes@nea.org.