How to Win the Democratic Nomination if There is a Contested Convention


Here we are again. It’s like Groundhog Day but on a four-year cycle.

Every time another presidential election rolls around, talk about the potential of a contested convention bubbles up. It appears to be some sort of political pundit parlor game — going over multiple scenarios about what might happen in the case of a contested (or brokered) convention.

Except this year, a contested convention seems far more likely due to a large number of candidates who are doing well in the polls. The reality of contested convention was being talked about as early as last summer. So, how does this all work? How do you get the nomination in a scenario like the one we have in 2020?

The Normal Scenario

First, let’s do a quick review of how it normally works.

As every state and territory holds its presidential primary or caucus, a certain number of delegates get awarded to any candidate who clears the 15% threshold. You can see an updated list of delegates awarded HERE. There are a total of 3,979 delegates–here is the number of Democratic delegates each state awards:

Screen Shot 2020-02-20 at 8.26.00 PM

Those assigned delegates pledge to cast a vote for a specific candidate when they go to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee in mid-July. If one candidate gets a majority of pledged delegates, (which this year is 1,991 delegates, which translates to 1,991 guaranteed votes at the convention), then that candidate automatically becomes the Democratic nominee for president.

If, however, no one candidate emerges from the first convention ballot with 1,991 votes, we will have a contested convention, and a second vote will be taken.

A Contested Convention

The last time the Democrats had to go to a second ballot was in 1952. It bears repeating that this doesn’t happen very often. But this year, with such a big field of viable candidates, it seems like it could be a possibility.

If we go to a contested convention, all of the delegates that were chosen through the state primary/caucus process would become “unbound,” i.e. on the second ballot, they could vote for whoever they want to. Also, superdelegates enter the picture.

One big difference from 2016 is that no superdelegates (or “automatic delegates,” as they are separate from the state-assigned delegate system) can vote on the first ballot. They only get to vote if we move to a contested convention. Superdelegates are made up of a selection of Democratic governors, Democratic members of Congress, elected members of the DNC, and other party leaders.

Now, at this point, it is anyone’s guess what happens if we go to a second vote at the convention. There are oodles of articles being written right now by political reporters about this very scenario. Just Google “contested convention” or “brokered convention.” Politics is fluid and this primary season has already proved to be particularly dynamic. One candidate catches fire while another one fades, and then two weeks later, everything gets turned upside down.

But ultimately, a second vote will be taken, and whichever candidate gets a majority of the votes (from both the delegates and the superdelegates) will become our nominee.

One Final Word

I want to point out that just today, news broke that our intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia is once again meddling in our election and that their aim is to help Trump get re-elected. Among other tactics, they will flood our social media with disinformation and try to get Democrats to fight one another. It is perfectly normal for us to have our preferred candidates and to disagree on who our nominee should be, but please, be aware that what you’re reading could be a normal conversation with a fellow American, but you could be reading something from a malicious account or an American who has been affected by the posts of a bad actor. Be vigilant. Know what to look for.

At the end of the day, we have to take the presidency away from Trump. Full stop.

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10 replies

  1. Excellent summation and information! Thank you … I shall re-blog!

  2. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Our friend TokyoSand, who last year brought us summaries of all the leading candidates, and every week brings us a compilation of great cartoons, has written a very informative post explaining how a contested convention would work, in the event that no one democratic candidate has a clear majority at the end of the primary/caucus season. Please take a look at it, for this may well be the year that we do have a contested convention! Thank you, TokyoSand!

  3. Reblogged this on 1EarthUnited and commented:
    Thx for taking the time to explain the process of a contested convention. It seems this year DNC insiders are manipulating the popular and delegate vote count against Bernie Sanders…. again.
    A brokered convention is all but inevitable as Bernie may win the popular but lose the nomination due to lack of majority. Anything to keep the status quo, including blaming Russia for social media faux pas and Bernie Bros.
    As long as Bernie loses, both establishment parties win, even if that means 4 more years of Trump. *Sigh*


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