By TEMPLE LI
What is a brokered convention? It is related to the selection of a presidential nominee at the national conventions of the two major political parties—the Democrats and Republicans—and needs to be understood in the context of the evolution of the presidential selection process.
The Founding Fathers never intended for the development of a partisan system of government. Both Hamilton and Madison wrote in the Federal Papers 9 and 10 against the dangers of domestic political factions. As a result, President Washington was elected by the Electoral College in both the 1789 and 1792 elections. The Electoral College is written into the constitution and states in Article II, Section 1, and Clause 2 that the states’ legislatures are responsible for the manner in which these “electors” are chosen. The total number of members is 538 and the presidential candidates must receive an absolute majority of 270 electoral votes in order to win the presidency. The number of electoral votes for each state is determined by the total number of senators and members of the House of Representatives that each state has in Congress.
However, the simplicity of the Electoral College and the selection of a president became more complex with the inception of the political party system, ironically initiated by the two individuals who originally opposed their establishment. Hamilton led the Federalist Party, while Madison, along with Jefferson, formed the Democratic-Republican Party. Since the constitution did not provide for a procedure, it then became incumbent upon the political parties how their respective candidates were selected. Initially, the members of Congress or state legislators were responsible for selecting candidates. Prior to the implementation of the primary/caucus system of choosing presidential candidates, brokered conventions were common, since, particularly with the Democrat party, the candidate needed to win 2/3 of the delegates’ votes at the convention.
The emergence of primaries started in 1901 in Florida; however, the first presidential primary was held in New Hampshire in 1920 and the primary/caucus system of selecting presidential candidates was born. Primaries differ from caucuses in that primaries are state and local-government run, while caucuses are private events controlled by the political party. There are two major types of primaries, open and closed. Open primaries allow for all state voters to participate in a particular party’s primary, although they can only vote in one primary. For example, a registered Republican can vote in a Democrat primary, but then cannot vote in the Republican primary. The reason this might occur is for the purpose of “raiding,” or voting for the weakest candidate in order to impact the selection of the other party’s candidate. Closed primaries restrict participation to the registered voters of that particular party. There are other variations on these two types, but they are the most prevalent.
In the primaries, voters are either voting directly for the candidate or for delegates representing the candidate and the number of delegates each candidate receives is dependent upon the particular party’s method of determining the distribution of delegates. Each party has developed their own formulas for determining how many delegates to the national convention each state will be allocated and the allocation of state delegates to the specific candidates. For the Democrats this may be based on the proportion of votes each candidate received in the state primary. For Republicans, it may be the winner takes all. These then become pledged delegates.
Additionally, each state has a certain number of unpledged delegates. In the case of Republicans, it is limited to 3 top party members for each state. For Democrats it is a much broader number, encompassing party leaders and elected officials who are called superdelegates or automatic delegates.
That brings us to the national convention, where a candidate must receive the majority of the delegates’ votes to become their party’s candidate. For 2020, the Democrat convention will have a total of 3,768 pledged delegates and the winning candidate must receive approximately 1,885 pledged delegates’ votes. If no candidate achieves this during the first round of votes, then a brokered convention occurs. The pledged delegates are released from their pledged votes and second and third rounds may occur with horse-trading for super delegate votes and getting pledged delegates to change their vote. If it goes to additional rounds, then candidates would need to win 2,267 votes out of 4,532 votes which include the super delegates.
With President Trump having the full backing of his party, a brokered convention is not a consideration, but with 22 and counting candidates on the Democrat side–the majority of whom are progressive liberals, well—do the math! Is a 2020 brokered convention the path to a broken Democrat party with socialism at the helm?
Temple Li is the news editor for Empire State News, where she frequently authors her own editorials (just because she feels like it). She graduated at the top of her class at a mediocre college, infuriating her professors with her conservative wit and sultry charm. Empire State News allows Ms. Li to make a living, and to have a platform to tell people what she thinks. What could be better than that?
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