You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Delegates And Superdelegates
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
Here’s everything you always wanted to ask but never dared to about the Democratic delegates and superdelegates.
Who are the Democratic delegates and are they the same as superdelegates?
Yes and no to that last question. All superdelegates are delegates but not vice versa. Among the regular delegates, there are two sub-categories: pledged and non-pledged. All three types of delegates will attend the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer. A majority of their votes will be required to name the Democratic nominee for President.
How many delegates are there in total?
The convention will host delegations from each of the 50 states, several US territories, and a contingent of “Democrats Abroad.” Because some delegates, those from American Samoa, Democrats Abroad, Guam, and the Virgin Islands cast only fractional votes, there will be 4,070 delegates casting a total of 4,047 vote.
How does a candidate win these delegates?
The short answer is by winning primaries and caucuses as each state has a certain amount of delegates apportioned to it.
The longer answer is more complex and often confusing. Not all states apportion the delegates in exactly the same way. And, sorry, but there are different sub-categories among these delegates: pledged and unpledged.
OK, we’ll bite. What’s the difference?
Pledged delegates are awarded proportionally to candidates based on the results of the primary or caucus results in each state and primary and will support a particular candidate at the national convention.
Pledged delegates are selected both at the Congressional District, and statewide levels.
So even though Candidate X might win a particular state, Candidate Y can still pick up a number of delegates based on their performance in individual congressional districts. Because different districts are weighted differently than others, a candidate can even lose a state by popular vote but still win a majority of delegates. This is the case in Nevada, for example, where Hillary Clinton won by a 10 point margin, but where Barack Obama picked up 13 over her 12 delegates.
We’re afraid to ask, but are there different types of pledged delegates?
Yes. There are three types of pledged delegates:
Congressional District Level delegates are chosen at the local level, based on the voting results in that particular district.
At-large delegates are elected at the state level to reflect the proportion of the statewide vote a presidential candidate received.
There are also a number of statewide spots reserved for state elected officials (such as mayors and state legislators) who pledge their support to an individual candidate. They are also elected in proportion to the statewide vote.
Do pledged delegates have to vote a certain way? Can they change their minds?
According to the DNC, “this is one of the biggest myths of the delegate selection process. Delegates are NOT bound to vote for the candidate they are pledged to at the Convention or on the first ballot.” Delegates sign a pledge of support, but there is no rule requiring them to honor that pledge.