Party Conventions and Delegates

And Why We Should Care

Democracy is cumbersome, inefficient, time-consuming, difficult, and frustrating. It is one of humans’ greatest inventions. If only works if we really want it. By now, numbers and types of delegates are probably swirling your head. This should help.

First, there are no laws regarding political parties and their processes. State laws control only voter registration, polling places, and election rules. Each party – Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Socialist, and even Communist – sets its own rules for how it will nominate candidates for public office. Generally, the parties operate through committees.

The Democrats and Republicans each have local, county, state, and national committees. The Democratic and Republican party structures are very similar. State laws allow only parties with significant public support to appear on ballots. The smaller parties have their own private processes. Federal law is primarily concerned with prohibiting discrimination.

The argument that closed primaries disenfranchise independent voters is bunk.
The public selects the delegates, not the actual candidates, during the spring primaries and caucuses.
When you choose to register as a Democrat, you get to choose the Democratic delegates. When you choose to register as a Republican, you get to choose the Republican delegates. When you choose to register as an independent, you don’t get to choose delegates.
If you’re not a Green, Libertarian, or Communist, you don’t have a right to choose their candidates.
You live with the consequences of your choices.

The delegates adopt the platforms and select the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates at the conventions.

During the primary season, several candidates compete for each party’s nomination. Gradually, the weaker candidates drop out, and the stronger advance. Democratic and Republican voters express preferences for candidates, but actually choose convention delegates. The two parties’ processes are similar.

The parties’ national and state committees use a complex mathematical formula to decide how many delegates each state gets. There are 3,200 total Democratic and 2,510 Republican delegates.

Each state committee decides the specific rules for choosing delegates in its respective state. The process includes votes by local and county committees.

There are two types of delegates – pledged and unpledged. Pledged delegates are elected at the party primaries in the spring. They are required to vote for their candidates on the convention’s first ballot. They may vote for their choice on subsequent ballots. Unpledged (“super”) delegates include party leaders and elected officials. Democrats are beginning to consider eliminating superdelegates, but that won’t happen this year. Unpledged delegates can vote for any candidate on any ballot.

You can see updated counts of each candidate’s delegates at

As much as some people like to gripe, these rules are not secret at all.
You just have to put a little bit of effort into finding and reading them.

It doesn’t matter if there is no acclaimed nominee before the convention. When there is more than one viable candidate, or a single candidate with significant disapproval, the parties resolve it on the convention floor, through their rules. That’s what they mean by a contested convention.

Right now, both parties are operating on temporary rules adopted in August 2015. The week before the convention begins, the party leaders and Rules Committee adopt final convention rules. Since there are no rules for the 2016 conventions yet, all predictions of candidates or contested conventions are just speculation. Considering current events, I bet we’ll see some interesting changes. Anyone can still win either nomination.

The conventions’ primary purpose is to nominate the parties’ presidential and vice presidential candidates for the November election. However, there are other goals too.

At the convention, the parties will adopt their platforms for the next four years. The platform is the statement of the party’s official positions on public policy issues such as the economy, foreign policy, taxes, the environment, education, and social issues. Each position is a plank in the platform. Platform committees have drafted the statements and convention delegates will vote on each plank. Once adopted, the platforms will appear on the parties’ websites.

The convention is also a pep rally to inspire party officials, campaign workers, and voters. To that end, each party invites some of its prominent leaders to speak to the delegates and the public.

The Republican convention will be in Cleveland on July 18 through 21.
The Democrats will convene in Philadelphia on July 25 through 28.

So, these are my predictions for the conventions: The parties will provide us with a lot of drama but in the end, they’ll get their acts together and choose candidates. They always do. Don’t be surprised if it happens late at night.

So, now that we’ve whittled down nearly two dozen original candidates to just two, we have a general election campaign. Traditionally, the formal campaigns begin after Labor Day. But don’t expect tradition this year. We’ll be lucky if they wait until the end of July.

At the general election in November, the voters express their presidential preferences, but they actually choose electors. The Electoral College meets on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. The Constitution’s 12th amendment specifies the voting process.

Each state uses its own method to choose its electors. In most states, the parties choose their electors long before Election Day. They’re usually party officials, state or local government officials, or influential party members. The party whose candidate wins the popular vote participates in the Electoral College. The other parties do not participate.

Some states require specific votes from electors, others don’t. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia require their Electoral College members to vote for the candidate who won the state’s popular vote. That’s the “winner takes all” system. Maine and Nebraska have a “district system” in which two votes are given to the candidate who won the state’s total vote, and the remaining votes are distributed to the candidate who won each Congressional district. In the remaining 24 states, electors are expected, but not required, to vote for the candidate to whom they have pledged. Sometimes, despite the law, electors vote for a different candidate. They are called “faithless electors” and can face a fine and lose their electoral positions. It rarely happens and has never affected an election.

You should care about this because you are an American. It is your responsibility to know how your own government works. And if you’ve read this far, you obviously do care. So take that caring a step further. Educate yourself. Read a newspaper. Learn about the issues. Lobby your public officials about issues that concern you.

So that’s it. There’s still a long road ahead of


For more information:
Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Convention
DNC Delegate Selection and Convention Rules
Republican National Committee
Republican National Convention
RNC Delegate Selection and Convention Rules
Community Matters 2016 Elections
Why We Need More Lobbyists

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How a Federal Government Shutdown Affects You

Here We Go Again.

News reports have been chattering about a possible government shutdown since July. Both Democrats and Republicans have been posturing and saber-rattling and making a lot of noise, but none of them bother to explain what that means for the public.

First, some background. Each federal fiscal, or budget, year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. Fiscal year 2013 began on October 1, 2012 and ends on September 30, 2013. Fiscal year 2014 will begin on October 1, 2013. Federal law requires Congress and the president to agree on a final budget before each fiscal year begins. They couldn’t reach that agreement in 2012, so the United States government has been operating on a series of continuing resolutions since October 1. That means that the government can keep operating and paying its bills temporarily. When there is no funding, federal law requires the government to cease all non-emergency activities. The current resolution ends on Monday, September 30.

While it’s possible to operate on continuing resolutions, and without a real budget, indefinitely, it has been unlikely until now. The politicians usually make noise until one side or the other blinks. It appears that the Democrats have finally grown a spine and won’t give in this time.  But I could be wrong. Contrary to what many believe, the Constitution does not give all budgetary power to the House of Representatives or require budget bills to begin in the House. It doesn’t even require that Congress produce an annual budget. The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 does that, but not the Constitution.

Until we have a budget, the Republicans threaten to block new continuing resolutions and shut down the federal government unless the Democrats agree to eliminate all funding for the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. President Obama has said that he will veto any bill which does that.

Read More …


Mitt Romney on Food Stamps?

And Other Random Thoughts

Mitt Romney has said that he’s not concerned about “the very poor”, because they have the safety net. The TANF (cash welfare) benefit for a three-person household in Massachusetts is $618 per month. The average SNAP (food stamps) benefit is $264 for that family each month.
I sent an email to Mitt Romney’s campaign, daring him to prove to us all just how easy “the poor people” have it by living on a welfare and food stamp budget for a month. I don’t expect him to have the guts to do it, but it sure will be fun watching him squirm out of it.

Send him a message. Spread this around. Let’s see how much pressure we can bring.

Read More …


State of the Union Address is Tradition, Not Law

Every year at this time, the president delivers his State of the Union address to a special joint session of Congress. President Obama will do so Tuesday night at 9:00 PM. The usual fanfare will accompany the event. Teevee talking heads will begin gushing and gossiping as early as 6:00. The U.S. Constitution divides our government into three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The courts are the judicial branch. Congress is the Legislative, or law-making, branch. The president heads the Executive, or management branch. The cabinet departments manage the nation’s daily business under the president’s direction. The president is the nation’s chief executive officer, just like the CEO of a large corporation. Eighteenth century communications weren’t quite as fast or thorough as they are today. So our founders required the president to report to Congress occasionally on how the nation was doing. Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution says: He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. . . .



Executive Orders and the U.S. Constitution

There’s a completely absurd rumor out there now that President Obama has issued 15 Executive Orders giving himself the power to take control of all transportation, electrical power, communications media, food, and other national resources. It’s an absolute lie. President John Kennedy issued those order numbers–10990 through 11005–and they have nothing to do with those subjects. But many conservatives delight in criticizing Obama for using any of the many tools at his disposal when doing his job. Executive Orders are a particular favorite.

Once again, the goofballs exploit the public’s civic and political illiteracy to spread their lies. They claim that Executive Orders are unconstitutional, yet they didn’t have that problem with any orders issued by Republican presidents.

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