The Inner Workings of Party Conventions and Why it Matters This Year

As the days draw ever closer to the Republican National Convention, which will be held July 18 in Cleveland, Ohio, more and more Republican voters are looking for a way around both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who are largely disliked by moderate Republicans, according to Time magazine. More and more debates begin to crop up over whether or not there will be a contested convention and what this would mean for the party. Is there a possibility that Trump won’t win? Is there a possibility that if neither Trump nor Cruz wins a new candidate could be nominated? How likely is this?

What is a party convention and how does it work? Many parties hold conventions, but the largest political conventions are held by the Democrats and Republicans. At these conventions, the presidential nominee is decided, as well as the party platform. The party platform is made up of planks, or broad public policy goals that the party hopes to accomplish in the near future, especially if their candidate should win.

How is the party presidential nominee really decided? Present at each convention are a number of delegates, or voting representatives for each American state or territory. Most delegates, particularly for Republicans are bound (Rep) or pledged (Dem) and their vote is determined by who wins in the primaries. However there are unbound (Rep) delegates or superdelegates (Dem) who may say who they will vote for, but they come to the decision on their own. In order to win the Republican presidential nomination a candidate must win 1,237 of the 2,472 delegates; to win the Democratic presidential nomination a candidate must win 2,383 of the 4,765 delegates. It is still possible for either Trump or Cruz to reach this number of bound delegates before July 18, but according to USA Today, this is looking increasingly unlikely. In order for Trump to win, 52 percent of the remaining delegates would need to be bound to him, as reported by Time magazine. The possibility of a contested convention or a brokered convention is looking more and more probable.

If no candidate receives 1,237 votes when the first ballot is cast on July 18, there is a “contested convention.” At this point, bound delegates for the Republicans become unbound, depending on the rules of their respective state or territory. For example, Trump won the primary in Arizona. Because Arizona is a winner-take-all state, all delegates representing Arizona at the Republican Convention are bound to vote for Trump on the first ballot. However, if nobody wins on the first ballot, there will be another vote, or a second ballot, and the delegates from Arizona can vote for any candidate they want. If no candidate wins enough votes on the second ballot, there can be another and then another. In 1924 at the Democratic Convention, 103 ballots were cast before John W. Davis was nominated.

Of late, all conventions have been largely ceremonial as a front-runner emerges early in the race. In fact, the last contested convention occurred in 1952, making this year somewhat of an irregularity, and also giving hope to citizens who want to get rid of both Trump and Cruz. John Kasich seems to be the only candidate who has a chance of beating Clinton, but so far he has only won his home state. There is the unlikely possibility of a “white knight” nomination at the convention, or a candidate who is not currently in the race being considered. However, Cruz was quoted by the Washington Post saying should this happen, “the people would quite rightly revolt.”

Alex Houdeshell, Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Horizons

Junior Alex Houdeshell is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the 2015-2016 Horizons Yearbook. She is the president of Operation Smile and participates in Cupcakes for Causes. She is on the soccer team and she runs Indoor Track and Track and Field.

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