Delegates are men and women from each state who vote for a presidential candidate in the national Republican or Democratic conventions. Each state has a certain number of delegates based on their congressional representation and loyalty to their party. For Republicans, more delegates are awarded if the state voted Republican in the previous presidential election and if the state house and senate are under Republican control. Democrats allot delegates in more or less the same way.
The main difference in the two parties lies in the way that delegates are awarded to the presidential candidates. Democratic candidates receive delegates in direct proportion to the popular vote. Republican delegates are allocated differently in each state based on state rules, some in proportion to popular vote, others are winner take all. There are thresholds that the candidates must reach to receive any candidates at all. For example, Democratic candidates must get at least 15 percent of the vote in order to receive any delegates. Republican thresholds vary from state to state with a maximum of 20 percent. This process of having thresholds quickly eliminates less popular candidates and winnows down the field.
The biggest difference between the Democratic and Republican processes is the presence of superdelegates. Democrats introduced superdelegates in 1982, and they currently make up about 15percent of the total delegates. Superdelegates are high-ranking members of the Democratic Party, including senators, members of the House of Representatives, and former presidents. Current notable superdelegates include Barrack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, and Walter Mondale, interestingly, Bernie Sanders is also a superdelegate due to his status as a U.S. Senator.Superdelegates can vote for whoever they want. They follow no regulations or patterns other than their own preferences and vote for who they think will do the best job.
After a state’s primary or caucus, each candidate receives a certain number of pledged delegates. Pledged delegates are people chosen at state or local level and are expected to vote for a certain candidate at the convention. However, pledged delegates are not bound to that candidate and can vote for whoever they want. When a delegate votes for a different candidate, he or she is considered a “faithless delegate”. Certain states have enacted laws to fine or otherwise punish faithless delegates, however, faithless delegates are a rare occurrence.
The electors in the Electoral College are very similar to pledged delegates and can also vote for whoever they want, although this rarely happens. When you vote, make sure you are aware of who your pledged delegates and electors are.