A Primer on Delegate Selection

For every presidential election, party delegates at the Democratic and GOP national conventions officially nominate their nominees. This year, the New York presidential primary election will be held on April 24. President Obama is expected to be unopposed.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) website posts the 2012 Delegate Selection Mechanism. The DNC website explains that delegates for the Democratic National Convention consist of Pledged Delegates and Unpledged Delegates (commonly referred to as Super Delegates). The total number of delegates and super delegates from the 50 States, the District of Columbia and US Territories is almost 6,000.

Delegates are elected from each of New York’s current 29 congressional districts. Democratic Party rules require gender balance, diversity, and inclusion of labor representatives. For 2012, the Republican National Committee adopted a new delegate selection process called the “Ohio Plan.”

According the NYS Democratic Committee’s Delegate Selection Plan, 226 delegates will be elected on April 24. Another 111 pledged delegates will be allocated based on the statewide primary vote (75 at-large DNC delegates and 36 pledged PLEOs). A set of 47 Unpledged PLEO delegates:

  • 21 DNC Members
  • 23 Members of Congress (2 US Senators, 21 Representatives)
  • 1 Governor (Andrew Cuomo)
  • 2 Distinguished Party Leaders (former President Bill Clinton and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell)

New York Republicans have switched from their previous winner-take-all system to a proportional allocation of delegates. This switch was made to elongate the Republican primary process. Given the unsettled field and apparent longing for a nominee other than Mitt Romney, the GOP contest may be competitive through April. In 2008, New York was a part of Super Tuesday, February 5.

Under the NYS Republican Delegate Selection Plan, 81 of the 95 New York delegates to the Republican National Convention will be allocated to presidential contenders based on votes received in each congressional district. The candidate receiving a majority of the vote gets 3 delegates. In no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the person getting the most votes wins 2 delegates and the candidate receiving the second most votes gets 1 delegate. Eleven “at-large” delegates will be allocated based on the statewide primary vote. If one candidate wins the majority of votes statewide, that candidate receives all the at-large delegates. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, then the at-large delegates are proportionally allocated to those candidates receiving 20% or more of the vote. NY Republican State Committee will meet in May 2012 to choose the 11 at-large delegates. Party chairman Ed Cox and two NY National Committee members (M/F) will attend as unpledged delegates.

For more information about the Presidential Primary process, its history and legislative reform proposals, read the Congressional Research Service’s report: Presidential Nominating Process: Current Issues. In 2008, the NY Times published Sewell Chan’s article demystifying the process of delegate selection [“Mysteries of New York Democratic Delegates, Explained“]. The process has not changed too much since then.