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National conventions

Political parties hold national conventions to finalize their selection of presidential and vice presidential nominees. Learn how the national conventions work.

What happens at a national political convention?

To become the presidential nominee, a candidate typically has to win a majority of delegates. This usually happens through the party's state primaries and caucuses. State delegates go to the national convention to vote to confirm their choice of candidates.

But if no candidate gets the majority of a party's delegates during the primaries and caucuses, convention delegates choose the nominee. This happens through additional rounds of voting.

Types of delegates at a national convention

There are two main types of delegates.

  1. Pledged, or bound delegates must support the candidate they were awarded to through the primary or caucus process.
  2. Unpledged delegates or superdelegates can support any presidential candidate they choose.

Contested and brokered conventions

In rare cases, none of the party's candidates may have a majority of delegates going into the convention. The convention is then considered "contested." Delegates will pick their presidential nominee through one or more rounds of voting.

  • In the first round of voting, pledged delegates usually have to vote for the candidate they were awarded to at the start of the convention. Unpledged delegates can vote for any candidate.
  • Superdelegates cannot vote in the first round unless a candidate already has enough delegates through primaries and caucuses to get the nomination.
  • If no nominee wins in the first round, the convention is considered "brokered." The pledged delegates may choose any candidate in later rounds of voting. Superdelegates can vote in these later rounds.
  • Balloting continues until one candidate receives the required majority to win the nomination.

At the convention, the presidential nominee officially announces their selection of a vice presidential running mate.

LAST UPDATED: June 1, 2023


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