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Contested vs. Brokered Convention, Yes There is a Difference

April 6, 2016

Are you confused about what a contested convention is? Do you get nauseated hearing terms like “brokered convention” and “open convention” because you are convinced that some big baddy mafia types in D.C. are trying to undo your vote? Let’s face it, the main stream media and radio talk show hosts sure love to get people riled up over these terms, don’t they? But, notice they never really EXPLAIN the process, they just try to scare us all to death with their hand wringing over it.

They COULD explain it, but then you would understand it and wouldn’t have to depend on their analysis to form your own thoughts. They don’t like that.

This is why I have a simple explanation of the process here… the WHOLE process itself isn’t really all that simple, but the basics and the basic terminology are not difficult to understand. The further you have to go in the process, the more complicated it gets. But, why get all worked up and spend mental energy over that until it happens….let’s just focus on the basics.

It’s simple. Seriously.  A 3rd grader could understand the basics here. Most regular, non political folks don’t know the basics because let’s be real, you have lives and families and jobs and kids and haven’t really had the time to dig into the minutia of the presidential election, ESPECIALLY the primaries. But take just 5-7 minutes and read this….you don’t even need to file it away in your brain…just bookmark it and refer back as needed.

Here goes:

In order for a candidate to win the nomination at the Republican convention this year, they need to have the votes/support of 1237 delegates.

The total number of delegates available from the states is 2472. 1237 is a majority.

A MAJORITY = 50% + 1.

50% of 2472 is 1236.

1236 + 1 = 1237.

See? Not hard. Not made up and not some random number pulled out of the sky by some secret Republican establishment wizard, as alluded to by at least 1 candidate.

That is a rule that has been place for over a hundred years.

It wasn’t changed to deny anyone a nomination or to help anyone get the nomination. It just is what it is. A RULE.

Well then, what’s all this talk about a contested, open, or brokered convention? Well, the media likes to confuse things to make them more exciting and frustrate the voters.

There is a difference in a CONTESTED CONVENTION and a BROKERED/OPEN CONVENTION. The majority of the media talking heads know this, but still use the 2 terms interchangeably. Don’t let them confuse you.

A Contested Convention is when the candidates get to the party nominating convention and no one has won or secured the majority of delegates (which this year is 1237). IF that happens, then the convention is AUTOMATICALLY contested. That means any candidates with LESS than 1237 delegates before the first ballot or vote is cast at the convention, does not win the nomination outright.

So for those who CAN’T seem to understand how numbers work, (I’m looking at you Sean Hannity), 900 < 1237. Any candidate with only 900 delegates has not secured the nomination.

1100 < 1237. Any candidate with only 1100 delegates STILL has not secured the nomination.

1236 < 1237. Any candidate with only 1236 delegates HAS NOT secured the nomination. Mr. Hannity, are you still with me?? Do you understand?

1237 = 1237.

Any candidate with 1237 delegates (or MORE) on the 1st ballot or the 50th ballot, has SECURED the nomination. If any candidate secures 1237 delegates BEFORE the convention, then they have won the nomination and the nomination/ballot process at the convention are just formalities.

If no candidate has secured or won 1237 delegates, by the time the convention begins, then it is a CONTESTED convention…..this means it is contested before and up until the FIRST BALLOT is cast.

So before the voting actually begins, the candidates have a chance to try to convince the small number of unbound delegates to vote for them. (There will be a few delegates that aren’t bound to any candidate, because of their own state’s rules.) The candidates will be allowed to give a speech trying to win the support of those delegates and they will be allowed to bargain with them to join their team.

Then, the first vote is taken. If STILL, NO candidate has secured at least 1237 delegates, THEN the Convention is considered “brokered” or open.

“Brokered” is kind of old terminology, but I’m fairly sure they don’t use brokers anymore, which is why it is more appropriately referred to as an OPEN convention at that point. It’s open because after the first ballot is taken, then several of the delegates are unbound from the candidate they were originally supporting. Whether or not they are unbound is determined by their own state’s rules, NOT any power players in Washington D.C. 98% of the rules governing the delegates at the convention were adopted by their individual states. Some states don’t unbind or “release” there delegates until after the 3rd vote is taken….but, many unbind or release them after the first vote.

Remember, the delegates are regular, normal people like you and I. They were selected by the individual states to represent that state AND that state’s votes at the convention. We, the people, only really get to have the most say so in electing the candidate directly on the first ballot….if there is no winner or the equivalent of a tie, then the job of the delegates that WE elected to represent us, will basically be the tie breakers. So it isn’t like our votes don’t count. They do. Mostly on the 1st and 2nd ballots. If you don’t like that, then you need to seek to change that through your own state.

And let’s also remember, no one person or committee decides if a convention is contested. It happens AUTOMATICALLY. So the next time some media talking head says something like “If a candidate is a short a few dozen delegates, then it shouldn’t be a contested convention”, they are depending on you to be ignorant and uninformed because all the candidates being short of a majority of delegates is the EXACT DEFINITION of a contested convention.

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2 Comments
  1. Lori Smith permalink

    Very clearly explained. Thank you Jill.

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