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PA Delegate Process

How to vote for the office of President in Pennsylvania

[READERS take note: Comments on processes or procedures or facts are welcome. This is NOT a forum to debate candidates. Any comment positive or negative posted in regards to a particular candidate will be deleted. This is an unbiased, non-partisan website. Thank you for your consideration.]

Are you really voting for President?

This year when you go to the polls and vote for your choice for President, will your vote really count? Most people don’t realize that in Pennsylvania your vote for Republican President carries no weight, other than to possibly influence the elected convention delegates.

If you vote Democratic, your vote only counts if your candidate has a majority vote at the Democratic National Convention or the delegates that won are like minded.

If you are registered as an Independent, you are unable to vote in the Pennsylvania Primary elections.

If you vote Republican, you should know that Pennsylvania is the only state in the union whose elected Republican Presidential delegates can vote for whomever they please, regardless of the outcome of the popular vote in their Congressional district.

Oh yes, that is another important point. Pennsylvania does not vote as a whole. Each Congressional district this election gets 3 delegates to the Republican National Convention (The Democrats get more since they have more delegates overall.) The number of delegates is based on various criteria, primarily the number of Congressional and Senatorial members in the state. This year there are 71 delegates in total. 54 are elected, unbound delegates, who can vote as they please. There are 14 other "at large" delegates not voted for, and three “automatic” delegates — the state GOP chairman, national committeeman and national committeewoman who must vote the popular vote in the first round of convention voting. 

The point is, regardless of whether you vote Republican or Democrat you want to be sure to vote for the appropriate delegates who are in favor of your candidate. This is particularly true if you are voting Republican, since the Republican delegates can vote as they please.

It can be difficult as well to find out how a delegate leans, since this is not typically indicated on the ballot. Some candidates will put out sample ballots noting the delegates who have pledged support for them. Sometimes you need to do the research on your own. Pick the wrong delegates, your choice of candidate will not be voted for at the Convention.

The Democratic delegate selection is a bit more convoluted than the Republican method, though a bit fairer to the voter as most delegates are initially pledged to support the popular winning candidate (they are, however, also pledged to a particular candidate in the event there is no initial winner at the Convention.) 

Basically in this election 189 of 210 delegates to the Democratic National Convention are pledged to presidential contenders based on the results of the voting the Pennsylvania Presidential Primary. A mandatory 15 percent threshold is required in order for a presidential contender to be allocated National Convention delegates at either the Congressional district or statewide level.

127 district delegates are to be pledged proportionally to presidential contenders based on the primary results in each of the State's 18 congressional districts.

In addition, 62 delegates are to be pledged to presidential contenders based on the primary vote statewide. And there 21 uncommitted superdelegates who can vote as they please. Currently the superdelegates are leaning toward Hillary Clinton.

(It seems to me the election process couldn’t be made more convoluted if they tried!)
The candidates that will go on the fall general election are chosen by vote at a Convention.  The Republicans have one (this year in Cleveland, Ohio) and the Democrats have one This year in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.) The location of the Conventions changes from year to year. For either party, winning a majority of delegates at the Convention pretty much ensures a win in the primary (a majority for this election is 1,237 for the Republicans and 2,383 for the Democrats.) All elected delegates, other than those from Pennsylvania, are generally committed to the state or voting district popular vote in a first vote at the Convention (Pennsylvania is the “wild card”.) If no candidate wins a majority in the first vote, then most delegates become free agents and can vote as they please (varies from state to state.) If there is no decisive majority, another candidate can be chosen, even one who was not on the state ballots!

After the conventions comes the general election in November - but STILL the vote is not determined. The Electoral College actually places the official vote for president - and many of the electors are uncommitted - see separate article.)

So when you go out to vote – if you are not sure of which delegates to vote for, ask the candidates’ representative if they are there. Better to arrive prepared though, and know who you need to vote for, otherwise your vote may not go to your candidate, as it is the delegates who actually vote!


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