Article Feb 29, 2016

4 things to know about the Republican primary in Tennessee

It can be overwhelming to step into the voting booth. Immediately you realize that you are voting on much more than you anticipated. On March 1, known as Super Tuesday, voters will have the opportunity to choose their candidate for the Republican or Democratic nomination. As we get closer to Super Tuesday, discussions of a contested or deadlocked GOP convention this election cycle have become common. Though Donald Trump clearly leads coming out of the Nevada Caucus, he could have trouble reaching the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination, especially if the GOP field does not begin to narrow.

In years prior, it has been common practice for candidates with fewer delegates to release their delegates to the presumptive nominee. The convention is mostly without drama. This practice has several implications, most notably the symbolic display of unity it shows to those within the GOP and to voters across the country. The narrative this election cycle is somewhat unprecedented since decades have passed since either party has had a contested convention (1960 for Democrats & 1976 for Republicans).

As a result, the selection of those delegates that the voting citizens of Tennessee send to the GOP convention is as important or even more important than their vote for GOP nominee, in the case of a contested convention. Here are four things Tennesseans need to know about a contested convention and the delegate selection process in Tennessee:

1. What is a delegate?

Delegates are those individuals chosen by each state to represent their respective party at their conventions. The selection process varies from state to state, depending on how each state’s party has the selection process drawn up.

2. The delegates you select could impact who the eventual nominee is.

If Republicans enter their convention with no clear-cut nominee, meaning no candidate has garnered the majority number of delegates required to win the nomination, then the delegates sent to the convention could very well decide the nominee for the Republican Party (not the GOP primary voters). This is what would be called a contested convention.

3. What is a contested convention?

In this situation, there would be multiple ballot processes. On the first two ballots, delegates must vote for the candidate to whom they are bound. If, by chance, after the first two ballots no candidate has received the 1,237 votes needed to win, the delegates would then be free to cast votes as individuals. For instance, if, hypothetically, there are a couple hundred or more delegates there for Gov. John Kasich, they’d then have the opportunity to cast a ballot for someone else (likely Donald Trump, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz). This process is repeated until a candidate receives the 1,237 delegates required to win the nomination. Obviously, there are countless other possible scenarios out there, but this gives you a better idea of the process.

4. Vote for the delegates who are pledged to your choice for the nomination.

When you enter the voting booth, you will first see the candidates listed followed by the delegates (broken down alphabetically by the candidate to whom they are pledged). You will have the opportunity to vote for 14 delegates (statewide), then three more delegates within your respective congressional district.

This process varies by state, with some quite similar to Tennessee. I would encourage you, if you live outside of Tennessee, to research the delegate selection process for your state prior to voting. You’ll avoid that all-too-familiar feeling of being overwhelmed in the voting booth.

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