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U.S. Elections Explained: Delegates And Super Tuesday

SaharaReporters breaks down the U.S. presidential elections.


Delegates And Party Nominations

  • In the months leading up to the general election in November 2016, presidential candidates compete in a series of state contests to win their party’s nomination.
  • Each state has a certain number of delegates, or individuals who represent their state at each party’s national convention. Delegates are generally party activists and local or state politicians.
  • For the Democratic Party, 2,838 delegates are needed in order to win the party’s nomination, whereas for the Republican Party, 1,237 delegates are needed.
  • Rules regarding delegates differ between the two parties.
  • For the Democratic Party, candidates are usually awarded delegates in proportion to the amount of votes they received (e.g., a candidate who wins 25 percent of the vote in a given state will be awarded 25 percent of the delegates).
  • For the Republican Party, some states use the proportional system used by the Democratic Party, but other states are “winner-take-all” (e.g., a candidate who wins 52 percent of the vote wins 100 percent of that state’s delegates, while the losers do not win any).
  • Roughly 15 percent of the Democratic Party delegates this year are “superdelegates,” who can vote for whoever they want, regardless of the winner of each state’s contest. Superdelegates are distinguished party leaders and elected officials, including members of Congress and Democratic governors.
  • When the state contests end, delegates from each party meet at their respective National Conventions. Whoever wins the most delegates in each party’s National Convention will officially be nominated. Both parties will hold their National Conventions in July.

“Super Tuesday” Results Explained

  • Each year, there is one Tuesday during the election cycle known as “Super Tuesday,” on which the largest number of states hold their contests. Yesterday, the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia held contests.
  • In the Democratic race, former Secretary of State, Senator, and First Lady Hillary Clinton won 504 delegates, while the progressive Senator Bernie Sanders won 340.
  • In the Republican race, businessman and former reality TV star Donald Trump won 237 delegates. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio won 209 and 94 delegates, respectively.
  • After last night’s results, Hillary Clinton is leading the Democratic race with 1,034 delegates. Sanders trails with 408 delegates. 
  • Trump is currently leading the Republican race with 319 delegates. Cruz trails with 226 delegates while Senator Rubio holds third place with 110.