Unusual Year – Normal Process – Misunderstood


Not understanding the presidential Election Process has led to some misguided speculation, ugly accusations, and incredibly uninformed commentary.

The common public understanding is that we hold primary elections and the people elect the nominee from each party. Next each party holds a convention to celebrate its nominee. Then the people elect one of the nominated candidates to be president in the general election. Democracy at work, right?

Well, that’s the perception and that’s what it seems like in a normal presidential election year when the nominee receives a majority of party delegates in the primaries. But that isn’t how it works in any presidential election year, normal or not. The perception is that the voters (the public at large) choose the nominee. The fact is that the members of the political parties (party delegates) choose their nominees. The voters then choose which nominee they prefer for office.

In a normal election year the complex political process goes on in the background at the convention and the party delegates validate the primary results but since under those circumstances it does not determine the results, no one pays any attention to it. Note again, it validates the primary (caucus) results but does not determine the outcome so no one pays any attention to the process so it seems just like the public perception described above.

It is unfortunate that the simplified and erroneous perception that ignores or does not understand the process is now the source of bitter controversy, false charges, and worse. After all, they say, isn’t this a democracy?

No, it’s a republic.

In this republic we have an election process based on political parties. In the era of our founding these were called factions. Washington and Adams didn’t like them. Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton did. Thus the Democrats (Jefferson) and the Federalists (Hamilton) and a bunch of others formed political parties and that’s the way it’s been ever since.

At this point in our history we have two major parties, Republican and Democrat (and some smaller parties), competing for political office.

It is important to understand that in the presidential electoral process, each party in each state, Republican, Democrat, or other, establishes its own rules and method to determine its presidential nominee.

Each party in each state determines when its primary election will be held, how many delegates there will be, and precisely how its delegates will be selected. The specifics are set by each state’s party rules and since each state’s party makes its own rules there are significant differences making the national process very complicated. (primary, caucus, winner take all, proportional, district, etc.)

Both major parties require that a candidate receive the vote of a majority of its party delegates to be nominated. Normally one candidate will have received a majority of the delegates at the conclusion of the primary elections.

Game over.

This year the Republican Party election is different. It is different only because by this time in the election process one candidate normally has received the pledged votes of a majority of party delegates.

This year looks likely to be different as it appears that no one candidate will have accumulated a majority of party delegates by the end of the primary elections. This hasn’t happened since 1976.

The process we are seeing so vividly through the lens of the media and often distorted was designed precisely to deal with a case where no candidate has received a majority of party delegates in the primaries. The nominee will be selected by the party delegates at the convention. It is neither mysterious nor is it corrupt. It’s just complicated.

So what happens now?

The primaries are not over and delegates are being selected state by state. If, as seems likely, no candidate has the required majority when the primaries are concluded, the Republican convention will convene. It will be what is called an open convention. It will proceed with the selection process as set forth in the national party rules. Ballots will be cast by delegates at the convention until one candidate receives the required majority.

The Republicans will select their nominee and the Democrats will select theirs.

Then, every American citizen registered to vote has the opportunity to vote in the general election for the nominee from each party for president.

Paid for and authorized by the Beaufort County Republican Party.

Not Authorized by any Candidate or Candidate's Committee.