Election 2016

Why Vote Counts And Delegate Counts Don’t Always Match

Published Thursday, Jan. 28, 11:04 AM EST

In the primaries, each contender aims for the most delegates, not the most votes.

A delegate is a person who will attend the Democratic or Republican National Convention in July. Each delegate will vote for a presidential candidate.

How are delegates chosen?

When you vote in a primary or caucus, you’re helping to select a pledged delegate. Pledged delegates have promised to vote for a specific candidate in the convention.

The rules that translate votes into delegates vary by party and state.

Some rules are simple: All Republican delegates in Florida will be pledged to the candidate who gets the most votes.

Other rules are indirect: Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa select people to attend county conventions; county conventions select people to attend district conventions; district conventions select people to attend the state convention; and the state convention selects pledged delegates. (OK, if that wasn’t confusing enough: The district conventions select some pledged delegates, too.) The process takes four and a half months.

In short: The pledged delegate allocation doesn’t always mirror the vote count.

Then there are superdelegates (officially, “unpledged delegates”). Superdelegates are usually party leaders and elected officials. They will vote for the presidential candidate they choose, regardless of the outcome of their state’s primary or caucus.

Which delegate counts does The Huffington Post report?

We report estimates from the Associated Press.

The AP counts pledged delegates when a party reports them. If there’s a vote tally and the party hasn’t published its list of pledged delegates, the AP may make a prediction.

The AP counts superdelegates when those people declare, on the record, that they will vote for a candidate.

When we write “delegates” on its own, we mean the sum of pledged delegates and superdelegates.