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What happens if no Democratic candidate earns enough delegates for a nomination?

Possibility exists for contested convention in Milwaukee

Photo by Win McNamee
Photo by Win McNamee (Getty Images)

The results from Super Tuesday offered more clarity in the race to determine the Democratic nominee for president.

Joe Biden reemerged as favorite, Michael Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren got what some might call a cold dose of reality, and Bernie Sanders has to come up with alternatives to regain all the momentum he had going into the night.

One other aspect of the election became clear following Super Tuesday: There might not be a candidate who will reach the required delegate threshold to secure the nomination before July’s convention in Milwaukee.

It’s become a two-man race between Biden and Sanders, but it’s possible that neither could get the 1,991 delegates needed to automatically secure the nomination by the time every primary election is over.

Even if one candidate has more delegates than the other, that’s only a “plurality,” not a majority, per party rules.

So, what happens if neither Biden nor Sanders gets to the 1,991 delegates needed? It could lead to a contested and potentially chaotic convention in Milwaukee.

The first thing that will happen will be attempted dealmaking and campaigning among the party, which will try to sway each other’s delegates to their side, between the last primary in June until the start of the convention on July 13, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Candidates who earned delegates, but have since dropped out of the race, can try to push their delegates onto another candidate.

At the convention, a first official ballot is cast, which is based primarily on delegates gained from primary and caucus results. But if no candidate gets to 1,991, despite voting results and last-minute delegate defections, then a second ballot involving “superdelegates” takes place, according to Politico.

A group of 771 people who are elected officials -- Democratic National Committee members and “distinguished party leaders” -- cast votes. A candidate needs to earn 2,375 delegates on subsequent ballots to win the nomination.

This is a scenario that would likely favor Biden, since a majority of the party’s establishment aligns more with his moderate philosophy.

However, having a contested convention is something the Democratic National Committee will do its best to avoid in the coming months.

Any dissent and division will likely be positive for President Donald Trump and the Republicans.

The last time a contested convention occurred was in 1952. Both Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson and Republican nominee Dwight D. Eisenhower were nominated in what turned out to be contested conventions.


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