In American presidential nominations, a candidate wins a contest and gets some delegates. What if those delegates won't vote for him? Do their votes still count if they vote for a different candidate?

I'm asking about the Democrats and Republicans, not minor parties.


For the Republicans

I've addressed this in a previous answer, where I looked at the current RNC rules (pdf, hosting webpage). I'll quote from it here:

It's also worth looking at Rule 16(a)(2) (emphasis mine):

The Secretary of the Convention shall faithfully announce and record each delegate’s vote in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under these rules, state law or state party rule. If any delegate bound by these rules, state party rule or state law to vote for a presidential candidate at the national convention demonstrates support under Rule 40 for any person other than the candidate to whom he or she is bound, such support shall not be recognized. Except as provided for by state law or state party rule, no presidential candidate shall have the power to remove a delegate.

The first part (before my bolding) means that the first vote is entirely a formality, because anyone who doesn't vote in accordance with their bound vote is ignored. So the "faithless elector" equivalent cannot happen at the Republican convention. The bolded part is more interesting, however. It means that a candidate can't get around their lack of Rule 40(b) support by suborning enough delegates to get past the threshold - any such support is also ignored.

For the Democrats

According to this article:

Democratic rules do not refer to bound delegates. The delegates are seemingly only loosely pledged to a candidate based on the results of the primaries and caucuses.

But that loose pledge is stronger than it would appear. In some states, candidates hand-pick delegates and file their names with the state or party. Any delegates the candidates win come from this list, and so the bond between candidate and delegate is likely to be strong. In general, pledged Democratic delegates are likely to be loyal to their candidate if that candidate is still viable and has not “released” the delegates to vote for another candidate.

This matches what I've been able to determine by reading the DNC rules (pdf), which (as far as I can tell) only says:

Delegates may vote for the candidate of their choice whether or not the name of such candidate was placed in nomination. Any vote cast other than a vote for a presidential candidate meeting the requirements of Article VI of this Call and Rule 12.K. of the 2016 Delegate Selection Rules shall be considered a vote for “Present.” [Section VIII(C)(7)(c), page 46 of the PDF]

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    "means that the first vote is entirely a formality, because anyone who doesn't vote in accordance with their bound vote is ignored" Does it really? If all of a candidate's delegates voted for other candidates, what would the result be? – NPSF3000 Apr 3 '16 at 18:11
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    @NPSF3000 - I'm not on the RNC rules committee, nor am I a lawyer, but my reading of "in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under these rules, state law or state party rule" is just that: If the delegate is obligated by their state laws to vote for a given candidate, then that delegate's vote will be recorded for that candidate, regardless of what they actually say when called upon. – Bobson Apr 3 '16 at 18:15
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    Thanks. It seems to me that their votes wouldn't be counted at all if they voted contrary to their pledge. Maybe we'll find out. – Ne Mo Apr 4 '16 at 8:10
  • This does beg the question of why they vote at all, if they are only allowed to vote one way. – Phil Lello Apr 4 '16 at 10:23
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    @PhilLello - It's a legacy of the history of conventions. Since the modern system went into effect in the 70's, there has never been a case in either party where there wasn't a clear winner before the convention, so the voting has always been a formality. But having the delegates vote is what they did before this, so they kept it. You could just as well ask why have delegates at all, and get the same answer. – Bobson Apr 4 '16 at 11:19

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