On my ballot in Maryland for the presidential primary, there are separate questions to vote for the presidential nominee directly, and to vote for specific delegates to the convention. The delegates are all pledged to or associated with a particular candidate. This is similar for both the Republican and Democratic primaries.

In theory it's possible there could be a discrepancy between which candidate gets the most votes, and whose delegates get the most votes. What happens in this case? Or are the delegate choices contingent on which nominee gets the most votes?

  • 1
    It would be helpful to include sources that support or explain the main assertions made in the question.
    – Brian Z
    May 26, 2020 at 14:50
  • I've not been able to verify that delegates are pledged in advance but if that is true, then presumably it's the delegate votes that really matter and the candidate votes are nominal.
    – Brian Z
    May 26, 2020 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


In many states, the party will ask you to elect representatives to attend the national convention, where they will be asked to vote for the nominee. As far as "being faithful" to the electorate, that depends on party rules. In most cases, the delegate is obliged to vote for their state as directed by the voters, but that rule only applies to the first round of voting. If it goes to a second round all bets are off. Democrats become free agents in that case

If no single candidate receives a majority of pledged delegates in the initial vote of the convention, called the first ballot, the nomination goes to what is known as a brokered convention, in which so-called superdelegates participate in subsequent rounds of nomination votes.

There are similar rules for Republican delegates. Maryland in particular both elects and appoints delegates, and you'll note they are pledged to certain candidates for the first round. I should note that most of the heavy brokering occurs before the voting, since in 2016 Bernie Sanders himself called for nomination by acclamation (rendering the vote moot).

At this point, you have to trust the delegate to represent your state's interests. As such, many states elect them rather than appoint them and run the risk of having a brokered convention where your delegates vote in some other way.


Maryland uses a proportional representation system for party delegates; the full rules for the Democratic party are set out in this document. From a quick reading, it appears that 65 district level delegates are elected by direct vote, segmented by gender. i.e., an equal number of men and women who receive the most votes within their gender group and district. The presidential nominee numbers are used by the party to proportionally allocate 21 at large (statewide) delegates, as well as to adjust things like acceptance thresholds or correct imbalances in representation.

In other words, say I live in Congressional District 3, which has eight 'district' delegates, and goes 70% for candidate A, 30% for candidate B. The four highest men and four highest women on the ballot who meet a 15% threshold will become district delegates. If not enough men or women reach the 15% threshold, extra male or female delegates (respectively) will be chosen proportionally based on 70/30 candidate preference. And then 21 'at large' delegates will be selected proportionally by the party, based on 70/30 candidate preference.

It's a convoluted system meant to make the convention delegates as representative of the population of the state of Maryland as possible.

  • Thanks for the link although my read is slightly different -- "The National Convention delegates selected at the district level shall be allocated in proportion to the percentage of the primary vote won in that district by each preference." So in your example, it sounds like the district level delegates would be allocated by the 70/30 split, then those slots would be filled by the delegates with the highest vote counts. May 31, 2020 at 15:39
  • @wrschneider: Maybe you're right, I'll have to read it again. The bloody thing has such turgid prose... May 31, 2020 at 15:50

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