When voting in a primary in Illinois, there is a selection choose one of "Donald Trump, John McCain", Mit Romney" or "Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders" (these are just examples and I don't mean it was the same election). You would choose from one party

But then you have to choose your delegates (I will just illustrate from one party here): Joe Schmoe (Clinton) Bob Barnes (Clinton) Jenny James (Clinton) Pete Peters (Obama) Lisa Lisarski (Obama) Kevin Cevin (Obama) Doug Douglas (Sanders) Sam Samuels (Sanders) Linda Lynne (Sanders)

And you vote for several of them. (Again this is just an example and not real delegate names).

So I am confused. Say you vote Obama in the primary, then what do you do with the delegates? What is the point? What if you vote for delegates other than for Obama? Or say you vote for the delegates to determine whom you want for the nomination. Then what is the point of voting for the actual candidate? Can't they conflict?

Please note. This is NOT the electoral college, but rather the presidential primary.

Also, I don't need to say that because I used candidates' names above does not mean I voted for them but does also not mean I didn't vote for them.



1 Answer 1


This can be a bit confusing.

When you vote in many states, you are voting for a candidate as well as any delegates to be sent to the party convention. What's weird here is that these people tell you whom they support beforehand. These people are called pledged delegates

Pledged delegates in the Democratic Party are required to express a preference for either one of the party’s presidential candidates or an uncommitted preference as a condition of their selection. Under current party rules, delegates pledged to a specific candidate are encouraged—but not required—to vote for the candidate they had been selected to support.

So, yes, you could vote for Obama, and then vote for a delegate who supports Clinton. And that person could vote for Clinton if they wanted to. If you think that's complicated the actual rules are even stranger

What is a pledged delegate? A pledged delegate is a delegate allocated to a candidate based on his or her performance in a caucus or primary. The campaigns have the ability to vet these delegates and can even submit a list of names to represent them.

Simple enough, right? Wrong!

2,591 district-level pledged delegates – Not all pledged delegates are selected in the same way. There are state-level delegates and district-level delegates. Most district-level delegates are determined at either a congressional district or state legislative district level.

1,388 state-level pledged delegates – The rest of the pledged delegates, 1,388 of them, are awarded at the state level. And there are two kinds of state-level delegates:

  • “Pledged Party Leader and Elected Officials (PLEO)” delegates. These are high-ranking elected officials, like big-city mayors, who get to be delegates at the convention. They’re pledged proportionally to the top performers in their states.

  • At-large pledged delegates, who are selected by the state party. If a candidate drops out of the race after winning state-wide delegates, their sate-level at-large pledged delegates are redistributed among the remaining viable candidates. All the state-level pledged delegates won by Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, for instance, could be doled out to Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, depending on results in a particular state.

And that's avoiding other primary wackiness like caucuses, superdelegates, etc. The Republican rules are almost as loose, but vary from state-to-state.

  • so what happens to the votes the actual candidates get from the electorate (not the delegates)? say 10,000 people vote, 5000 for Obama and 5,000 for Hillary. They get those votes plus whatever the delegates feel like voting for?
    – Tony
    Oct 3, 2022 at 17:06
  • Of the total delegates available a bunch are proportioned to the candidates by the number of votes they got and the rest are voted for, except the ones that aren't?
    – Tony
    Oct 3, 2022 at 17:08
  • Correct. It's assumed people supporting a candidate will vote for delegates who also say they support said candidate
    – Machavity
    Oct 3, 2022 at 17:52
  • That is the craziest scheme and I wonder whether it is only in Illinois
    – Tony
    Oct 3, 2022 at 18:33
  • So Lori Lightfoot, Eric Adams, etc are these other delegates you mentioned? Are they "super delegates"?
    – Tony
    Oct 3, 2022 at 18:35

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