Democratic National Convention

Democratic National Committee Secretary Alice Travis Germond opens the roll call of the states during the third day of the 2008 convention.

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) is a series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years since 1832 by the United States Democratic Party.[1] They have been administered by the Democratic National Committee since the 1852 national convention. The primary goal of the Democratic National Convention is to nominate and confirm a candidate for president and vice president, adopt a comprehensive party platform and unify the party.Pledged delegates from all fifty U.S. states and from American dependencies and territories such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and superdelegates which are unpledged delegates representing the Democratic establishment, attend the convention and cast their votes to choose the Party's presidential candidate. Like the Republican National Convention, the Democratic National Convention marks the formal end of the primary election period and the start of the general election season.


The party's presidential nominee is chosen primarily by pledged delegates, which are in turn selected through a series of individual state caucuses and primary elections. Superdelegates, delegates whose votes are not bound to the outcome of a state's caucus or primary, may also influence the nomination.

The size of delegations to the Democratic National Convention, for each state, territory, or other political subdivision, are described in the party's quadrennial Call for the Democratic National Convention.[2]

Pledged delegate allocation

Allocation formula for the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

Since 2012, the number of pledged delegates allocated to each of the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. is based on two main factors: (1) the proportion of votes each state gave to the Democratic candidate in the last three presidential elections, and (2) the number of electoral votes each state has in the Electoral College.[3][4]

The calculations for the 2020 convention basically consist of the following three steps:[2]

Step 1: The following formula is first used to determine each jurisdiction's allocation factor:[2][4]


SDV = The state's Democratic vote in the indicated presidential election
TDV = The nationwide total Democratic vote in the indicated presidential election
SEV = The state's electoral votes

Step 2: The base delegation for each state and the District of Columbia is then determined by multiplying its allocation factor by 3,200 (rounded to the nearest integer):[2][4]

Step 3: Finally, the jurisdiction's base delegation is used to calculate the number of its District, At-Large, and pledged PLEO (party leaders and elected officials who are not superdelegates) delegates (fractions 0.5 and above are rounded to the next highest integer):[2][4]

Allocations to other jurisdictions

Jurisdictions without electoral votes are instead given a fixed amount of pledged delegates. In 2020, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands each get six at-large delegates. Democrats Abroad gets 12 at-large and one pledged PLEO. Puerto Rico is assigned 44 base votes.[2][4]

Bonus delegates

The Democratic Party awards bonus pledged delegates to each jurisdiction based on two factors: timing and clustering. The timing criteria is based on when the state holds its primaries/caucuses, with those states scheduling their contests in May and June getting the higher bonus. For clustering, three or more neighboring states must concurrently begin on the same date.[2][4]

The bonus awarded is then a percentage increase in the jurisdiction's delegation (rounded to the nearest integer). A fourth of the bonus delegates are then designated as District, and the other three-fourths become At-Large.[2][4]

The bonuses are:[2][4]

  • Timing Stage 1 (before April): No bonus
  • Timing Stage 2 (April): 10 percent increase
  • Cluster: 15 percent increase
  • Both Timing Stage 2 and Cluster: 25 percent increase
  • Timing Stage 3 (May and June): 20 percent increase
  • Both Timing Stage 3 and Cluster: 35 percent increase


A superdelegate is an unpledged delegate to the Democratic National Convention who is seated automatically and chooses for themselves for whom they vote. These superdelegates include elected officials, and party activists and officials. They make up slightly under 15 percent of all convention delegates.[5]

Superdelegates fall into four categories:[4]

Democratic superdelegates are free to support any candidate for the presidential nomination. On August 25, 2018, the Democratic National Committee agreed to reduce the influence of superdelegates by generally preventing them from voting on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention, allowing their votes only in a contested nomination.[6]