In the next two weeks, more than 100,000 elected officials, delegates, party loyalists, activists, protesters, and nonpartisan groups (like Change Politics and Change.org) will convene in Cleveland and Philadelphia for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
But between the lineup of impassioned speeches, emotional videos, and cascading balloons curated for primetime, what’s the actual work happening at the conventions and who’s doing it?
Here’s a crash course in how the Conventions work:
Who are the delegates and how are they selected?
The 2,472 delegates at the Republican National Convention are a combination of party activists, loyal party members, and local party officials, some of whom may even be on your November ballot.
The delegate selection process varies by state, party, and even congressional district. Some delegates are directly elected by voters (Maryland and Alabama), others are selected at state or district conventions by members of state parties (Georgia and South Carolina), and others still are selected by presidential nominees (California and New Hampshire).
What are the Convention committees?
There are four major Conventions committees that define the Republican National Convention.
- The Rules Committee sets the rules of the convention, including how delegates are bound to vote. Most recently, the Committee voted 84-21 against a “free the delegates” push, which would have allowed delegates to vote for whomever they want, and 87-12 for rules language requiring delegates to vote based on their state’s primary and caucus results.
- The Platform Committee often meets with business lobbyists and interest groups and drafts the Republican Party’s platform, to be voted on by delegates at the convention.
- The Credentials Committee addresses delegate eligibility disputes and holds the power to consider decertification recommendations of contested delegates.
- The Committee on Arrangements makes the Convention happen. It’s responsible for the event programming, logistics, scheduling, and everything between.
What actually happens at a Convention?
While many tune in for final night’s nomination acceptance speech, there are four days of delegate voting and bargaining that precede those speeches.
Most importantly, the delegates will cast their official votes during “roll call” for the party nominee. Once presumptive nominee Donald Trump hits 1,237 delegates, he will be the official party candidate.
The delegates will also officially accept the nomination of the Vice President. Though, in practice, Mike Pence has already been selected by presumptive nominee Donald Trump, the official nomination process is the same as that for the presidential nominee.
Drafted last week by the Platform Committee, delegates will vote on adoption of the party platform. While the importance of the party platform has been called into question by some elected officials, agreement on the platform may become increasingly relevant this year as an opportunity for the Republican Party and down ballot candidates to define themselves outside of the leadership of Donald Trump.
Proposed by the Rules Committee, rule changes to the party’s electoral activities will be taken to the floor for a vote by the delegates, effective throughout the convention and until 2020.
Change Politics and Change.org are excited to be on the ground in Cleveland (and Philadelphia next week). If you’re in town, grab a cup of coffee, a quick bite, or recharge your phone with us at The Hill’s Hospitality Suite, 668 Euclid Avenue, daily from 2:00-4:00 pm.