For the past several months voters across the country have witnessed and participated in one of the most competitive presidential primary elections the Republican Party has held in decades. While one of our candidates could still very likely reach the needed 1,237 delegate threshold to clinch the nomination, it is also possible that none of the candidates will obtain the required number of delegates, resulting in an open convention where delegates will play a key part.
But who are these delegates, and how are they elected for this important role?
Delegates are regular voters who all have one thing in common: They’re grassroots Republicans, volunteers and activists who are passionate about our party and the future of our nation. They are not pre-screened for ideology or for whom they would vote for in an open convention, but rather elected for their commitment to our party.
This year in Florida, we will send 99 delegates to the convention to represent our state: 81 of them are elected within their congressional district by the three local Republican leaders of the counties that make up that district (county chairs, state committeemen and state committeewomen); 15 are at-large delegates, suggested by the chairman and elected by grassroots leaders that make up our executive board. The remaining three of the delegates are “automatics” who are members of the RNC (state party chairman, national committeewoman, and national committeeman).
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The initial delegate election was held on March 23, and the last one will be on May 14 — which means that you can still apply to be a delegate. This system ensures that no one person can exert a lot of influence over the selection process.
Anyone who is a registered Republican in our state can apply to become a delegate at the national GOP convention. The delegate selection process is local and decentralized, the way elections are meant to be held. There are no “superdelegates” here to shift the balance of power — just regular voters who represent their communities at the GOP convention.
After all our 99 delegates have been elected, they will head to Cleveland on July 18 to participate in declaring our Republican nominee. Once the convention starts, the first “round” of voting will begin. As is standard operating procedure, delegates have to vote according to their state’s rules and primary results. In most cases, the party usually has a clear nominee with a majority of delegates by this round, like it did in 2012 when Mitt Romney was nominated. However, if the first round of voting fails to produce a majority nominee, as it did in 1976 when Gerald Ford was nominated, the convention becomes “open.” Depending on each state party’s rules, many of these elected delegates now become unbound. Unlike any other state, Florida’s delegates remain bound for the first three ballots. The delegates will continue to vote in each subsequent round until we emerge from the convention with a candidate who receives a majority of delegates to become the Republican nominee.
Regardless of delegate counts, the Florida GOP and I are committed to our nominee and to complete transparency in what can be a confusing process. That is why we have details online on the delegate and convention process to ensure that all voters have access to this information.
We believe in giving the grassroots a voice. We’re not going to allow “superdelegates” a chance to coronate a nominee like we’re seeing on the Democratic side. Whoever emerges as our nominee, the Republican Party of Florida will be ready to assist and rally behind. Period.
Blaise Ingoglia is chair of the Florida GOP.