While we are in the midst of a heated primary season, candidates on both sides of the aisle are frantically campaigning in hopes of becoming their party’s nominee. The road to the nomination is grueling and exhausting, but the ultimate goal–becoming the leader of the free world–is simply too much for these candidates to resist.

The nomination process can be confusing and turn many people off to the presidential election process as a whole. While it does have various rules and regulations, it is quite simple to follow once the basics are understood. We will work backwards, from the nomination convention back to the primaries, to fully obtain a grasp on the process.

The first crucial thing to know about the nomination process is that each party chooses its own nominee at its nominating convention. Both parties hold a convention, usually at the end of July, where its nominee is finally chosen. The nominees are the candidates that will represent each party in the general election in November. How is the nominee chosen, though? While each party is responsible for setting up its own nomination rules, the Democratic and Republican Party’s nomination processes are similar in the sense that they both use delegates to choose their nominees. Delegates, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, are “individuals who represent their states at national party conventions.” In most states, any registered voter can become a delegate. These delegates then cast votes at each party’s nominating convention for a certain candidate, and the candidate with the majority of delegate votes will win the nomination. The GOP has a total of 2,472 delegates, so GOP candidates need 1,237 delegates to win. The Democratic Party has a total of 4,763 delegates, so Democratic candidates need 2,382 to win.

A reasonable question to follow this would be, “how are the delegates allocated to each candidate?” Candidates obtain delegates according to the results of the primaries and caucuses that take place in each state, but each party does this differently. The Democratic Party uses a proportional method. This means that if Candidate A receives 30% of the vote in a certain state, and Candidate B receives 70% of the vote, then Candidate A will be awarded 30% of the delegates up for grabs in that state, while Candidate B will receive 70%. The Republican Party, on the other hand, allows each state decide whether it wants to use the proportional method or the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method gives every delegate that was up for grabs in a certain state to the candidate that received the most votes in its primary or caucus.

There is, however, one catch to the allocation of delegates in the Democratic Party–the concept of “superdelegates.” Superdelegates are usually people high up in the Democratic Party ranks that are, unlike normal delegates, unbound to a specific candidate. They can vote for whichever candidate they please. For the 2016 election, there are 712 Democratic superdelegates, making up about one-third of the 2,383 candidates needed to win the nomination.

Finally, the building blocks of the nomination process are the primaries and caucuses that take place in each state. Well, what is the difference between a primary and a caucus? While both are means of voting for presidential candidates, they differ in how the votes are cast. In a primary, each voter will go the voting booth and submit a secret ballot for their candidate of choice–similar to how the general election voting is conducted. In a caucus, however, participants publicly show their support for a given candidate. Caucuses are more like meetings, and results are obtained by the voters breaking into groups (by candidate) or simply having the participants raise their hands and counting them. As we now know, the results of these primaries and caucuses determine the amount of delegates each candidate receives, which in turn will play a large role in determining who will get their party’s nomination.

The nomination process can be quite intimidating, especially for the candidates running to fill the highest office in the land. The entire election cycle will be over on November 8th, 2016 when the GOP and Democratic nominees face the American electorate in the general election. It is so important to understand how the candidates we vote for on that day got there. Be sure to keep up with the delegate counts as this primary season rages on!

AlexaBadge