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What Is a Contested Convention?

A Contested Convention Is Probably Happening and You Should Be Excited

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You might've heard the term "contested convention" lately either in regard to the Republican presidential race or House of Cards episodes. In recent history, political parties typically have a nominee chosen before the official nominating convention in the Summer. But when they don't, the door is open for a real-time battle at the event. Whether we're talking fact or fiction, here's what you need to know about a contested nominating convention, which is becoming more and more of a possibility.

What leads to a contested convention?

A contest convention happens when none of the candidates reach the minimum delegate count to win their party nomination. This number is 50 perecent of the total delegate number, plus one, in order to ensure a majority. So in order to win the Republican nomination, a candidate must score 1,237 of the 2,472 expected delegates that will be present. In order to win the Democratic nomination, a candidate must win 2,383 out of the 4,765 delegates planning to be there.

What happens at a contested convention?

Typically, convention delegates will keep voting in multiple ballot rounds until one candidate reaches the threshold. Different states have rules on how many times their delegates are required to vote for the candidate that won in the state primary or caucus. However, usually by the third round of voting, delegates can vote for whoever they choose, becoming "unbound" delegates.

There are other rules that might affect the voting, but this will be set by a convention rules committee. For example, GOP rules currently say a candidate needs to win a majority of delegates in at least eight states in order to be nominated at the convention, but that might change this year. For the Republican party, the rules committee is made up of 112 party officials — two from each state, Washington DC, and the five US territories.

Has it ever happened before?

Yes. Of the 60 Democratic and GOP conventions from 1868 and 1984, eight Republicans and 10 Democrats were nominatied on multiple ballots. The most infamous was in 1924, when Democrats took 16 days and 103 ballots to nominate John W. Davis. The last time a contested convention decided a winning US president? In 1932 with Franklin D. Roosevelt. The most recent contested convention was in 1976, when sitting president Gerald Ford narrowly won against Ronald Reagan. You can learn more about the history of contested contentions in this video by MSNBC.

Will there be one this year?

There might even be two. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are still front runners but Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have been making strides in their delegate count and forcing talk of contested conventions on both the Democratic and GOP side.

When are the conventions taking place?

The Republican National Convention will happen in Cleveland, OH, from July 18 to 21. The Democratic National Convention will take place in Philadelphia, PA, July 25 to 28.

Will it be exciting if it happens?

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