Talk of a brokered or contested convention is fast gaining popularity these days owing to the remarkably good performances of Donald Trump in the Republican primaries. The prospect of the businessman winning the Republican presidential nomination has spooked the Republican orthodoxy, leading to a strategic rethink on alternative solutions to prevent his nomination. Even 2012 Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was roped in to assist in dampening Trump’s momentum.

A brokered or contested GOP convention will be the single largest political event in television and internet history. Reporters, media outlets and political junkies would probably trade their soul just to see it happen in their lifetime. It is worth noting though that discussions about a contested or brokered convention have in fact been circulating since December 2015, before the primary process even begun!

It is also worth pointing out that, contrary to popular belief, brokered and contested conventions are actually two different things; the former actually refers to backroom deals and negotiations involving senior party figures, while the latter entails delegates voting at the convention.

Before we delve deeper into the subject, we should probably get ourselves acquainted first with the GOP’s 2016 Presidential Nominating Process.

Essentially, to win the Republican nomination, a candidate must secure the support of 1,237 (half plus one) of the 2,472 expected delegates that will be present at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18-21, 2016.

The allocation of delegates for each state and territory has been determined in advance according to Rule 14 of the rules for the election and government of the Republican National Committee. The major points of the rules are as follows:

  • (i) Each state is allocated ten delegates at large

  • (ii) The chairman, national committeeman and national committeewoman of every state and territory’s Republican Party is a delegate at large

  • (iii) The total number of U.S. House of Representatives seat in each state x 3 district delegates

  • (iv) States that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 are awarded 4.5 delegates at large plus additional delegates amounting to 60% of the number of electoral votes of each respective state. For D.C., an additional 30% instead of 60%, if qualified (all rounded up higher)

  • (v) Fixed number of additional delegates at large for each territory and D.C. (6 x American Samoa, 16 x District of Columbia, 6 x Guam, 6 x Northern Mariana Islands,20 x Puerto Rico, and 6 x Virgin Islands)

  • (vi) One delegate at large each for states with a Republican governor and for states which has a majority in its respective state legislature and Senate.

  • (vii) One delegate at large for states with an elected Senator for the U.S. Senate state within six years prior to January 1, 2016


2016 Republican National Convention Delegate Distribution

District Delegates: 1,305
Delegates at large: 999

DistributionNumber of StatesNumber of Delegates
Proportional311.347
Winner-Take-All10400
Hybrid10613
No Preference Poll5112

  • Note 1: Total includes all 168 members of the Republican National Council who all have automatic delegates-at-large status
  • Note 2: Delegates selection is determined by the rules of individual state and territory’s party committee.

Depending on each state or territory’s primary or caucus rule, these delegates will be awarded to candidates through either a proportional or winner-take-all method. However, in ten states, the delegates will be distributed using both proportional and winner-take-all method (hybrid). In addition, in five states, delegates will not be distributed based on primary election results (no preference poll), but rather, at state conventions which will be held at a later date.

During the convention, most of the delegates are bound by state law or party rules to cast their votes based on the results of their states’ primary or caucus results during the first round of voting. If the voting goes beyond the first round of balloting, delegates become free agents and will no longer be constrained by primary or caucus results.




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