How Many Delegates Have Been Elected So Far? This Year, The Process Will Be Crucial

The race for delegates in the Republican presidential primary is truly coming down to the wire. Over 1,500 delegates have been doled out so far, yet none of the candidates have won the 1,237 needed to clinch the nomination. But amidst all of these tallies, it’s easy to forget that most of the individuals who will serve as delegates haven’t actually been chosen yet. So, how many delegates have been elected so far?

Before we get into the weeds here, it’s important to distinguish between delegate allocation and delegate election. Allocation is the thing we’ve been paying attention to since the Iowa caucuses — it’s the process by which candidates “win” delegates in statewide primaries and caucuses. Delegate election, on the other hand, refers to the selection of the actual human beings who will serve as delegates at the national convention. This process takes place over the course of several months.

So, how many of these spots have been filled? About 549 of the 2,472 total delegates have been elected as of April 1, according to one estimate. It’s tricky to give an exact number, though, because delegates are elected in a highly decentralized fashion. Some of them are elected on a statewide basis, some are elected in individual congressional districts, and some are even appointed by the candidates themselves. It all depends on the state.

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In most years, the election of delegates is a formality, because usually, one candidate wins a majority of them in the primaries. When this happens, the actual identities of the delegates are irrelevant, because a majority of them are required to vote for the winner on the first round of ballots anyway. But because this year’s convention may well be contested, the identities of the delegates is crucial.

At a contested convention, delegates have to conduct multiple rounds of voting, and after the first round, many of them will be free to vote for whichever candidate they want.* That makes their personal decision-making processes extremely important, because collectively, they get to decide who the nominee is. As such, the candidates and their campaigns are working diligently right now to ensure that their supporters get elected to delegate slots.

If this year’s GOP convention is indeed contested, it’ll be the most unpredictable nominating convention in at least 40 years, and the delegates — who are usually nothing more than human props in funny hats — will suddenly hold the fate of the nation in their hands.

*A minority of states don’t unbind their delegates until after the second or even third round of voting.