Democratic National Convention

Democratic National Committee Secretary Alice Travis Germond opens the roll call of the states during the third day of the 2008 convention.

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) is a series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years since 1832 by the United States Democratic Party.[1] They have been administered by the Democratic National Committee since the 1852 national convention. The primary goal of the Democratic National Convention is to nominate and confirm a candidate for president and vice president, adopt a comprehensive party platform and unify the party.Pledged delegates from all fifty U.S. states and from American dependencies and territories such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and superdelegates which are unpledged delegates representing the Democratic establishment, attend the convention and cast their votes to choose the Party's presidential candidate. Like the Republican National Convention, the Democratic National Convention marks the formal end of the primary election period and the start of the general election season.

Candidate nomination

The party's presidential nominee is chosen in a series of individual state caucuses and primary elections. Superdelegates, delegates whose votes are not bound to the outcome of a state's caucus or primary, may also influence the nomination. To secure the nomination for the Democratic party in 2016, a candidate must secure 2,383 delegates. This number includes both pledged delegates and superdelegates.[2]

Prior to 1936, nomination for president was required, not merely by a majority, but by two-thirds of the total number of delegates. Unless there was a popular incumbent, something that only happened three times between the Civil War and World War II, getting that many votes on the first ballot was implausible. The choice was an often contentious debate that riled the passions of party leaders. Delegates were forced to vote for a nominee repeatedly until someone could capture a minimum number of delegates needed. In 1912, 1920 and most notoriously in 1924, the voting went on for dozens and dozens of ballots.

Backroom deals by party bosses were normal and often resulted in compromise nominees that became known as dark horse candidates. Dark horse candidates were people who never imagined they would run for president until the last moments of the convention. Dark horse candidates were chosen in order to break deadlocks between more popular and powerful prospective nominees that blocked each other from gaining enough delegates to be nominated. One of the most famous dark horse candidates nominated at a Democratic National Convention was James K. Polk, who was chosen to become the candidate for president only after being added to the eighth and ninth delegate ballot.

The rules were changed to a simple majority in 1936. Since then only one multi-ballot convention (1952's) has taken place.

Before about 1970, the party's choice of the vice-presidential nominee was usually not known until the last evening of the convention. This was because the presidential nominee had little to do with the process and in many cases was not known at the start of the convention. In 1944 and 1956, the nominee let the convention choose the running mate without a recommendation, leading to multiballot voting, and other times, successful attempts to sabotage the nominee by scattering delegate votes for someone else besides his choice, as in 1972 and 1980, led to disruptions.

In order to prevent such things from happening in the future, the presumptive nominee has, since 1984, announced his choice before the convention even opened, and (s)he has been ratified by voice vote.