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The Democratic Party uses a proportional representation to determine how many delegates each candidate is awarded in each state. A candidate must win at least 15% of the vote in a particular contest in order to receive any delegates. Pledged delegates are awarded proportionally in both state-wide and regional contests. In each separate state-wide or regional contest, a subset of the total pledged delegates are chosen based on proportional representation, so it is possible for candidates to win delegates even if they receive fewer than 15% of overall votes in a state-provided they receive more than 15% in a particular regional content. There is no process to win superdelegates since they can vote for whomever they please. A candidate needs to win a simple majority of total delegates to earn the Democratic nomination.
FROM THE CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY WEB SITE
How are Presidential Candidates allocated Pledged Delegates? – Candidates are allocated District-Level Delegates in each Congressional District in which they receive 15% or more of the primary vote. Candidates who receive 15% or more of the statewide vote are allocated PLEO and At-Large Delegates.
[At this time, the only two candidates who have reached the 15% threshold are Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.]
If Candidate A receives 50% of the statewide vote, then Candidate A gets 50% of the 90 At-Large Delegates and 50% of the 54 PLEO Delegates.
DELEGATE TYPES BROKEN DOWN
DISTRICT-LEVEL DELEGATES (Pledged) – 272 and 25 alternates
District-Level Delegates are one of the “Pledged” groups of delegates because they will be a guaranteed vote for (or pledged to) a particular candidate before the National Convention. Each of the 53 Congressional Districts (CDs) are allocated a certain number of delegates based on population and presidential voting from 2012 & 2016 elections. Using the same criteria, 35 of the 53 CDs are also allocated 1 Alternate each.
AT-LARGE (i.e. STATEWIDE) DELEGATES – 90 delegates and 10 alternates
Any registered Democrat who is committed to a Presidential Candidate can apply to be an At-Large Delegate. At-Large Delegates are confirmed by a vote of the 272 District-Level Delegates at the Statewide Delegation Meeting.
PLEDGED PARTY LEADERS AND ELECTED OFFICIAL (PLEO) DELEGATES – 54 Total
A PLEO is a registered Democrat from a particular category (see below) who has pledged their support for a particular Presidential Candidate. To be considered, the PLEO candidate must fill out the appropriate form and be pledged to a candidate who received at least 15% of the statewide primary vote. This group is also confirmed by the 272 District-Level Delegates at the Statewide Delegation Meeting. Those who are eligible to file as a PLEO are those from the following groups:
- Big City Mayors
- Statewide Elected Officials
- State Legislative Leaders
- State Legislators
UNPLEDGED DELEGATES – 79 Total
- Other State, County, and Local Elected Officials
- California Democratic Party Leaders
Unpledged Delegates are all automatic delegates based on their status. These delegates are “Unpledged” to a particular candidate. Unpledged Delegates cannot vote in the first round of balloting: They include:
- California Members of the DNC
- California Members of Congress
- US Senators
- Governor Newsom
- Distinguished party leaders such as CDP Party Chair, Standing Committee Chairs, etc.