BY DREW DESILVER Pew Research Center
Now that actual voting has started in the 2016 presidential campaign, there’s been more than the usual amount of chatter and speculation about whether this might be the year for a contested convention – particularly on the Republican side, given the large field of GOP candidates and the unpredictable nature of the contest so far.
A contested convention, for those who’ve never experienced one (which is to say, everyone under the age of 35 or 40), occurs when no candidate has amassed the majority of delegate votes needed to win his or her party’s nomination in advance of the convention. A candidate still might gather the delegates needed by the time balloting begins, in which case the nomination is settled on the first ballot. But should the first ballot not produce a nominee, most delegates become free to vote for whomever they wish, leading potentially to multiple ballots, horse-trading, smoke-filled rooms, favorite sons, dark horses and other colorful elements that have enlivened American political journalism,literature and theater.
Even before primaries and caucuses came to dominate presidential campaigns in the 1970s, parties generally didn’t welcome contested conventions, especially when they went past the first ballot. And for good reason: Candidates who needed multiple ballots to be nominated seldom went on to win the White House.
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