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The race between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to become the Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party may not be settled until the Democratic National Convention in August.
For many of us, it would be the first time in our lives that the nomination process would not be the foregone conclusion we've come to accept from political conventions. The days of floor fights and multiple ballots to determine a party nominee have become a vestige of our political past; replaced by presumptive nominees determined months before the convention through the primary and caucus process. So, too, the days of "smoke-filled rooms" and candidates being chosen by a small group of insiders are gone; thankfully, the Democratic process has become more Democratic.
As a result of the unusual circumstances of this year's Primary campaign, this is the first time many people have thought about what a delegate is, how the process works and how one becomes a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. I grew up believing that anyone who works hard can become President of the United States; well, anyone truly can become a delegate and help determine who the President will be. It is a truly Democratic process.
In Kentucky, any registered Democrat can become a delegate by filing a statement of candidacy with the Kentucky Democratic Party by May 15. The prospective delegate must pledge for one of the candidates when they file; in other words, you run as either an Obama or Clinton delegate.
Once you have filed and pledged to your candidate, you can become a delegate in a few different ways. Each of Kentucky's six congressional districts will elect delegates and alternates at the Kentucky Democratic Party State Convention on June 7. Thirty-four delegates and six alternates are elected from their congressional districts in proportion to the percentage of votes received by the Presidential candidates in the May 20 primary. For example, if the voting for Clinton and Obama in a particular district is 50 percent each, the delegates would be split, half pledged to Obama and half to Clinton.
In addition, the State Central Committee, the governing body of the Kentucky Democratic Party, elects 11 at-large delegates and three alternates at the state convention. Kentucky also has 15 Special Delegates, which include the Super Delegates, a group of 794 people across the country who many Americans became familiar with for the first time this year. (I'll explain Super Delegates, and how that process works in a later column.)
In total, Kentucky will send 60 delegates and nine alternates to Denver this August to help select the Democratic nominee. The means by which they are selected, the ability for anyone to participate in the process to become a delegate, and the important role they play in helping to determine who will be the next President of the United States, make delegates not just an important part of the political system, but a testament to the concept of representative Democracy.
- Jennifer Moore is an attorney and chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party.