Democratic and Republican delegate rules: Demystifying the presidential nominee selection process

The 2020 Democratic and Republican presidential nominees will be selected by delegates at each party’s national convention in the summer of 2020. Delegates are individuals chosen by various means to represent their state or territory at the conventions. Each party has a different number of delegates and different methods by which they are allocated to presidential primary candidates.
In 2020, the Democratic Party will have an estimated 4,532 delegates: 3,768 pledged delegates and 764 automatic delegates—more commonly known as superdelegates (who make up 16.9 percent of total delegates).
Pledged Democratic delegates are allocated proportionally based on the outcome of each state’s primary contest.
A rule change following the 2016 presidential election prohibits Democratic automatic delegates, who are not bound to vote based on states’ primary contests, from voting on the first ballot at the national convention, meaning they will only play a role in selecting the 2020 Democratic nominee if no candidate receives a majority of pledged delegates in the first round of voting.
The Republican Party will have an estimated 2,550 delegates: 2,440 pledged delegates and 110 unbound delegates (4.3 percent of total delegates). Republican pledged delegate allocation rules are largely set by state parties and state laws. States use a variety of methods to allocate Republican delegates, including winner-take-all, proportional, and hybrid methods.
A candidate from each party must win a majority of that party’s delegates to be named the nominee. Based on current estimates, a Democratic candidate must receive at least 1,885 delegates (or 2,267 if past the first convention ballot) and a Republican candidate must receive at least 1,276 delegates to become the parties’ presidential nominees.
For more information on delegate rules by party, including maps of delegate counts and allocation methods by state, charts showing percentages of pledged delegates awarded over time, and descriptions of different types of delegates, see our coverage below.

Bold Justice: SCOTUS issues three new opinions

We #SCOTUS, so you don’t have to


The Supreme Court has finished hearing arguments for its October 2018-2019 term. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.


SCOTUS has ruled on three cases since our May 6 issue. The court has issued rulings in33 cases so far this term. Thirty-nine cases are still under deliberation. 

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS ruled on since May 6: 

May 13, 2019

Robert Pepper and other plaintiffs filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple Inc., alleging the company was monopolizing the market for iPhone apps. Apple controls which apps can be sold through its App Store and keeps 30 percent of sales from apps developed by third-party developers that are sold in the App Store. A U.S. District Court dismissed the case. Citing the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, the district court ruled App Store customers could not sue for antitrust violations because they are purchasing their apps directly from the developers, not Apple. According to Illinois Brick, “only the overcharged direct purchaser, and not others in the chain of manufacture or distribution” are able to sue for antitrust violations. The 9th Circuit Court reversed the dismissal, ruling that consumers are purchasing from Apple, not the app developers.

The outcome: In a 5-4 opinion, the court affirmed the 9th Circuit’s ruling, holding that people who purchase apps through Apple’s App Store are direct consumers and can sue  Apple for having a monopoly in the market and increasing prices. Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Justice Neil Gorsuch authored the dissenting opinion and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. 

May 13, 2019

After serving time in prison for being part of a fraudulent subcontracting scheme, Billy Joe Hunt, a Parsons Corporation employee, filed a lawsuit alleging that Parsons and Cochise Consultancy Inc. violated the False Claims Act (FCA). Parsons and Cochise argued the statute of limitations barred Hunt’s claim. The statute requires a violation to be brought within six years of the violation or three years “after the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the United States charged with responsibility to act in the circumstances.” The district court granted the contractors’ motion to dismiss, but the 11th Circuit reversed and remanded the case.

The outcome: In a 9-0 opinion, the court held that a relator (private citizen) in a False Claims Act qui tam action lawsuit can rely on the statute of limitations, but the relator is not an official of the United States. A qui tam action refers to a lawsuit brought by a private citizen against a company who is believed to be in violation of the law in performing a contract with the government.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion of the court.

May 13, 2019

In 1993, Gilbert Hyatt, a computer chip inventor, was audited by the Franchise Tax Board of California (FTB). Hyatt had moved from California to Nevada, and FTB said he owed $1.8 million in state income taxes, along with other penalties. “Hyatt sued FTB in Nevada state court for several intentional tort and bad faith conduct claims. FTB argued that the Nevada courts were required to give FTB the full immunity to which it would be entitled under California law,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

In Hyatt I, decided in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Nevada courts did not have to give FTB full immunity, and a Nevada district court awarded Hyatt over $400 million in damages. In Hyatt II, decided in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 4-4 ruling on whether to overrule Nevada v. Hall, which permits a state to be sued in another state’s courts without its consent. The court also issued a separate ruling that limited the amount of damages Nevada courts could award.

FTB appealed the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case for the third time. In a 5-4 decision, the court overruled Nevada v. Hall and established that a state cannot be sued in another state’s courts without its consent. Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the opinion of the court. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh.

Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the upcoming dates of interest in May and June:

  • May 20: SCOTUS will release orders.
    • When SCOTUS releases orders, they grant or deny review on the merits in a case. They can also issue other orders, such as granting or denying a request to participate in oral argument, according to SCOTUSblog.
  • May 23: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices where justices decide which cases to accept or reject and discuss and vote on cases heard since the previous conference.
  • May 28: SCOTUS will release orders.
  • May 30: SCOTUS will conference.
  • June 3: SCOTUS will release orders.

SCOTUS trivia

What is it called when the court publishes a decision without indicating authorship?

  1. per curiam decision →
  2. A unanimous decision →
  3. A decision dismissed as improvidently granted →
  4. A 5-4 decision →

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action


The Senate has confirmed five nominees since our May 6 issue.

The Senate has confirmed 107 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—65 district court judges, 40 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.


President Trump announced no new Article III nominees since our May 6 edition.

The president has announced 186 Article III judicial nominations since taking office Jan. 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017 and 92 in 2018. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.


The federal judiciary currently has 144 vacancies. As of publication, there were 62 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, an additional 15 judges have announced their intention to leave active judicial status during Trump’s first term.

For more information on judicial vacancies during Trump’s first term, click here.

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee reported four new nominees out of committee since our May 6 edition.

  • Jeff Brown, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
  • Robert Colville, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Stephanie Haines, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Brantley Starr, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count, published on the last Wednesday of each month, monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, if you prefer, we also maintain a list of individuals President Trump has nominated.

Court in the spotlight

In each issue of Bold Justice, we highlight a federal court you should know more about. Right now, we’re taking a closer look at the 94 U.S. District Courts. The district courts are the general trial courts of the U.S. federal court system.

There is at least one judicial district for each state, and one each for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.  

In this edition, we’re checking in on the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. The District of Rhode Island has original jurisdiction over cases filed in the state. The District Court was created in 1790 when Rhode Island ratified the Constitution.

Decisions of the court may be appealed to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

The District of Rhode Island has three authorized judgeships. There is currently one vacancy. The breakdown of current active judges by appointing president is:

  • Barack Obama (D): One judge
  • George W. Bush (R): One judge

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on June 3 with a new edition of Bold Justice.

State Sen. Dan Bishop (R) will face Dan McCready (D) in the NC-09 special election

State Sen. Dan Bishop (R) won the Republican primary in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District special election with 48 percent of the vote in a field of 10 candidates. It was the largest Republican primary field in the district since 2012.
With Bishop receiving more than 30 percent support, a Republican primary runoff is unnecessary and the general election will be held on September 10.
Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing (R) came in second with 20 percent of the vote. Club for Growth, which endorsed Bishop, spent more than $78,000 on ads against Rushing.
The National Association of Realtors was the biggest spender in the race, putting $1.3 million into TV and radio ads supporting realtor Leigh Thomas Brown (R). She came fourth in the race behind former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour (R) with 9 percent support.
Bishop will face Dan McCready (D) in the general election. McCready, the Democratic nominee in 2018, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
The special election was called following an investigation by the state Board of Elections into alleged absentee voter fraud in the 2018 election.

What happens if more than 20 Democrats qualify for the first presidential primary debate?

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced that the first set of Democratic presidential primary debates will be held in the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami on June 26 and 27, 2019.
Author Marianne Williamson (D) announced last week that she had met the fundraising threshold to qualify for the first debates by having more than 65,000 unique contributors. A candidate can also qualify for the debates by reaching 1 percent support or more in three national or early voting state polls.
A maximum of 20 candidates—10 per night of the debate—will be able to participate, according to the DNC. With Williamson being the 18th Democratic candidate to qualify, there are two places left on the debate stage and four more notable Democratic candidates competing for a spot.
If more than 20 candidates qualify, the DNC will use the following three tiebreakers, in order, to determine who will participate:
  • Candidates that meet both the polling and fundraising thresholds
  • Candidates with the highest average poll performance
  • Candidates with the largest number of unique donors
The four Democratic candidates who have not yet qualified are Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam (D), and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).
Candidates have until June 12 to meet the qualifying thresholds for the first set of debates.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) announces retirement after nearly three decades in Congress

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) announced on May 4 that he would retire at the end of his term in 2020. Enzi was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and previously served in the U.S. House (1991-1996) and the Wyoming House of Representatives (1987-1991). He last won re-election in 2014, defeating his Democratic opponent by 54.8 percentage points.
Enzi is the fourth U.S. senator to announce his retirement ahead of the 2020 elections. Democrat Tom Udall (N.M.) and Republicans Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Pat Roberts (Ks.) are also not seeking re-election. Six U.S. House members—three Democrats and three Republicans—have announced that they will not seek re-election or will run for another office. Fifty-five members of Congress did not seek re-election in 2018—37 Republicans and 18 Democrats.
Election forecasters rated Wyoming “Safe Republican” in the 2018 election cycle. Given the state’s partisan lean, the Republican primary in the race to replace Enzi will be important. During the 2018 cycle, Ballotpedia covered 10 battleground U.S. Senate primaries—two for Democratic-held seats and eight for Republican-held seats. The Republican primaries in Arizona and Utah were for seats where no incumbent was running. Three of the primaries (Delaware Democratic primary, Utah Republican primary, and Virginia Republican primary) were in seats that were not rated competitive in the general election.
Additional reading:

Ten Republicans running in NC-09 special election primary

Ten Republicans are running in the primary for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District special election Tuesday. The election was called in February after the state Board of Elections investigated allegations of absentee ballot fraud in the 2018 general election and declined to certify its results. It is one of four special elections scheduled for the 116th Congress.
Dan McCready (D), who faced Mark Harris (R) in the general election last year, is running for the seat again. He is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
With ten candidates running, it is the largest Republican primary field in the district since 2012. A candidate must receive at least 30 percent support or more to proceed to the general election. If not, a Republican primary runoff will be held on September 10, 2019, between the top two candidates.
In a survey from Public Policy Polling conducted last week, state Sen. Dan Bishop (R) had 31 percent support. Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing (R) and former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour (R) followed with 17 and 9 percent support, respectively. The poll’s margin of error was five percent.
The race has received attention from satellite groups. The National Association of Realtors has been the biggest spender, putting $1.3 million into TV and radio ads to support realtor Leigh Thomas Brown (R). Club for Growth has also entered the race, endorsing Bishop and spending five figures against Rushing.
Six other candidates are running: attorney Chris Anglin (R), real estate agent Kathie Day (R), former Charlotte mayoral candidate Gary Dunn (R), sales manager Stevie Rivenbark (R), former state Sen. Fern Shubert (R), and nuclear engineer Albert Wiley Jr. (R).

President Trump’s total confirmed judges moves past 100

This week, the U.S. Senate confirmed five judicial nominees to U.S. District Courts. The Senate has now confirmed 102 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—63 district court judges, 37 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017. At the end of the 115th Congress in January 2019, the Senate had confirmed 85 of the president’s judicial nominees.
The confirmed nominees are:
  • J. Campbell Barker, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • Andrew Brasher, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama
  • Raúl Arias-Marxuach, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
  • Joshua Wolson, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Rodolfo Ruiz, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida
Barker and Brasher were confirmed along party lines, with all Republicans voting “yea” and all Democrats voting “nay.” Wolson was confirmed 65-33 with 11 Democrats and independent Angus King voting in favor. Arias-Marxuach and Ruiz were confirmed on bipartisan votes of 95-3 and 90-8, respectively.
The confirmed nominees were part of the first 10 nominees to be confirmed to a U.S. District Court under a new precedent the Senate established. On April 3, 2019, the U.S. Senate voted 51-48 in favor of a change to chamber precedent lowering the maximum time allowed for debate on executive nominees to posts below the Cabinet level and on nominees to district court judgeships from 30 hours after invoking cloture to two.
The change was passed under a procedure which requires 51 votes rather than 60 that is often referred to as the nuclear option. It was the third use of the nuclear option in Senate history. In 2013, it was used to eliminate the 60-vote threshold to confirm presidential nominees, except those to the Supreme Court. In 2017, it was used to eliminate the 60-vote threshold required to confirm Supreme Court nominees.
President Donald Trump inherited 108 lifetime federal judicial vacancies requiring a presidential nomination when he was inaugurated on January 20, 2017. Across 890 federal judicial positions, there was an average of 141 vacancies a month from February 2017 to May 2019.

Republicans head to primary runoff in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District

Greg Murphy and Joan Perry advanced from a field of 17 candidates in Tuesday night’s Republican primary. A runoff election will take place on July 9. The winner of that runoff will run in the general election on September 10. The election will fill the vacancy left by Walter Jones (R), who died on February 10, 2019.
Murphy received 22.5 percent of the vote, which was short of the 30 percent needed to avoid a runoff election. Perry received 15.4 percent of the vote. Murphy led the field in primary fundraising, while Perry received the endorsement of Susan B. Anthony List.
The winner of the July runoff will face Allen Thomas (D) and Tim Harris (L) in the general election. Thomas won the Democratic primary outright with 49.9 percent of the vote, while Harris won the Libertarian primary with 56.4 percent of the vote.

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) launches third presidential bid

Joe Biden (D) announced Thursday that he was running for president of the United States, marking the third presidential bid by the former vice president. He joins a crowded primary field with 20 other notable Democratic elected officials and public figures running.
Biden framed his campaign as a direct challenge to President Donald Trump (R). “I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation—who we are—and I cannot stand by and watch that happen,” he said in his announcement video.
Greg Schultz, who served as Ohio state director for former President Barack Obama (D), will manage Biden’s campaign. Other senior advisers include Kate Bedingfield as communications director, Pete Kavanaugh as deputy campaign manager, Erin Wilson as national political director, and Olympian Michelle Kwan as surrogates director.
Fourteen vice presidents have reached the Oval Office in U.S. history, nine by succession and five by election.

25 candidates running in primaries for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District special election

Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian primaries in the special election for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District will take place on Tuesday, April 30.
Twenty-five candidates are running in the two primaries. The winner of the special election will succeed former Rep. Walter Jones (R), who died in February 2019. Jones had held the seat since 1995 and never received less than 60 percent of the vote dating back to 2000.
There are 17 Republican candidates, including six elected officials and six candidates with backgrounds in politics or notable endorsements. State Rep. Greg Murphy leads the field in fundraising at $320,000. Two notable outside groups have issued endorsements in the race: Club for Growth PAC backs Celeste Cairns and Susan B. Anthony List backs Joan Perry. Both groups have made ad buys on behalf of their preferred candidate, with Cairns also getting an ad buy from Awake Carolina and Perry getting one from Winning for Women.
There are six Democratic candidates. Two have raised more than $100,000: Allen Thomas ($255,000) and Richard Bew ($125,000). Thomas is the former mayor of Greenville, and Bew is a retired Marine colonel. 
The date of the general election is dependent on the outcome of the primary elections. If no candidate receives more than 30 percent of the vote in either primary, a primary runoff will take place on July 9. The general election would then take place on September 30. If primary runoffs are not necessary, the general election will be July 9.
The 2018 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was R+12, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 12 percentage points more Republican than the national average. This made North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District the 111th-most Republican nationally. No Democratic candidate ran against Jones in 2018.
As of April 25, 2019, there have been four special elections called during the 116th Congress. Three of those are for seats in the U.S. House, and one is for a seat in the U.S. Senate. From the 113th Congress to the 115th Congress, a total of 40 special elections were held. During the 115th Congress, four of the 17 special elections resulted in a seat changing partisan hands. All of those seats flipped from Republicans to Democrats.
Additional reading: