Massachusetts Primary marks beginning of complex process of selecting delegates


PITTSFIELD >> Ever wonder what happens after you cast your ballot in a presidential primary and before the party delegates gather at their convention to nominate a candidate?

Well, it's a bit complicated, at least for non-party members.

The most straightforward piece for any voter in Massachusetts is to show up at the polls on Tuesday, and vote in the Democratic, Republican or Green-Rainbow Party primary for a presidential candidate. If you are an unenrolled voter, no problem; you can choose which ballot you want and your status will revert to unenrolled after you have voted.

There are actually four party ballots to choose from this year, but the United Independent Party has no candidate for president and no candidates listed for state committee and ward committee spots, although names can be written in.

On all of ballots voters could select, they will see other party contests listed along with the presidential contest, such as for member of the state party committee.

So, after you vote, how do votes cast in the presidential primary translate into delegates headed for the party's nominating convention? Below is a summary of the process for each party:


According to Massachusetts Democratic Party Executive Director Matt Fenlon, there are a total of 116 delegates and eight alternates to be selected for the party's national convention July 25-28 in Philadelphia.

Those include 59 delegates selected at caucuses in each of the nine congressional districts in the state on April 9. Anyone who wants to run to be a delegate must register beforehand and pledge support to one of the presidential candidates.

Voting in the caucuses is open to party members. The delegates to be chosen will be allocated among supporters of any presidential candidate who pulls in at least 15 percent of the vote in the March 1 primary.

In the 1st Congressional District in Western Massachusetts, there will be three male and three female delegates selected and one female alternate — divided proportionately among the presidential candidates meeting the 15 percent vote threshold.

In other words, if Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton each receive 50 percent of the primary vote Tuesday, that would result in an even split among the delegates selected at the caucuses.

There are two other types of Democratic delegates to be selected and one category automatically selected because of their office.

Twelve delegates are so-called PLEO, or Party Leaders and Elected Officials delegates. These are Democrats who are big city mayors, statewide elected officials, state legislative leaders or other county or local elected officials.

A third category comprises the "at large delegates," who number 20 and are selected from a statewide pool. This category is designed to provide another way for Democrats to be chosen for a national convention. Candidates must register before the at large delegates are chosen and pledge support to one of the presidential candidates.

Both the PLEO and the at large delegates will be chosen on May 7 during a Democratic State Committee meeting.

And there is a fourth category: the "unpledged party leader" delegates, also known as the "superdelegates." There are 25 of these, and they include the state's congressional delegation and Democratic National Committee members or former DNC chairmen.

"I think it's a very democratic process," Fenlon said.

He advises anyone interested in learning more about the delegate selection process to visit the party website at

At the national convention, there will be a total of 4,764 delegates, with 2,383 votes required for a candidate to win the nomination.


Chanel Prunier, of Shrewsbury, is the Republican National Committeewoman from Massachusetts. She said state Republicans will send a total of 39 delegates to the Republican National Convention July 18-21 in Cleveland.

Of the total, 27 are delegates selected during Republican caucus meetings in each of the nine congressional districts on April 30, she said, and any party member can attend and run for a delegate spot. Three are chosen from each district.

A list of GOP caucus locations can be found at

There are also at least 12 delegates who are selected by virtue of their position as a statewide office holder, party chairman, state party chairman or national party committee member.

In all, there will be 2,472 Republican delegates at the national convention, with a majority of 1,237 required to win the nomination.

Prunier said the delegates will be allocated proportionately among supporters of the presidential candidates, with a 5 percent threshold required in the voting on March 1.

For the Republicans, that could require some math skills, as there are 13 candidates listed on the Massachusetts ballot — a number of whom have dropped out of the race.

The Democrats also have other candidates listed on their ballot, along with Sanders and Clinton, and the Green-Rainbow Party has five candidates listed.

Following the Republican primary voting, the newly reformed state committee will elect the at large delegates at a meeting in late May, Prunier said.

Green-Rainbow Pary

The Green-Rainbow Party ballot in Massachusetts will include five candidates for president and candidates for the party's state committee, town committee in some locations, and ward committee.

The Green-Rainbow Party will hold regional conventions in different areas of the state during March for party voters and members to select state committee regional representatives.

Information on the dates, times and locations of those conventions, as well as on how voting will be conducted, are listed on the party website,

For the party's western region, including Berkshire County, the convention is set for 12:30 to 3 p.m. March 19 at the Holyoke Public Library.

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on primary day in Massachusetts.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente


Jim Gilmore, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, George Pataki, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, John Kasich

Green-Rainbow Party

Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry, Jill Stein, William Kreml, Kent Mesplay, Darryl Cherney


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