Pledged Delegates Vs. “Bound” Delegates

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From an email:

Given the number of calls regarding pledged delegates, I thought this background information might be helpful. As always, please call if you have questions.

Stacie Paxton
DNC Press Secretary


Pledged Delegates Vs. “Bound” Delegates

Delegates to the Democratic National Convention who are elected based on the results of a primary or caucus are “pledged” to support the presidential candidate whom they represent as a delegate.

Under the Democratic Party’s Rules, pledged delegates are not legally “bound” or required to vote according to their presidential preference on the first ballot at the Convention. Rather, these delegates are, pledged “in all good conscience [to] reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.” [Rule 12.J]

Note: Rule 12J was intended to allow the convention to be a deliberative body. This enables pledged delegates to vote for the presumptive nominee even if they were pledged to someone who is no longer in the race.

Pledged delegates are not “bound” to vote for the candidate they were elected to represent. They can, and have in the past, cast a vote for the presumptive nominee when their candidate has dropped out of the race. As a sign of good faith, most former candidates will “release” their delegates from voting for them; however, this is not required, and only has a symbolic meaning to it. Delegates can vote for another presidential candidate without being “released.”

Are delegates bound? Can a pledged delegate change his or her presidential preference?

A delegate goes to the Convention with a signed pledge of support for a particular presidential candidate. At the Convention, while it is assumed that the delegate will cast their vote for the candidate they are publicly pledged to, it is not required. Under the Delegate Selection Rules, a delegate is asked to “in good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.” This provision is designed in part to make the Convention a deliberative body. Delegates are not bound to vote for the candidate they are pledged to at the Convention or on the first ballot.

Do the presidential candidates have a say in who becomes their delegate? What is the presidential candidate right of review?

Yes, presidential candidates have an opportunity to review the list of individuals who have filed to run for delegate pledged to them. In accordance with Party rules, during candidate right of review, presidential candidates may approve a specific number of delegate candidates in order to ensure they are bona fide supporters. These approved delegate candidates must still be elected by the states.