What is the Democratic National Convention?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2020
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The Democratic National Convention is an event held every four years in the United States, in which the Democratic Party formally nominates and confirms its candidates for President and Vice President of the United States. It marks the end of the Democratic primaries, and the start of the General Election season; typically, the Democratic National Convention is held in late August, a little over two months before the Presidential Election, which is always held on the first Tuesday in November.

The Democrats have been holding a Convention since 1832, and the Democratic National Committee has handled the convention since 1852. Two years before the convention, a Democratic National Convention Committee is established as an arm of the Democratic National Committee, to organize the convention. This committee is responsible for finding a venue, scheduling speakers, organizing security, coordinating with the press, and performing a wide variety of other tasks to ensure that the convention runs as smoothly as possible.

In the months leading up to the Democratic National Convention, Democrats across the United States cast their votes in primary elections, in which several candidates are pitted against each other. Often, a clear nominee emerges long before the convention, because one candidate captures a majority of the vote in most states, but sometimes the battle becomes a bit more prolonged, with two or more candidates appealing equally to voters.


At the convention itself, delegates from each state and US territory cast votes for the candidates which took the majority of the vote in their regions. In some cases, delegates are not “bound” to the candidate which won their regions, and they may cast votes for other candidates. They are joined by superdelegates, prominent party officials who are seated automatically; superdelegates are also not bound to a particular candidate, and the media often pays close attention to the endorsements made by superdelegates as a result. Traditionally, a roll call vote is carried out and tallied. If a nominee has captured the majority, he or she is confirmed, and if not, the vote will be taken again as many times as is needed for a candidate to be selected.

The Democratic National Convention isn't just about picking candidates for the Presidential Election. At the same time, Democrats establish a new party platform, and promote party unity. The Convention tends to attract a great deal of media attention, thanks to the prominent keynote speakers, the nomination process, and the shifts in the Democratic party platform which take place at each Convention.



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