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Pennsylvania’s 54 Toss-Up Delegates

081025_gop_logoThe biggest question in American politics right now is: Will Donald Trump reach the 1,237 delegate threshold to clinch the Republican Presidential Nomination?

Pennsylvania, the third-largest state left to vote (behind California and New York) will play a big part in that equation. Their reasoning makes sense as Trump and John Kasich each have a claim to the commonwealth while Ted Cruz could do quite well in the remaining contests in the western United States.

Thanks to the peculiarities of PA delegate allocation, however, the Keystone State could factor all the way until the July Republican National Convention.

We discussed in January how the Republican Party arrives at Pennsylvania’s 71 delegate allocation total. Three party leaders, plus four bonus delegates added to 64 electoral delegates. 10 of those electoral delegates are distributed to every state as each state has two Senators (five delegates per Senator). The rest of the electoral delegates is determined by granting 3 delegates to each congressional district in the state.

Pennsylvania has 18 congressional districts multiplied by three delegates equals 54 delegates. Why are those delegates important? Because they are completely unbound.

In some contests, most prominently Florida and Ohio, the statewide winner gets all the delegates. Many other states give the statewide winner the leader, bonus, and ten of the electoral delegates. The rest of the electoral delegates, those allocated by congressional district, go to the candidate that won that congressional district.

All states follow this procedure except two: Illinois and Pennsylvania.

In Illinois, however, prospective delegates had to identify which candidate they were supporting on the ballot. In PA, though, no such condition exists.

This means that 54 of PA’s delegates are completely unbound and could theoretically vote for any candidate at the convention.

Furthermore, many voters may not be aware of this. The delegate process (as you can see) is complex as it is. Their names are placed at the bottom of the ballot and could be ignored entirely by those that show up at the polls. Others may just simply vote for the first three names listed.

Already we’ve seen that subtle biases can emerge even when it is clear which delegate is supporting which candidate. For example, Dave Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight found Trump voters were less likely to vote for delegates with foreign-sounding names even though they were Trump proxies. This probably cost “The Donald” three delegates.

As of this moment, Trump is currently on pace to finish just under the 1,237 threshold necessary to win the nomination.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford won over delegates with White House visits and trips on Air Force One.

What would a boisterous billionaire do to win over 54 Pennsylvanians that sit between him and the Republican nomination? In a year full of surprises, we may just find out.

34 Responses

  1. Donald Trump’s Facebook page “Pennsylvania for Donald Trump 2016” has a note* written by Maryann Pistilli on April 21, 2016 that has a list of delegates in PA, who they support, e-mail addresses and phone numbers given in spreadsheet format. Much is consistent with the info I referred to in my two posts on April 14, although there are some differences. As Maryann’s info is on Trump’s official site and posted less than a week before the primary, I regard it as more reliable.


  2. Be sure you are voting for the right DELEGATES if you plan to vote. Ballot position is by random draw and delegates don’t have to say who, if anyone, they support. Then, they sometimes lie. We have cut to chase on our website. We have 15 volunteers spending thousands of hours vetting each candidate (after first compiling a list from news media, campaign chairs, etc.) You can find out exactly how these people plan to vote for you on our site – totally unbiased and non-partisan, which covers the whole state. Know your delegates before you vote! If you find the site useful, please share with others.


  3. Dump Trump. If we have to elect delegates, make sure they don’t support a candidate other than the one you want to see win the nomination.

  4. If delegates won’t tell me who they are voting for ,I won’t vote for any .

    TRUMP ALL THE WAY. We have a right to know . Where is the democracy .

  5. What are the 54 names of the Repubican delegates and the districts they represent?

  6. Information on Republican delegates for each of PA’s 18 congressional districts including their names, e-mail addresses and favored presidential candidate is given in a spreadsheet link in the April 9, 2016 ConservativeTreeHouse post* by “sundance” entitled “West Virginia and Pennsylvania Unbound Delegates Gain Attention…”. The info for my district is correct.


  7. Go find your Congressional district, Google who is running in that district. There are articles published by the GOP about each delegate. All of them responded to the question who will you vote for? I wrote down my picks who will vote for Trump ( or gave me clues they may be Trump delegates) and I will carry that list into voting booth.

  8. So fed up with the so called “American Democracy”! It is “We the People” NOT “We the RNC” Please give us a list of the delegate names so we can decide who gets on the list according to what the VOTERS want, NOT who the RNC wants!

  9. We the people. One man/woman one vote.I have bad feelings after seeing what has happened in Colorado. I can see the same thing happening here in PA. How is it we can’t find out who these delegates are by district. I feel the PA voters are going to get the shaft. Give me a good reason to vote when I know any one or all of the free flying 54 delegates can vote for whomever they want. This is really a bunch of crap. If Donald Trump wins this state with the majority and doesn’t have the majority of the delegates, I will never vote Republican again. This system in PA is rigged and needs to be changed.

  10. the Constitution starts with “WE TH PEOPLE” NOT “We the RNC & DNC” delegates system should be abolished. Americans should bring a referendum ballot to abolish on the general election or Write In their votes to be heard! Really how can you say delegate system works when first thing they make a candidate cut backroom deals etc. It’s no wonder American people don’t TRUST POLITICIANS

  11. Do any of you Bernie Supporters realize there is no such thing as a free lunch? Bernie and Hillary keep talking about giving things away that is not theirs, just to get votes. That includes Mine and Your Country. By the way, why is someone who entered this country ILLEGALLY, obtains a car, has no license, or insurance, drive drunk, kills citizens of this country, and be set free to do it again, and again? FOR THE VOTE. The only one’s who pay for any of this are LAW ABIDING TAX PAYING CITIZENS. Also, Trump wants to build a wall, and the lying nitwit in the White House say’s “Good luck with that”. I wonder if it’s anything like “If you like your doctor, you can keep him, or if you like your health insurance, you can keep it, PERIOD. My wife and I can no longer afford Health Insurance.

  12. Trump is saying what most of the wussies are afraid to say. He does not need the PAYCUT. Think of what he is giving up to help save the country. If things were not such a mess he would not even be here, and if any of you think otherwise, think about how the other candidates are able to stay in the race? They are in someone’s pocket. By the way, look at Gen. Patraes. Then look at Hillary. WHY IS SHE NOT IN JAIL?

  13. This is how it should be done. Political parties decide who their nominees for office are. First be a member of the party – I never understood ‘open’ primaries. Would you have let members of the band or chess club vote for captain of the football team? Then don’t let Democrats or independents vote for Republican nominees and vice versa. And if it is a party convention that officially decides the nominee, then by whatever method you use, choose the convention delegates with due diligence, remembering it is THEY who really vote.

  14. I have been trying my best to be an informedc voter under this ludicrous new “Unbound Delegate” nonsense, and I can’t find where any “news” agency has even bothered to call the delegate candidates to see where they stand. Why even bother to have any kind of democratic election of them at all, when you can’t find out who you’re voting for or where they stand? This is a travesty.
    I have managed to find just one delegate candidate in my district that is pro-Trump, Ryan Belz, and I can’t find anything at all about the stances of the others. Right now I’d settle for a candidate that would promise to vote the way his constituency does, but no one lists that, either.
    I know this, any candidate that was a member of the Republican machine in PA is on my no-vote list.
    This garbage is criminal.

  15. My mother was an elected GOP Alternate twice (1996 and 2000) and a “Super Delegate” in 1992 because she was President of the State Women’s Council that year. Today she is on State Committee. But hardly one of the “elite” or “establishment.” She was a house wife and her husband a truck driver. All over the internet people are popping off about how corrupt it is in Pennsylvania. When they don’t even know anything about it. Yes, all but 17 of the delegates are bound to the state’s winner. But anybody can file to run for Delegate or Alternate. And some times an unknown gets lucky. They draw straws for ballot position, and the first one always has a big advantage. No matter who they are. One thing is also left out from all the know-nothing banter from reporters and every article I’ve read about it right now. On the ballot, candidates for Alternate or Delegate can run Uncommitted or Committed to a specific candidate. That candidate’s name will appear above their name. If they vote for somebody else at the convention, which they may, they risk voter retribution at home when they want to run for something else. They often do enter other races. Some of the same people run every time. If some one gets great ballot position or already have great name recognition, they may limit their spending. Often the sitting State Senator in the district gets elected Delegate. Which is kind of unfair.

  16. My family and friends are VOTING for Donald J Trump, PLEAS FOLKS VOTE FOR DONALD J Trump, Thank you in advance!

  17. When will PA finally come out of the dark ages into the 21st century. This state is by far the most archaic in everything it does. But maybe that’s because Democrats run the State and don’t want any progress to impede them. It’s a scary situation when what the voters want doesn’t matter. To me that is not a Democracy when the good ole boys determine the outcome of an election…

  18. Plan and simple. If the delegates don’t show who they are voting for then none of them will get my vote.

  19. jjcnpa-

    Dems have combination of pledged delegates you described, and also unpledged. Elected members of congress and other party leaders are automatically superdelegates

  20. Is this a change? I recall in the past voting for delegates but the delegates had a pledge presidential candidate under their name.

  21. MD-

    Will of the people isn’t “undermined”. Their pledged delegates are only part of the equation.

    What happens if there is a scandal or problem with candidate? Without super-delegates, you are screwed by post-primary (pre-convention) problems, or the rise of a candidate like Trump.

    GOP is wishing they had super-delegates (though, Trump would have already handed each of them $100,000 cash and a hat).

  22. Make sure you know how a delegate is likely to vote before you choose them to cast a vote on your behalf. Having unbound delegates is ridiculous.The will of the people is being undermined!

  23. William H. Burke, Jr-

    1) The rules are PARTY rules, and the Dem and Rep parties are free to use whatever rules/accounting method they want.

    2) Winner-take-all rules, arguably, disenfranchise the 49% who might vote for the 2nd place candidate.

    3) The primaries are spaced out over months, and the convention takes place some weeks/months later. During this time, new information about candidates may come to light under national scrutiny of the leading nominees. Apportioned delegates can give 2nd place candidates a base to gain ground, rather than be stuck at zero when losing a close race.

    Unbound delegates can act on information post-primary.

    4) Personally, I object to the “open primaries”. If you want to have a role in selecting a party’s nominee, you should belong to that party. We’ve seen cross-over voters attempting to influence the other side’s selection process by picking a candidate that they feel is most damaging (less electable or more likely to cause a contested convention).

    5) The caucus process is complete crap. No other election is handle this way. It should be handled the same way as general election voting is.

  24. This Pennsylvania system of not having the delegates in a district bound to the candidate who receives the most votes and is the choice of the voters is ridiculous and makes no sense whatever. What fool made up this stupid system? Pennsylvania should be like Florida and Ohio where the candidate with the most votes gets the votes of ALL the delegates in the state.

  25. This way of doing things in Pennsylvania with 54 delegates “unbound” makes no sense whatever. If a person votes for someone he likes in a district, if that person does get the most votes in the district, then the district’s delegates should be “required” to vote for that person. Voting at the convention for anybody they want completely ignores the wishes of those who voted for a specific candidate and I think is totally unfair to the voters and the favored candidate. What fool dreamed up this stupid system? It should be changed to be like Florida where the candidate in the state primary getting the most votes should get ALL the delegates votes in that state.

  26. That’s just so rich. Trump has trained his base so well to hate foreigners that his people are not voting for convention delegates committed to him if they have foreign sounding names.

  • Understanding that basic education funding should/will be first, what should be the next highest priority for the General Assembly?

    • Raising The Minimum Wage (25%)
    • Legalizing Adult-Use Marijuana (24%)
    • None of the above. Something Else. (20%)
    • Economic Development (14%)
    • Higher Education (8%)
    • Public Transportation (8%)
    • Workforce Opportunities and Innovation (2%)

    Total Voters: 51

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