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How New York Awards Delegates and Superdelegates Is Confusing. Here's Help

By Nigel Chiwaya | April 11, 2016 4:46pm
 Delegates, superdelegates and districts; we'll try to make sense of it all before you go to the polls.
Delegates, superdelegates and districts; we'll try to make sense of it all before you go to the polls.
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Getty Iamages/Spencer Platt, Scott Olson

NEW YORK — After weeks spent watching candidates jockey for support across the Big Apple, voters in New York will head to the polls on April 19 to pick their Democratic or Republican presidential nominees.

But the process of electing a president via delegates or superdelegates can seem a little confusing to most voters.

So DNAinfo has rounded up some of the most frequently asked questions about the New York primary election process and gathered some answers:

When I cast my vote for a presidential candidate in the primary, how is it counted?

When you step into a polling booth on Tuesday, you will be able to cast your ballot for your candidate of choice. However, your vote won't actually be the thing that propels them to victory on the convention floor. Your vote is actually going towards picking the delegates who will make the final selection of who gets the Republican and Democratic nominations.

► What's a delegate?

Delegates are the people who will actually vote on the floor of the Democratic and Republican conventions to select their party's nominee.

The process by which delegates are picked is different in the Republican and Democratic parties.

How are New York's delegates selected in the Republican Party?

In New York's Republican Party primary system, delegates are chosen by party leaders in each congressional district. According to New York GOP spokeswoman Jessica Proud, the state's Republican Party only includes pledged delegates. They will be awarded to each campaign based on the result of the primary and will be named by party leaders in May.

The delegates will then be bound to vote for a candidate based on the result of the primary.

How are New York's delegates selected in the Democratic Party?

In New York's Democratic Primary system, there are three kinds of delegates, all of whom are chosen in different ways: pledged, at-large, and unpledged delegates. (Unpledged delegates are more commonly known as superdelegates.)

• Pledged delegates have promised to support a particular candidate, filed paperwork to become a delegate, and have been accepted by the candidate they've chosen to support. Their names will appear on the ballot beneath Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders' names.

• At-large delegates are selected by the state Democratic Party at the party convention in May. They have promised to support a particular candidate, and will be awarded proportionally to candidates based on the result of the April primary. Their names will not appear on the ballot because they have not been selected yet.

• Unpledged delegates (or superdelegates) are a group of state elected officials and party leaders. They can vote for whichever candidate they want and they are free to change their minds. We'll call them superdelegates from here on out. Their names will not appear on the primary ballot, however DNAinfo has collected the list of their names below.

► How many delegates are there in New York?

The Republican Party has 95 delegates in New York this year. 81 of them are determined based on Congressional district, 11 are at-large delegates and 3 are RNC members.

The Democratic Party has 291 delegates in NY up for grabs this year. 163 are pledged, 84 are at-large and 44 are superdelegates.

How will the delegates appear on my ballot on Primary Day?

The names of Republican delegates will not appear on the ballot.

The names of all pledged delegates will appear on the Democratic ballot on Tuesday, beneath the names of the presidential candidate they support.

Voters will be asked to pick between five and seven delegates to send to the convention. The delegates with the most votes in each district will be sent to the convention, according to state Democratic Committee Executive Basil Smikle.

► Why have I been hearing so much about superdelegates?

There are two reasons for that. The first is that superdelegates are automatically selected, by virtue of being a high-level elected official or a Democratic National Committee member. That means the campaigns — and the candidates — know their identities already, and are attempting to woo their support.

The second reason is that unlike other kinds of Democratic delegates, who have already pledged their support or whose ability to go to the convention depends on the voters, superdelegates aren't bound by the results of the election. Superdelegates can support whoever they want, and can change their minds whenever they want.

Who are my delegates?

Voters looking to see who's in the running for national delegate in their neighborhood should visit Who's On the Ballot, a web app that gives voters a customized look at the delegates, the candidates, polling sites and voting initiatives in their neighborhood.

This year's superdelegates include the 18 Democratic New York members of the House of Representatives, both New York Senators, 22 member of the Democratic National Committee, and two "distinguished party leaders" — former President Bill Clinton and Ambassador George Mitchell.

DNAinfo has collected the full list of New York's superdelegates below: