- Joe Biden has officially reached the majority threshold of pledged delegates to secure the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
- Biden secured the majority threshold of 1,991 pledged delegates with his win in the Virgin Islands’ Democratic primary, according to projections from Decision Desk HQ and the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
- Biden became the presumptive nominee when Sen. Bernie Sanders, his last major opponent, dropped out of the race on April 8.
- Sanders is staying on the ballot and continuing to earn delegates in remaining states to secure spots on crucial Democratic National Convention committees.
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Former Vice President Joe Biden has officially reached the majority threshold of pledged delegates to secure the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, according to projections from Decision Desk HQ and the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Biden became the presumptive nominee when Sen. Bernie Sanders, his last major opponent, dropped out of the race on April 8.
But with his wins in six states and the District of Columbia that held their presidential primaries on June 2 and the US Virgin Islands’ Democratic primary on June 6, Biden has now earned exactly 1,991 pledged delegates, the majority threshold required to secure the nomination.
Unlike other candidates who previously dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden, Sanders is still staying on the ballot in the remaining contests to earn enough delegates for his camp to secure spots on crucial committees at the Democratic National Convention that determine both the convention rules and, more importantly, the official Democratic Party platform.
Biden’s path to the presidency began 33 years ago in 1987, when he first ran for president as a relatively young Senator from Delaware. But his first campaign crashed and burned when he was accused of multiple instances of plagiarism, leading him to drop out of the race.
After 20 more years in the US Senate, Biden ran for president again in 2008, but that campaign quickly flamed out after he earned just 1% support in the Iowa caucuses. Later that year, however, he was selected as former President Barack Obama’s running mate and served in the position for eight years.
While Biden passed up running for president in 2016, he entered the highly competitive race in April 2019 on a message of returning to normalcy after Trump, using his decades of experience to enact Democratic policy priorities, and “restoring the soul” of the United States.
In 2020, Biden came out victorious from a crowded field of nearly 20 major candidates, beating out several fellow US Senators and a number of rising stars in the party who commanded significant media attention.
After being formally anointed at the scheduled August convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (part or all of which may be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic), Biden will face President Donald Trump in the general election.
How the Democratic nomination process works
In the Democratic nomination process, voters don’t directly vote for the nominee. Instead, they vote to give their preferred candidate a certain number of delegate slots, filled by delegates.
Every state has a certain number of delegates to allocate, which is determined by a number of factors including how big the state is, how Democratic they lean, when they vote, and if they vote with their neighbors.
All US states and territories held primaries or caucuses this year. While US territories don’t have voting power in federal elections, they still send delegates to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
While primaries were supposed to run through early June, many states postponed their primary elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Georgia and West Virginia on June 9, Louisiana on June 20, New York and Kentucky on June 23rd, New Jersey and Delaware on July 7th, and Connecticut on August 11 are the remaining states left to hold their presidential primaries, from which Biden will expand his delegate lead even further.
In general, states want to balance their role in narrowing the size of the field with having the final say on who wins by having the most possible delegates at the convention.
Some states — the ones on Super Tuesday — are willing to leave all the extra delegates on the table in order to get the first bite at the apple. Other states will wait until the last possible vote to gain outsized representation at the convention and potentially a shot at playing kingmaker.
Democrats allocate most of their pledged delegates proportionally by legislative district, in addition to allocating at-large and PLEO (party leader and elected official) delegates based on the statewide vote breakdown.
Most states allocate their delegates by congressional districts, but some, like Texas and New Jersey, use state legislative districts instead.
While delegates are allocated proportionally, in nearly every state the minimum threshold to earn delegates is 15% of the vote. That means that as long as someone breaks 15 percent either statewide or in at least one district, they get delegates from that state to bring to the convention.
At the Democratic convention itself, a candidate will actually be nominated when a simple majority of 1,991 out of 3,979 total pledged delegates formally vote to support a given candidate.
In previous years, so-called superdelegates have been able to vote on the first ballot, too, but now they can only vote to resolve a contested convention.
Anyone who is a Member of Congress, former President or House Speaker, Governor, or DNC member gets a ticket to the convention and, in the case of a contested convention with no clear winner, is a superdelegate with voting abilities to help split the tie at the second ballot.
Superdelegates played a significant role and were highly controversial in the 2016 convention, but the DNC has adopted rule changes since then that have made them pretty much irrelevant in all but the most extreme circumstances where no one candidate has a clear majority after the first ballot.
Walt Hickey contributed reporting.