What Happens to the Delegates After a Presidential Candidate Drops Out?

NATIONWIDE — Now that Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have dropped out of the presidential race, what happens to the delegates both won in previous contests? Klobuchar and Buttigieg have said they are both going to support Joe Biden. 

But just because Klobuchar and Buttigieg are out doesn’t mean more delegates aren’t coming their way. The pair, along with Tom Steyer and Cory Booker, will still appear on Super Tuesday ballots because those are created based on an early January voting deadline and they were still in the race. So where will those delegates go? It depends on the state.

In most states, when a candidate drops out of the race, the delegates go to the national convention uncommitted to any candidate. There they can technically vote for anyone they want, like a superdelegate.

But some states, like Nevada and Virginia, require delegates vote for their pledged candidate in the convention’s first round, regardless. 

Now, if a candidate drops out and endorses another active presidential candidate like Klobuchar and Buttigieg have done, then delegates are expected to vote for the candidate being endorsed. This isn’t a guarantee, but the likelihood increases that a candidate’s delegates will follow the recommendation.

Delegates are growing in importance considering there are still five Democratic presidential candidates. Only one candidate can clinch the nomination to take on President Donald Trump. After Tuesday, there is a good chance more candidates will drop out leaving their delegates unpledged for the convention. 

With both Klobuchar and Buttigieg endorsing Biden, it is assumed the former vice president will receive most if not all of the pair’s pledged delegates. This would give Biden the delegate leade heading into Super Tuesday. 

The uncertainty of a dominant nominee for the convention has many wondering what happens if a candidate doesn’t receive the 1,991 delegates needed to win the party’s nomination. If no one receives the full number of delegates, it becomes a “contested convention.”

In a “contested convention” according to Ballotpedia, delegates are allowed to vote for whatever candidate they want. Additional votes are taken until a majority is reached. For this reason, they are often called “multi-ballot conventions.”

There have been 15 multi-ballot Democratic national conventions. The last one was in 1952 and it took three ballots. Adlai Stevenson was the Democratic presidential nominee and he lost to Dwight D. Eisenhower. There have been nine multi-ballot Republican national conventions. The last in 1948 and it too also took three ballots. Thomas Dewey was the Republican presidential nominee and he lost to Harry Truman.