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Full Representation in 
Presidential Elections

January 2004

The Democratic Party uses full representation (also called "proportional representation") in its primaries and caucuses to nominate presidential candidates. Any candidate who wins at least 15% of the vote in a primary or at a caucus is entitled to a fair share of delegates based on their share of the vote in that state. In a primary, the vote is based on statewide totals. For caucuses like those in Iowa, the threshold applies in each caucus, and participants may choose to support a second choice candidate if their first choice is unlikely to have enough support to elect a delegate.

The Republican Party allocates delegates by full representation in some states like Iowa and New Hampshire, but in many states uses systems based on winner-take-all (whichever candidate finishes first taking all delegates) or winner-take-all by district. 

In general elections, all states except Maine and Nebraska now allocate electors by winner-take-all based on the statewide vote: Maine and Nebraska allocate two electors to the statewide winner and one elector to the first-place finisher in each U.S. House district. In the past, some states allocated electoral votes by full representation.


Below are links with additional information about the presidential candidate nomination process within the Democratic Party:

DNC Website: View a PDF file of their charter - Article Two (pgs. 2-3) concerns the National Convention procedures

CNN AllPolitics: A breif review of changes to Democratic rules for convention delegates prior to 1996

PBS Online NewsHour: An overview of the US primary system

CyberCaucus: Background on the Iowa Democratic Caucus. See also

New York Times: "Iowa's Dark Art of Caucusing is Turning a Bit More Public" - gives a description of the workings of the Iowa Caucus.

Articles concerning the move to full representation in Illinois in 1992: "The 1992 primary: proportional representation for Illinois Democrats" and "A change for Illinois Democratic delegates"

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