electionIn February, we discussed the importance of the Iowa caucus, which serves as the jumping point for the presidential election.  This year’s election has been especially riveting – or harrowing, depending on your perspective – because of the tight races being run on both the Democratic and Republican sides.  We have approximately a little over three months until the republican and national conventionals, and there is still no clear candidate for either side.  While Hillary leads Sander in delegates, there are still primaries and caucuses to come, including  those of three large states: California, New York, and Pennsylvania.

On the Republican side, Trump has the lead over Cruz, but the Republican establishment is determined to keep Trump from becoming the nominee.  Although Marco Rubio has stopped campaigning, he is clinging to his delegates, hoping to keep them from Trump.  And even if Trump wins the majority of delegates, there are whisperings of various ways the GOP could still keep him from gaining the nomination. Before we even conceive of that notion, it’s important understand who delegates are and why their votes determine who becomes the nominee for each political party.

Every state is a little bit different.  Some hold primaries; some hold caucuses.  But all of the states U.S. territories have a Republican and Democratic parties, and therefore, each gives their input about who they would like to become president of the United States.  Their input comes by way of their state or territories’ delegates.

And who are these so-called delegates?  Delegates are generally active members of their state’s political party who have been delegated to vote for the candidate assigned by their party.  They might be an average politically-active citizen or a leader within the state’s political party.  Historically, the presidential runner who wins the most delegates is the person nominated by his or her party as the party’s presidential candidate at the Democratic or Republican conventions.  Since Cruz won the majority of votes in the Iowa caucus, he garnered the majority of delegate votes from that state.

Each state also has a select number of what are called “superdelegates,” or delegates who are able to vote for the candidate of their own personal choosing.

During an election year, a Democratic candidate needs to procure at least 2,382 out of 4,763 delegates in order to gain his or her party’s nomination.  A Republican candidate must procure at least 1,237 out of 2,472 delegates.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  The Democrat and Republican parties are private institutions, meaning the leaders of said parties can change the rules, even late in the game.  With the overwhelming opposition in the GOP to Donald Trump, it is possible that those who head the Republican party could change the rule that the candidate with the most delegates automatically wins the Republican nomination, and nominate another candidate instead.

Of course, his would cause a major disruption within the party, and you can be certain Trump would not go down without a fight.  This is what makes this year’s election especially interesting.  As we get closer and closer to the conventions, the fact that we are still fairly unsure of who will garner the Republican party’s nomination is unusual, and worrisome for Republican party leaders.

Are you planning to vote this November?  A reminder that the California primary is fast approaching, and those who plan to vote by mail should apply as soon as possible.

Interested in following the results of the primaries and the caucuses?  Bloomberg.com is keeping track of the delegates for us.