The Pennsylvania state primary election will be held Tuesday, and while the spotlight is rightfully on the candidates, focus has also shifted to the delegates.
Come Tuesday, both the Republican and Democratic ballots — along with the larger elections for president, U.S. senator and state positions — will give voters the opportunity to select delegates to their respective party’s national convention. This year, the Democratic convention will be hosted in Philadelphia, while the Republican convention heads to Cleveland.
The chosen delegates then cast their vote on who they think the party’s presidential nominee should be.
“In a way,” said Centre County Elections and Voter Registration Director Joyce McKinley, “they are the ones who truly nominate the candidate for their particular party.”
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There is a slight difference between the ballots. Depending on the party you’re voting for, you may or may not see which candidate a particular delegate is committed to.
Ten delegates are listed on the Democratic ballot, giving voters in the 5th Congressional District, which covers 16 counties including Centre, the option to vote for three males and two females. On the ballot, voters can see if a delegate is committed to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
However, voters registered as Republicans will see nine delegates and three alternates, but no commitments are listed.
Republican delegates aren’t legally obligated to list which candidate they support under the party’s bylaws, state GOP Communications Director Megan Sweeney said Friday. While 17 delegates in the state are bound to which ever candidate takes the state, the remaining 54 are able to support whomever they wish.
“Nominees are unbound to a candidate,” Sweeney said. “A lot have pledged themselves to a candidate or district winner, but they aren’t officially bound to anyone.”
The CDT attempted to reach out to each nominee on the ballot in an attempt to verify which candidate he or she is committed to.
Joyce Haas, who also serves as vice chairwoman for the state Republican Party, verified that she has not personally endorsed a candidate, and as such, will be casting her vote for whomever takes the district.
The main reason the ballot doesn’t carry a commitment, she said, is because when delegates submitted their petitions in January, no one would have had any idea who the race would come down to. So many potential candidates have dropped out, she said, changing the race and shifting support.
“The chairman of the party and I knew early on that with so many in the race, everyone would be all over the place,” she said. “Our No. 1 goal is to be certain that we unite the party and that we elect a Republican in November.
“For that reason, I have stayed uncommitted,” she said, adding that she wants to follow the will of the voters.
Delegate candidate James Klein, on the other hand, said he was firmly in the Donald Trump camp and plans on voting for him on all ballots.
Klein said he felt an obligation to let voters know who he was committed to and that backing the district winner seemed less forthcoming.
“I, as the voter, think I should know who I’m voting for and what I’m voting for,” he said. “Tell people who you’re voting for and let them choose you based on that. And then the district will have voted.”
Current polls show Trump leading the Republican race in Pennsylvania by 19 points , while Clinton leads the Democratic race by almost 16 points. Fivethirtyeight.com predicts Trump has an 87 percent chance of taking the state, while Clinton has a 97 percent chance.
CDT has verified the commitments for the following delegate candidates:
Joyce Haas — District winner
Lyle Stewart — Ted Cruz
Sheila Fitzgerald Sterrett — District winner
James Klein — Donald Trump
Ash Khare — District winner
Barry Kroeker — Ted Cruz
C. Arnold McClure — District winner
The following delegate candidates could not be reached by press time for their commitments:
Scott Schreffler, Rick Chura and alternate candidate Justin Gallagher