In an election cycle where the primary races have been contentious and party nominating procedures have received additional attention, a handful of students at the University of Maryland filed to become voting delegates at this summer’s Democratic National Convention.
Julian Ivey, a sophomore government and politics major, is on the ballot to be a pledged delegate for Bernie Sanders from the state’s fourth congressional district. He said he was drawn to Sanders’ platform because of the senator’s focus on issues like college affordability and health care.
Delegates attend each party’s nominating convention to select that party’s candidate for president. Each state political party establishes plans to select its delegates to the nominating conventions, said Jared Demarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Individuals then file with the State Board of Elections to appear on the ballot as a delegate for a particular candidate, or as an uncommitted delegate, Demarinis said. Each campaign then authorizes which delegates they would like to appear on the ballot, he added.
On the Democratic side, each congressional district receives a certain number of delegates, and those delegates are divided proportionally between the candidates based on the percentage of votes each candidate receives, Demarinis said. There are also a number of at-large delegates that are allocated, according to the state’s results as a whole.
Ivey said he reached out to state Del. Jimmy Tarlau (D-Md.), who works on organizing Sanders’ campaign in Maryland, about ways to get involved. Ivey attended some rallies and made some phone calls for Sanders, and Tarlau asked if he would like to be a delegate to this summer’s convention, Ivey said.
“It’s a long shot that I get to go to Philadelphia this summer, but nonetheless I’m happy to be a supporter of the senator just because I think it’s the right thing to do,” Ivey said. “There’s just so much that he offers and so much hope and promise that I think that young people and really all Americans should be excited for it.”
Tarlau, a representative of Prince George’s County, said he approached Ivey about running to be a convention delegate because “he’s always been articulate and passionate.” Ivey’s parents are also well known in the community — his father is running for a Congressional seat and his mother ran for lieutenant governor — which could help his chances of getting elected as a delegate, Tarlau said.
While Ivey doubted his chances of becoming a delegate, Tarlau, who is also running to be a convention delegate for Sanders, said he thinks Ivey probably has the best chance of all Sanders delegates on the ballot for the district.
“I shouldn’t have chosen him because he could get more votes than me,” Tarlau said jokingly.
Demarinis said this is a “unique” process to elect a presidential nominee, and that this election has highlighted many of the convention rules that people don’t typically pay much attention to.
For example, in a hypothetical district with eight delegates up for grabs, if Clinton and Sanders split the vote 50-50, each candidate will win four delegates, Demarinis said. In that case, the top four Clinton delegates and the top four Sanders delegates who received the most votes would be eligible to go to the convention, he said. The Democratic candidates in this state are also divided by men and women to ensure gender balance at the convention, he added.
Though Maryland’s primary typically falls too late in the election season to have a large impact, this year the parties’ nominees are still relatively undecided, said Michael Hanmer, an associate professor in government and politics and research director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship.
However, a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that among likely Democratic voters, 55 percent of Marylanders are likely to support Clinton and 40 percent support Sanders — giving Clinton a predicted 15 point lead.
Sophomore Amanda Stussman, a sociology major, will appear on the ballot as a pledged Sanders delegate in the fifth district. She had never been very involved in politics, but Sanders’ campaign really excited her, she said.
“I thought what better way to get more involved than to apply to be a delegate?” Stussman said. “It was really exciting to find out I had been filed and got on the ballot.”
Former university student Colin Byrd, who was active in the push to rename Byrd Stadium last year, is also on the ballot to be a pledged delegate for Bernie Sanders from the state’s fifth district.
Sophomore government and politics majors Chris Keosian and Jake Polce also filed to be a pledged delegate to former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, but their names were removed from the ballot when O’Malley dropped out of the race.
Keosian said he met then-Gov. Martin O’Malley while working as a page in the Maryland General Assembly in high school. Keosian found O’Malley to be a passionate, “honest and trustworthy guy,” so he supported his presidential run “from day one,” he said.
After participating in a student mock debate on campus, an O’Malley campaign director reached out to Keosian and Polce and asked them to file as O’Malley delegates.
“He had been a good governor of this state and I thought he would make a good president,” Keosian said, citing O’Malleys work to raise the minimum wage, repeal the death penalty, pass the DREAM Act and enact marriage equality in the state. “And you know as a student of government and politics who wouldn’t want to be a voting delegate at the DNC, in such a contentious election year?”
Polce also said while all three democratic candidates had similar progressive values, O’Malley was the only one who got things done.
“To me there is a huge difference between shouting your beliefs from the Senate soapbox and actually getting things done like passing marriage equality, comprehensive gun safety legislation in the country, and restoring voting rights to over 52,000 former felons who served their time,” Polce said.
Senior J.T. Stanley, a co-founder of Terps for Bernie, said he and other members of the organization also filed to be pledged delegates in order to support Sanders.
“It’s important that you have people that actually care,” Stanley, an individual studies major, said. “[And] I think it’s just cool. It’s a good experience. I think the people who are Bernie supporters are enthusiastic for that opportunity.”
Stanley filed to run to be a delegate from the state’s fourth congressional district, but was not selected to appear on the ballot. He said the campaigns ultimately choose who to place on the ballot, and try to select a diverse group of supporters that are representative of their districts.
Polce said he hopes student involvement with the party-nominating process shows this state that this university has students who are passionate about politics and want to be involved with the political system.
At the opportunity of trying to become a delegate, Polce said he hopes that the state of Maryland sees that this university has contenders that are just as passionate about politics and wanting to be involved in the process.
“We have very active college Republicans,college Democrats, and other political organizations,” he said. “In the fall of 2015, college democrats co-hosted an event that brought out 300 students. At the University of Maryland we have a lot of students who are very much in tune with the political process.”
Staff writer Kimberly Escobar contributed to this report.