“Silly” season in politics is upon us – that time when candidates for the presidency and down the ballot become especially crazy. So, what is going on in the background for the presidential candidates? Where do they get their money, where do the delegates who will nominate them come from, and what is the process?

In the Democratic Party, things aren’t really much different than the Republican Party, with a few exceptions. Presidential candidates need money, and a lot of it comes from PACs (Political Action Committees) and Super PACs. The difference between a PAC and a Super PAC is this: a PAC represents a single company or group that forms a committee to gather campaign donations from its members to give directly to candidates and party organizations they support. A Super PAC is different. They are also known as “independent expenditure-only” committees, and can spend unlimited funds on a candidate or party, but cannot give directly to the candidate and cannot communicate with the campaign. A lot of the candidate commercials you see on TV are funded by Super PACS. In addition, Super PACS can raise and spend funds from any group, individual, corporation, etc., rather than from a specific membership. Some candidates receive a lot of money from both kinds of PACs. There are candidates who refuse money from PACs, preferring instead to raise funds from independent individuals. For example, Bernie Sanders refuses funds from PACs and Super PACs.

Delegates are important because they vote at the national conventions of each political party, and they also have a role at state conventions. Delegates are first chosen at the local level. In Utah, the process begins in the county or precinct. Each county is allotted a certain number of state delegates based on a formula of how many in the county/precinct voted in the gubernatorial election. These state delegates are elected by their peers. These state delegates then travel to the state convention, where they vote on contested races for state candidates (governor, attorney general, treasurer, etc.) and federal offices in their districts (congress, senators). Depending on each party’s rules, if one candidate in a contested race doesn’t get more than a certain percentage of the delegate vote (for Democrats it is 55%), there will be a primary in late June to decide which candidate will run on the final ballot. Also at the state convention, those state delegates who wish to be national delegates and attend the national convention in July are elected by state delegates.

Each national delegate is elected to represent, and vote for, one of the presidential candidates. In the case of Democrats, some are elected to support Sanders, and some Clinton. For example, since Sanders won about 79 percent of the March presidential preference caucus in Utah, that percentage of national delegates will go to Philadelphia to support him.

In addition, in the Democratic Party only there are Super Delegates. Super Delegates don’t compete to be national delegates. Instead they are allowed to vote at the national convention based on their position within the national party. In Utah, there are four Democratic Super Delegates: the chair and vice-chair of the state Democratic Party, and the two members of the Democratic National Committee. These Super Delegates are free to vote for their personal preference; whether this is a good system is a subject for debate. But since there are 719 Super Delegates, it is to a candidate’s strong advantage to win as many of them as possible. However, Super Delegates are free to change their votes at any time.

A contested convention, which is a possibility for both parties this year, just means that no one presidential candidate has gathered enough delegate votes at the national convention to win outright. In this case, delegates are heavily courted to change their votes to another candidate in hopes of getting enough to get a majority vote on the floor. This could take several rounds of voting. In the past, this has been a normal way of picking a presidential candidate at national conventions, but more recently contested conventions have been avoided during the primary and/or caucus process. Have your popcorn ready, since this year’s national conventions promise to be very interesting.