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US election word of the week: unbound delegate

 © PhotoDiscIn this series we are looking at some of the language and terminology associated with the US electoral process in the run-up to the Presidential election in late 2016. This week’s word is unbound delegate.

In the previous post we looked at the term superdelegate, which is used to refer to the Democratic Party delegates who have not yet promised their support to a candidate when they attend the party’s convention and can therefore – in theory at least – vote for any candidate. The Republican Party’s equivalent is the less glamorous-sounding unbound delegate. These delegates include the same kinds of people as in the Democratic Party party – activists and elected leaders – but are fewer in number, around 200 compared to more than 700 superdelegates. In a closely fought contest such as the current one, unbound delegates take on greater than usual importance since their votes at the Convention could decide the outcome.



The adjective unbound is much less frequent than bound and generally refers to things that are literally not tied or fixed together. In the political context, however, it means that the votes of these delegates are not bound, ie promised, to any candidate.

Look out for the next post in this series. You can find past posts on the language of American politics here and here, or search for other posts in this series using the tag US politics.

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Liz Potter

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