On social media you see a lot of people saying that this candidate or that candidate is “stealing delegates.” There is no such thing. First of all, it implies something illegal, or at best, nefarious. It is neither. Secondly, there is no way you can “steal” delegates.
When people talk about stealing delegates they are displaying their ignorance about how the system works. Just as Donald Trump displayed his ignorance when he claimed that he should be the candidate because he had more votes than any other candidate, but not a majority. Reince Priebus had to call Trump into a special private meeting so he could explain how the delegate system works and what the rules are for the Republican convention. Trump is no longer making that claim.
So here is how the delegate system works. In most states, delegates are selected by the campaign of a candidate. For example, I have been selected to be a delegate for the Cruz campaign in California. If Ted Cruz wins a majority of votes in my Congressional District, I will go to the convention as a Cruz delegate. In California, you are committed to vote for the candidate whose campaign selected you for the first two ballots. After that you are “unbound.” There are some states where the delegates are only committed to vote for their candidate for the first ballot. There are some states, like Colorado, where the delegates go to the convention “unbound,” and can vote for any candidate on the first ballot. By the third ballot all delegates are unbound and can vote for any candidate.
What some people refer to as “stealing” is a practice that has gone on since the formation of the Republican Party in the early 19th Century. Smart candidates who know the system will try to get delegates to vote for them after the first or second ballots. All delegates are typically contacted by candidates other than the candidate whose campaign selected them, and asked to commit that, if their candidate isn’t selected on the first ballot, or the second ballot, they will vote for candidate “x” on subsequent ballots. I am personally committed to vote for Senator Cruz for every ballot, no matter how many, so another candidate would be wasting his time trying to get me to commit to vote for him in subsequent ballots. However there are some delegates who do make those commitments. The mainstream media (read: the Democrat Party press) call this long-time political process “stealing” delegates. The fact that Senator Cruz has been successful in getting delegates from other candidates to commit to him on subsequent ballots isn’t “stealing.” The fact that the Trump campaign hasn’t been successful is because they weren’t familiar with how the system works. Trump hasn’t had a campaign staff that is really familiar with how to round up delegates, or the inner workings of the Republican Party.
You also hear comments that the “Establishment” is rigging the convention so that Trump can’t be the candidate. There is no way they can do that. Yes, there are some uncommitted delegate positions that the RNC, and State parties have who will vote the way they are told to, but they are a minority of delegates and couldn’t sway an election.
The way it works is that the candidate is not nominated by a vote of the people. The people elect the delegates. The delegates nominate the candidate. There is no way the election can be “rigged.” At the convention, 2,472 individual delegates will vote. If no candidate receives a majority of votes on the first ballot it will go to a second ballot, and to successive ballots until one candidate emerges with a majority. That candidate will be the nominee for the Party. The voting is transparent. It will be an above-board system which will fairly nominate a candidate for the Party who has the support of a majority of delegates.