This page examines the history of contested conventions and brokered conventions*. FairVote tracks contested conventions because their multiple rounds of voting are an interesting parallel with ranked choice voting. Multi-round nomination processes are more likely to identify a consensus nominee, which helps a party put its best foot forward during the general election. While contested conventions are rare in the modern era, ranked choice voting in primary elections would restore the benefits of multi-round voting.
Party conventions began in the mid-1800s as a way to formalize nominations for president and vice president. Democratic conventions have been held since 1832 and Republican conventions since 1856. Since that time, only 26 conventions have been brokered or contested. Most contested conventions were held prior to 1936, when Democrats still used the “two-thirds rule” which mandated that the nominee receive two-thirds of the vote. Since 1936, both parties have operated under a simple majority rule and there have been only five contested conventions in that time.
Below is a list of all contested conventions in U.S. history.
A spreadsheet with this information can be found here.
Current as of 8/1/2021.
*Terminology note: “Contested convention” and “brokered convention” typically have slightly different meanings. This page will use the term “contested convention” to refer to both.