Earlier this year, I was elected as a Delegate to the Republican National Convention for the District of Columbia, one of nineteen from D.C. While I have attended five previous political conventions - in Houston, San Diego, Philadelphia, New York and Minneapolis/St. Paul - I had not been privileged to serve as a delegate to a convention until this past week in Tampa, Florida - the 40th Republican National Convention. As a Delegate for D.C., I joined 2,285 other delegates and 2,125 alternate delegates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories to nominate Governor Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate for president of the United States. The convention also included approximately 15,000 credentialed media - an international press corps second only in size to this summer’s London Olympic Games. The composition of the individual state and territory delegations is determined by the bylaws of their respective state and territory parties. Since 1972, almost all have appointed delegates by primary election results, although some, notably Iowa, use caucuses, and others combine the primary with caucuses or with delegates elected at a state convention. Delegates travel to the convention at their own expense, and invest considerable time and energy to ensure a successful event. While at the Convention, delegates are seated on the convention floor and are expected to attend and participate in the various convention sessions. In addition to the official convention proceedings, many state Republican parties organize activities, such as meetings and briefings, for their delegation members.

Some delegates are chosen to represent their delegations on one of the four standing convention committees. Committees of the national conventions prepare reports for the conventions on delegate credentials, rules of procedure and party platforms. The full convention ratifies or amends the respective recommendations from each of these committees:

Permanent Organization. The Permanent Organization Committee, which functions continuously between conventions, has as its primary role the selection of convention officers.

Credentials. The Credentials Committees of both parties examine and rule on the accreditation of state delegations to the conventions.

Rules. The Rules Committees of the two parties recommend procedures under which the national conventions are conducted.

Platform. The task of drafting the platforms of the two major parties is the responsibility of the Platform Committees, which draft the document for the conventions’ approval.

Importantly, the convention serves as a unity point to bring together a party platform and state parties by having delegates vote on issues, which the nominee can then incorporate into their presidential campaign.

The United States holds only one national election in which we all share the responsibility of participating. Part of that shared responsibility involves educating ourselves about the positions of the presidential candidates and the parties they represent. While the pre-convention primary campaign educates us to a certain extent, the party conventions “kick off” the head-to-head campaign that will decide the future of our nation.