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National

Ohio Democrats Choose Presidential Convention Delegates

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And let's turn to a quieter side of the political process, beneath the headlines. Around the country, people are trying to become delegates, those who actually attend their party's convention and vote on the nominees. Nick Castele from member station WCPN takes us to one selection process as it unfolded last night in Cleveland.

NICK CASTELE, BYLINE: In Ohio's most heavily Democratic congressional district, a community college lobby is filling up with local politicians and activists. The atmosphere is chummy. Many people here serve together in elected office and have campaigned for and against one another. But there are some newcomers, like Bridget Finnegan.

BRIDGET FINNEGAN: I'm kind of a political nerd. So the DNC is like the Super Bowl of politics for me.

CASTELE: She's running as a delegate for Bernie Sanders and hopes attending the convention could send her off into a career in politics. But she says learning the delegate selection process was tough.

FINNEGAN: I researched it. I went to a meeting at a bar with some Bernie Sanders supporters. And we figured it out, filled out the forms, and here I am.

CASTELE: Clinton and Sanders will pick up delegates in the March primary. The delegates chosen in this caucus will find out then how many of them get to go to the convention. But that's months away. And in the meantime, prospective delegates have convinced supporters to show up on a cold night and vote for them. Janine Boyd is in her first term as a state representative. She and other officeholders teamed up to make a joint bid to serve as Clinton delegates.

JANINE BOYD: Everything from phone calls to texts to social media - everything possible to connect with people and communicate that I'm interested in representing our congressional district at the convention.

CASTELE: The crowd splits into two auditoriums, one for Clinton and one for Sanders. Martin O'Malley didn't make the ballot in Ohio. Inside, candidates each have 1 minute to deliver a speech. Then it's time to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The ballot in the box. Thank you.

CASTELE: There could be easier ways to do this. After the primary, you could just award hypothetical delegates using pencil and paper. But that's not really the point for rising politicians trying to make contacts or for people who just want to see their candidate from the convention floor. For NPR News, I'm Nick Castele in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.