See more of the story

Ballots marked "uncommitted" accounted for almost a fifth of votes cast in Minnesota's Democratic presidential primary last week, driven largely by a protest of Israel's war in Gaza -- and those protest voters have an opportunity to send delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer if they can navigate a gantlet of DFL conventions this spring.

The process involves some party arcana, but Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin said he hopes the process feels open.

"We want people to be able to participate," Martin said.

What's a delegate? And what does it mean to be an uncommitted delegate?

Delegates chosen in both the Republican and Democratic parties attend the national conventions, and they're the ones who formally nominate their party's presidential candidate.

While a delegate committed to Joe Biden has to vote for Biden on the first ballot, an uncommitted delegate can vote for anyone to get the nomination, including Biden.

How many delegates will be uncommitted?

The nearly 46,000 "uncommitted" ballots cast on March 5 means Minnesota will send 11 uncommitted delegates to the DNC in Chicago this summer. But Martin said that only means there are 11 delegates who are not committed to a candidate.

Minnesota will also send 18 automatic delegates or "superdelegates" including the governor, elected members of Congress and a few DFL party leaders. Those automatic delegates are also uncommitted, meaning they are not obligated to vote for Biden at the national convention.

How does someone become a delegate?

Most delegates are elected at DFL congressional district conventions and the state DFL convention, Martin said. They are apportioned roughly in line with the March 5 primary votes: 64 delegates for Biden and the 11 uncommitted ones.

Forty-nine of those delegates will be elected at the eight congressional district conventions. Anyone who wants to become a delegate can run: They just have to attend their local congressional district convention and file a statement with the convention chair before the convention begins.

Only three congressional districts will pick uncommitted delegates: the second, fourth and fifth districts, because those are the only three where "uncommitted" got 15% or more of the vote, which is the minimum proportion needed to send delegates to the DNC, according to state party rules.

A similar process happens at the state DFL convention May 31-June 2 in Duluth, where 26 more delegates will be picked, Martin said. The proportion of the statewide vote translates to the proportion of statewide delegates, he said, meaning 21 for Biden and five uncommitted delegates.

Does the Vote Uncommitted MN campaign have a say in who becomes a delegate?

No. At the conventions that pick uncommitted delegates, it will be up to the people who choose to caucus with the uncommitted group to pick the uncommitted delegates.

In theory, that means an ardent Biden supporter could take one of those uncommitted seats if others who caucus with the uncommitted group vote for that person.