Tight primary race could mean big decision for VA Delegates

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ROANOKE (WSLS10)-- As New Yorkers head to the polls to vote in the primary election today, democratic and republican candidates are hoping for a big win. In Virginia, our votes have been locked in for more than a month, but as this primary election continues to get tighter, republican delegates in the Commonwealth are already considering what happens if no one gets a majority.

There are still 16 primary republican elections remaining and more than 830 delegate votes up for grabs, enough to push either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz over the top for a win. It's also just enough to keep either candidate from getting a clear majority.

Here in Virginia, the primary election on March 1 sealed in the republican votes: 17 delegates for Donald Trump, 16 for Marco Rubio, 8 for Ted Cruz, 5 for John Kasich and 3 for Ben Carson. Although Rubio and Carson have already dropped out of the race, their votes will still be locked in for Virginia and dozens of other states across the nation, splitting the republican vote even more.

If there's no clear winner at the convention's first vote in July, another vote will be taken. If that happens, political expert Ed Lynch, says Virginia delegates are no longer bound to their original votes.

"The delegates are normally there to maybe take another look at the rules," says Lynch. "They decide where the next convention is going to be, do housekeeping and ceremonial things. They haven't really had to make the tough choice of who the party's nominee is going to be, who will go up against the other party's nominee. These delegates are now finding themselves with exactly that responsibility. Some will react positively and some will be scared."

Although it doesn't happen often-- it is possible that neither Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will get the 1,237 votes needed for a majority.

"Second ballot is very rare," he says. "The last time there was a second ballot at any of the nominating conventions was 1948, so not in the lifetime of most living Americans. What has to happen, is nobody gets a majority on the first ballot and it's beginning to look a little more likely that it might occur."

If that happens, delegates will be free to vote for whoever they want in the second convention vote.

"It's a complete free for all if there's a second ballot," says Lynch. "Should the republican nomination go to a second ballot, that means all of the Virginia delegates are completely uncommitted. They can vote for whomever has his or her name put into the nomination. It doesn't even have to be one of the people who ran for president here in Virginia."

That's one reason Lynch says Ted Cruz has been making stops in Virginia at the district conventions. He's working to get to know the actual delegates, by talking to the men and women who will be traveling to Cleveland for the republican conventions.

The first convention is still a few months away, but with each primary election, the race between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is getting closer and closer.