As Campaigns Seek Delegates, Ordinary Voters Feel Sidelined

WASHINGTON — When it comes to nominating presidential candidates, it turns out the world’s foremost democracy is not so purely democratic.

For decades, both major parties have used a somewhat convoluted process for picking their nominees, one that involves ordinary voters in only an indirect way. As Americans flock this year to outsider candidates, the kind most hindered by these rules, they are suddenly waking up to this reality. And their confusion and anger are adding another volatile element to an election being waged over questions of fairness and equality.

In Nashville a week ago, supporters of Donald J. Trump accused Republican leaders of trying to stack the state’s delegate slate with people who were anti-Trump. The Trump campaign posted the cellphone number of the state party chairman on Twitter, leading him to be inundated with calls. Several dozen people showed up at the meeting at which delegates were being named, banged on the windows and demanded to be let in.

Backers of Senator Bernie Sanders, bewildered at why he keeps winning states but cannot seem to cut into Hillary Clinton’s delegate count because of her overwhelming lead with “superdelegates,” have used Reddit and Twitter to start an aggressive pressure campaign to flip votes.

Javier Morillo, a member of the Democratic National Committee and a superdelegate from Minnesota, said he discovered his email posted on a website called a “Superdelegate Hit List.”The list had an illustration of a donkey, the party’s symbol, with two crossbow arrows behind its head. “I was a little annoyed,” he said.

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