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convention, in U.S. politics, a gathering of delegates to nominate candidates for elective office and to formulate party policy. They are held at the national, state, and local levels.

Organization and Characteristic Features

The organization of a national convention is the responsibility of the party's national committee, which begins making arrangements for the accommodation of hundreds of delegates and the administration of the convention at least a year in advance. Delegates have been chosen by a variety of methods, including primary elections, party caucuses, state and local conventions, or state and local committee meetings, but the majority are now chosen by primaries. Although the two parties follow the same basic pattern of basing representation on the population of the state and the party's strength within the state, the Democratic party introduced a series of reforms after the 1968 convention that modified its traditional delegate selection system. Quotas, assuring proportional representation for women, youths, and blacks, were used for the 1972 convention but later modified in favor of a general commitment to gender equality and minority representation. Balloting at both the Republican and Democratic conventions is by states. The unit rule, forcing all of a state's votes to be cast by the majority for one candidate, was abolished by the Democrats in 1968; it had been in effect since 1832. Although today the acceptance speech of the nominee is the recognized climax of the convention, it was not until Franklin Delano Roosevelt flew to Chicago to accept the Democratic nomination in 1932 that a nominee accepted the nomination in person.


State conventions for nominating candidates were first held in the early 19th cent. The first national convention was held by the Anti-Masonic party in Baltimore in 1831. Formerly the candidates for president and vice president were selected by a party caucus, i.e. a meeting of influential members of Congress, and they favored their colleagues. In 1832 the Democrats nominated Andrew Jackson at a national convention. The Republican party held its first national convention in 1856, when John Frémont was chosen as the presidential candidate.

Candidates were often selected only after many ballots had been taken. This was especially true of the Democratic party, which, until 1936, had required successful nominees to win two thirds of the delegates' votes. Thus, Stephen Douglas was nominated on the 59th ballot in 1860, Woodrow Wilson on the 46th ballot in 1912, and John W. Davis on the 103d ballot in 1924. The difficulty of gaining agreement on a candidate at conventions led to a unique feature of the American political scene: the dark horse—a candidate with little or no formal support before the opening of the convention, who succeeded in gaining the nomination. Since 1960, however, national conventions have tended to ratify front-runner candidates increasingly determined by delegates won in primaries and state caucuses, rather than select from among evenly matched rivals. National political conventions appear to have changed from their initial function as nominating mechanisms into mobilizers of party energy for the upcoming campaign.


See P. T. David et al., The Politics of National Party Conventions (rev. ed. 1984); Congressional Quarterly, Guide to U.S. Elections (2d ed. 1985); B. E. Shafer, Bifurcated Politics: Evolution and Reform in the National Party Convention (1988).

Urbana is a major Christian missions convention sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for college students. This event is designed to inform Christian students about current issues around the world that missionaries face, to declare the biblical mandate for cross-cultural missions, and motivate them to participate in missions. The first Urbana was held in 1946 in Toronto, and since then, it has generally been held every three years. From 1948-2003, Urbana took place at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with the primary venue after 1963 being the Assembly Hall, the school's basketball arena. Because of insufficient space at the University of Illinois campus, Urbana 06 was held in St. Louis, Missouri, at Edward Jones Dome.

Each Urbana lasts for nearly one week at the end of December and ending with a final communion on New Year's Eve. At Urbana 2006, nearly 22,500 participants attended, growing from 575 attendees in 1946. The conference is well-known for bringing famous Christians to speak, such as Billy Graham, Luis Palau, John Stott, and Ravi Zacharias. In addition to the main speakers, participants are offered a choice of hundreds of elective classes offered throughout the week, relating to specific topics within the general theme of university and international missions. Worship is also a major highlight of the conference; special attention is paid to incorporating diverse worship styles, even including songs in foreign languages. An "International Student Track" was first offered at Urbana 2003, offering special housing options and electives to international students interested in spending time with other students from their respective countries. Urbana 06 again held a track for international students, as well as tracks that focused on the global HIV-AIDS pandemic, the growing business as mission movement, and the needs of the world's largest slum communities in the developing world.

Urbana 06 speakers included Rick Warren, pastor, and author of The Purpose Driven Life; Ray Bakke, a professor and specialist in urban ministry; Bono from the band U2 (via video); and Ajith Fernando, a well-respected Bible teacher who is the director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka.

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