Balloons falling from ceiling in crowded arena (© AP Images)
Both U.S. political parties will host conventions this summer to nominate candidates for president. (© AP Images)

The November U.S. presidential election is drawing closer, and both the Republican and the Democratic parties are holding their national conventions in the coming weeks. The Republican convention runs July 18–21 in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Democratic convention runs July 25–28 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Nominating conventions are an important part of the U.S. democratic process, even if they’re somewhat hard to understand. They can seem like showy celebrations, as each party hopes to invigorate voters, through media coverage, to support the candidate its delegates nominate. But party leaders are also doing real work in hammering out a platform, a set of principles that the party stands for as the general election season begins.

This video from the Voice of America explains what happens at a national convention, what it means to be a bound, unbound or super delegate, and the part those delegates play in deciding who their party nominates for president.

Graphic reading "Elections 2016" (State Dept./J. Maruszewski)