Democratic Party Limits Powers of “Superdelegates”

Antonio Alamillo
Staff Writer

News_Antonio_Superdelegate_Ava Lowery, Flickr

PC: Ava Lowery / flickr

On Saturday, Aug. 25, the National Democratic Party made a significant change to their selection process of a presidential nominee by limiting superdelegates’ power.

Superdelegates, originally implemented in 1984, were designed to take away power from the Democratic party leaders at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), and gave more power to “pledged” delegates.

Superdelegates are free to vote for anyone in the Democratic Party for president, unlike pledged delegates, who are elected to the DNC to support a specific candidate.

At the beginning of a campaign, pledged delegates will announce who they want as a presidential nominee from the Democratic party. Pledged delegates are then chosen based on the popularity percentage of the candidate they support, with boundaries usually the same as congressional districts.

Superdelegates are different in that they are not in the DNC to exclusively forward a specific candidate’s campaign. Superdelegates consist of DNC members, Democratic governors and members of Congress.

Recent debate in the Democratic party over the last years have began to question the power of superdelegates. Some believe they hold too much power in choosing a presidential nominee, and play too much of a divisive role in the Democratic Party.

Superdelegates’ legitimacy caused extreme controversy in the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, as the Democratic party was split between Hillary Clinton, who overwhelmingly had superdelegate support, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who fought against the power of superdelegates.

Sanders supporters argued that superdelegates gave Clinton’s campaign the unfair advantage, which caused people to not vote because they assumed she would win.

With last Saturday’s decision, superdelegates are no longer allowed to vote in the first round of presidential primaries. This means that more power will shift towards pledged delegates and the presidential nominees’ popularity will become more accurately represented.

For politicians like Sanders, this was a step in the right direction.  

“Today’s decision by the DNC is an important step forward in making the Democratic Party more open, democratic and responsive to the input of ordinary Americans,” said Sanders. “This has been a long and arduous process, and I want to thank Tom Perez and all of those who made it happen.”

Mentioned in Sanders’ statement is Tom Perez, Chairman of the DNC. Perez also released a statement to the press regarding Saturday’s vote.

“No candidate should have an accumulated lead, whether real or perceived, before a first ballot is cast,” Perez stated.

While the decision Saturday was a blow to superdelegate power, it was not the first to come. After the 2016 elections caused controversy, the DNC’s Unity Reform Commission severely reduced the amount of superdelegates to more accurately represent the “everyday voter”.

Now with two major reforms limiting superdelegate power, some politicians worry that this is interfering too much with the current political system, and that the changes are not necessary.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., wrote a letter in regards to Saturday’s outcome to Tom Perez. He wrote that the decision would “disenfranchise elected officials for no substantive reason and would create unnecessary competition between those elected and their constituents.”

He continued by explaining, “The thought that a member of Congress would have to compete with their constituents in an election to secure a first ballot vote on the party’s nominee creates unnecessary friction between those elected and the people they are elected to serve.”

With the presidential election in 2020, the Democratic party will have to adjust to their new decision. It is expected that there will be many contenders for president, but that the nomination process will be more aligned with American voters’ ideals.



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