Power of ‘Superdelegates’ Reduced by DNC

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters had complained of their influence in 2016

Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., celebrate on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in 2016. Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., weren’t happy with ‘superdelegates’ at the convention.( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic National Committee members voted to significantly reduce the power of so-called “superdelegates” on Saturday — two years after supporters of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pointed to their influence as one way the party establishment had tipped the scales in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Superdelegates had about 15 percent of the votes on the convention floor at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, but almost all backed Clinton’ bid to get the party’s nomination. Without them, Clinton did not have the absolute majority of delegates needed — although she had 55 percent of the pledged delegates and still would have won.

“The reforms passed by the full DNC require superdelegates to refrain from voting on the first presidential nominating ballot unless a candidate has enough votes from pledged delegates (based on the outcomes of primaries and caucuses) that superdelegates wouldn’t overturn the will of the people,” according to a DNC statement issued Saturday.

The DNC statement asserted that while superdelegates have never reversed “the will of the voters,” the change “rebuilds trust and addresses even the perception that this could occur.”

Superdelegates became a Democratic Party fixture after primary voters stuck with President Jimmy Carter in 1980, who suffered a resounding loss to Ronald Reagan. An earlier debacle — the defeat of Sen. George McGovern after a liberal wave propelled him to the nomination in 1972— was still on the minds of many party leaders.

The idea was that superdelegates – whose ranks included DNC members, current members of Congress and governors — would act as a safeguard against unelectable candidates getting the presidential nomination.

Critics of the system have complained that it is elitist and undemocratic.

Virtually all of the Republican Party’s delegates are chosen through primaries and caucuses.

The DNC also voted on several other measures.

Those included requirements that caucuses “have absentee voting or another mechanisms that would give folks who can’t participate in person a way to join in the process” — such as shift workers, those in the military, seniors, people with disabilities, parents of young children.

States will “provide a written vote to allow for a recount if needed.” And state parties will be encouraged to work for “same-day or automatic registration and same-day party switching in Democratic primaries.”

The DNC also committed to “investing in technology, empowering grassroots participation, diversifying the donor base, and supporting state parties in building infrastructure.” Such reforms, the DNC said, “will combat voter suppression tactics,” increase grassroots participation, make the party more transparent, “strengthen inclusivity and build on the great diversity of the party.”

”Today is a historic day for our party We passed major reforms that will not only put our next presidential nominee in the strongest position possible, but will help us elect Democrats up and down the ballot, across the country,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement.

Watch: Sanders Supporters Leave DNC in Protest


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