Note: This post has been updated to reflect the increase in the number of signatures on the petition in 24 hours.
After his stunning win in the New Hampshire primary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders left the state victorious in everything but delegates. Hillary Clinton, while shellacked by voters, actually has more New Hampshire delegates than Sanders thanks to the Democratic Party’s embrace of “superdelegates” — party officials granted the same rights as elected delegates.
As a result, two Sanders supporters, Emiljana Ulaj and Rob Akleh, started an online petition to pressure Democratic Party superdelegates to “align yourself with regular voters – not party elites.”
In spite of the fact the Iowa caucuses were a photo-finish and Sanders beat Clinton by more than 20 points in New Hampshire, the current delegate count, including both elected delegates and superdelegates, gives a huge lead to Clinton — 394 to 42. Given the massive lead in the popular vote among Democratic caucus and primary voters, this delegate deficit has many Sanders voters crying foul.
The petition, which was launched Monday morning, has already garnered over 125,000 signatures in 24 hours, reads:
Superdelegates: Don’t Deny Democracy.
Commit to honoring the voters – let everyone know that you won’t allow your vote to defeat our votes. Announce that in the event of a close race, you’ll align yourself with regular voters – not party elites.
Bernie Sanders is on a roll among actual voters, with a blowout victory in New Hampshire (22 points!) and a virtual tie in Iowa. When Bernie is on the ballot – he can win. But in a close race, Superdelegates can snatch that victory away.
Only by pushing back against this possibility can we ensure that the candidate WE vote for becomes the nominee.
When reached for comment, petition originator Akleh told The Daily Caller, “The reason we started this petition is because we feel it is undemocratic for some 360 superdelegates who are apart of the party elite to throw their support behind a candidate before a single vote was cast in any state and in some cases before a debate was held.”
As for what they hope to bring about, Akleh said, “We want these superdelegates to support the will of their constituents, so we are asking them to pledge not to tilt a close election, and let the voters decide.”
Since the launch of the drive, Akleh says they haven’t yet received any pushback. “We have had tremendous support as you noted and have yet to have any pushback,” he said. “How can anybody be against having the voters decide the nominee?”
Superdelegates are unique to the Democratic Party and have historically tended to favor leading establishment candidates with longstanding relationships with party elites.
Asked what led to the pair starting the petition, Ulaj told TheDC, “What inspired me was more the fear that once again the voice of millions of voters would be silenced and disregarded in favor of the wishes of the elite and those who regularly contribute the maximum to campaigns.”
Both Akleh and Ulaj were surprised by how quickly the petition went viral. “Reaching 50,000 signatures within hours is incredible,” Ulaj told TheDC. “I don’t think any of us were expecting that, but at the same time we’re not surprised. People want the system to finally start working for them, and this is just another example of that.”
“We want our party to listen to us. The more people speak up, the more likely it is that the party and the superdelegates are to listen,” she continued.
Ulaj hopes Hillary Clinton agrees with their goal of ensuring superdelegates do not play a deciding role in the candidate selection. “I am sure that winning through superdelegates overriding the will of the people of her own party is not something Secretary Clinton wants either, and I think it would be incredibly destructive for the Democratic Party, and our democracy, if that is how our nominee was chosen.”
The Republican National Committee used the discrepancy between the popular vote results thus far and the delegate count. RNC spokeswoman Allison Moore told TheDC, “The DNC and their Party elites appear to be stacking the deck with superdelegates in favor of Hillary Clinton against the will of the voters.”