PHILADELPHIA—Supporters to end the superdelegate system in the Democratic presidential primaries beginning with the 2020 election cycle secured enough votes at the Democratic National Committee Rules Committee Saturday to take the issue to the floor of the full convention this week.
Needing a 25 percent threshold to produce a minority report that Democrat convention delegates could vote on, supporters of the amendment to abolish the superdelegate system garnered 58 votes in favor of their measure, while 108 rules committee members opposed the amendment.
Although the amendment to abolish superdelegates failed in the rules committee, 58 votes more than surpassed the 25 percent threshold for a minority report requirement.
Additionally, in an effort to reach out to disappointed liberal party activists, the committee voted to establish a “unity commission” that would restrict the role of convention superdelegates, ultimately binding about two-thirds of them to the results of state primary contests.
“The Commission shall make specific recommendations providing that Members of Congress, Governors, and distinguished party leaders remain unpledged and free to support their nominee of choice,” new rules language reads, “but that remaining unpledged delegates be required to cast their vote at the Convention for candidates in proportion to the vote received for each candidate in their state.”
“Today we scored a generational victory for democracy, taking a giant step toward democratizing the Democratic Party. We did it against all odds because hundreds of thousands of people across the country banded together to demand change,” said Diane Russell, a Maine State Representative and National Delegate in a statement
— Robyn Gottlieb (@RobynGottlieb) July 23, 2016
“This is a huge victory for Democracy,” said Aaron Regunberg, Rhode Island State Representative and Rules Committee member. “Now, we are taking the fight to end superdelegates to the floor of the Democratic National Convention. This is a huge opportunity to make the Democratic Party more Democratic.”
Superdelegates are unelected Democratic delegates who are free to choose which presidential primary candidate to support, as opposed to “pledged delegates” who must support the candidate who won their state primary contest. Superdelegates tend to be longtime senior party officials who often serve in other elected offices of the state they are from.
Supporters of superdelegates argue the party needs a firewall to nominate a standard bearer who truly represents the current party platform, so a vulnerable candidate like George McGovern is not nominated again.
The vote happened following pressure from Democratic-leaning organizations who collected over 750,000 signatures calling for the passage of a measure that would abolish superdelegates.
Additionally, anti-superdelegate protesters frequently created interruptions throughout the afternoon at the rules committee meeting. Bernie Sanders supporters say the system unfairly favors party establishment candidates while shutting out party grassroots outsiders.
Just two weeks ago, Republican National Committee Rules Committee members attempted to garner a 25 percent threshold to create a minority report for the full convention to vote on whether all delegates should be able to vote for their choice of presidential candidate on the floor this cycle. That effort, however, failed to receive enough support.
Joe Trippi, former Howard Dean campaign manager, agreed saying, “Of all the ideas to reform and improve the nominating process of the Democratic Party the core goal has to be to empower voices from the bottom up. The top down idea of superdelegates is obsolete and is a good place to start.”
Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who has found herself at odds previously with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said in part, “In my view, both as a superdelegate and a former DNC official, the nominee of our party should be decided by who earns the most votes —not party insiders, unelected officials, or the federal lobbyists that have been given a vote in our nominating process.”