Democratic superdelegates face uncertain future - but won’t be eliminated

© Mary Schwalm
Superdelegates are facing an uncertain future, thanks to a compromise that was struck at the Democratic National Convention Rules Committee on Saturday.

Bernie Sanders supporters tried to introduce a number of amendments to eliminate or limit superdelegates’ influence in future elections, as they are thought to wield too much power over the democratic process.

While these efforts were struck down at the committee meeting, Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters agreed to a compromise to create a “unity commission” that will revise the rules surrounding the nomination process, including the role of superdelegates.

What are superdelegates?

Superdelegates consist of a mix of elected officials, the vice president, members of the DNC and former politicians such as ex-presidents – including Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill – governors and senators.

Superdelegates were invented as a way for party officials to wield more control over the selection of a presidential candidate. They were established in the 1980’s following the election defeats of Democratic presidential candidates George McGovern and Jimmy Carter.

There are currently 713 Democratic superdelegates. The Republican Party, by comparison, has 298 superdelegates, which are limited to three members per each state’s national party.

Clinton managed to get the support of the majority of superdelegates early on in the primary season.

Democratic superdelegates are free to vote for whichever candidate they choose, regardless of the results of their state’s primaries. Republican superdelegates do not have this option.

Superdelegates do not cast their vote until the Democratic National Convention. Part of the issue surrounding Democratic superdelegates is that their perceived support for a candidate is often counted in the total delegate count, which misleads the public about the race.

The demand for superdelegate reform has increased in light of the WikiLeaks DNC email leak, which confirmed the Democratic National Committee worked against Sanders and pushed for Clinton to be the nominee from the beginning of the presidential campaign, despite the fact that it is supposed to remain impartial during the primary process.

Sanders supporters have argued the current superdelegate situation leads to the party failing to reflect “our core values.” Clinton supporters, on the other hand, argued that superdelegates add more people to the decision-making process.

The unity commission will consist of 21 members that will examine ways to improve access to caucuses and broaden the party’s appeal. It was introduced by Clinton supporter and former Denver Mayor Wellington Web, and Sanders’ chief of staff Michaeleen Crowell. DNC’s Jennifer O’Malley Dillon will chair the commission that will contain nine members chosen by Clinton, seven by Sanders and three appointed by the DNC.

Superdelegates are set to face a cull, according to the committee recommendations. While members of Congress and other elected officials will remain as unpledged delegates, others will be bound by results of their state’s primary, allowing for a more representative system. This will reduce the number of superdelegates by two-thirds.

Any superdelegate changes still need to be approved by the committee, AP reports.

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said, "This is a tremendous victory for Sen. Sanders' fight to democratize the Democratic Party and reform the Democratic nominating process. We were pleased to work with the Clinton campaign to enact this historic commission."

A Clinton aide is quoted by Politico as saying, "We strongly support the unity commission."