In a Crucial Reform Vote, Democrats Move to Weaken the Power of Superdelegates

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A two-year effort to unite the Democratic Party after the divisive 2016 presidential election has resulted in a key vote Saturday to significantly reduce the influence of superdelegates.

At the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting in Chicago, most of the approximately 400 members decided to prevent superdelegates from voting on the first ballot at a presidential nominating convention unless a candidate would win regardless of superdelegate influence, HuffPost reported.

The change, part of a broad group of reforms discussed following the 2016 election, was backed by DNC Chairman Tom Perez and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who believe the Vermont senator was at a disadvantage against rival Hillary Clinton in the campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton received about 4 million more primary and caucus votes than Sanders, according to the Associated Press.


“After you lose an election, you have to look in the mirror,” former DNC Chairman Howard Dean said, according to The New York Times, referring to Clinton’s narrow loss to Donald Trump in the general election. “As a so-called superdelegate myself, I feel this is the best path forward…It is exactly the kind of change we have to make, not just to strengthen our candidates, but to strengthen the view of the Democratic Party among its core group of voters, which is young Americans.”

“We made these changes because it’s never too late to do the right thing,” Michael Kapp, a DNC member from California and a Clinton supporter, said, according to HuffPost.

Selina Vickers, who went on a week-long hunger strike to advocate for reform of the superdelegate system, said, “It is really kind of bizarre to be on the same side as Perez on these issues and I’m glad we are.”

The AP explained further:

Under the new rules for 2020, superdelegates still will be automatic delegates to the party’s convention. But they will not have a vote on the first presidential ballot if the convention remains contested, which is a distinct possibility given the number of Democrats considering running.

Superdelegates would get to vote on any subsequent rounds of voting, though the Democratic nomination has been settled on the first ballot of every convention since the 1970s, when the modern system of primaries and caucuses was established.


Some opponents of the reform believe it would reduce the influence of people of color, as more than 200 of the 700-plus superdelegates are black, HuffPost noted. But others argued that limiting superdelegate power would actually promote diversity.

In the end, supporters of the reform won by a margin of more than three to one. The approval’s announcement drew a standing ovation from progressive Democrats.