By Jim Ellis
June 11, 2018 — According to an article published late last week by Politico, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez informed a group of US House members this week in a meeting that the party will be considering a move to change the status of what are now known as “Super Delegates” in preparation for the 2020 presidential election.
The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws panel met Friday to consider two proposals about making the group virtually powerless before the next presidential campaign begins. The Super Delegates became controversial in the 2016 presidential contest because of Hillary Clinton’s dominance within this delegate sector, which is comprised of elected officials and party leaders.
Many believed the group unfairly tilted the playing field toward Clinton in the face of actual Democratic primary and caucus voters who preferred Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In the end, Clinton still won the pledged delegate count — those earned in primaries and caucuses — but her strength with Super Delegates clinched the nomination long before all the delegates voted on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention.
In short, each state is awarded a certain number of Super Delegates, officially labeled as “PLEO’s” (Party Leader/Elected Official). They are comprised of a defined number of the state’s elected officials, internally elected, and “distinguished” party leaders. Each state has different rules governing who is awarded Super Delegate status.
The group is powerful because its members are unpledged, or free agents, and may support the candidate of their choice on all roll call votes. The pledged delegates must vote for their state’s primary or caucus candidates who qualified for proportional votes on as many as the first three ballots depending upon state law and/or rule. All pledged delegates are bound to vote for their state’s primary or caucus candidates who earned proportional support on the critical first ballot. The Democrats no longer permit winner-take-all state primaries.
The two proposals would drastically change the Super Delegate classification and basically equalize them with the pledged delegates. The system would move closer to the Republican procedure where all but each state’s chairman, national committeeman, and national committeewoman have to run for a delegate position in order to participate at the national convention. The aforementioned three party officers are automatically part of the state delegation, and are, in fact, the Republican Super Delegates. For the GOP, however, the automatic delegate number 168, the same group who are the official Republican National Committee members, as compared to the Democrats where Super Delegates comprise over 15 percent of the entire delegate universe.
Perez reportedly informed the attending House members that the first proposal, one that he says is unlikely to be adopted, would create three different classes of Super Delegates and allow only the first class to remain as unpledged delegates. The second proposal, and one that Perez reportedly believes will be accepted, will allow the Super Delegates to remain but they will be stripped of their unpledged status, thus making them vote as a pledged delegate, the nuances of which depend upon their individual state law, rule, and how the candidates perform on a proportional basis during the individual state’s primary or caucus.
Changing the Super Delegate status will dramatically affect the Democratic presidential campaign, and is another indication that we may be seeing the coming of another Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.
After the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee makes its recommendation on procedure changes, the full Democratic National Committee membership body will vote on the new rules package at their next official meeting scheduled for August.