By: Brent Parrish
I awoke this morning to see this main headline at the Drudge Report: “CORRUPTION: SHE HAS EQUAL DELEGATES AS SANDERS.” Apparently, despite the fact Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic primary with a whopping 60 percent of the vote, according to DNC rules, he will likely end up with fewer delegates.
Sanders won 60 percent of the vote, but thanks to the Democratic Party’s nominating system, he leaves the Granite State with at least 13 delegates while she leaves with at least 15 delegates.
New Hampshire has 24 “pledged” delegates, which are allotted based on the popular vote. Sanders has 13, and Clinton has 9, with 2 currently allotted to neither.
But under Democratic National Committee rules, New Hampshire also has 8 “superdelegates,” party officials who are free to commit to whomever they like, regardless of how their state votes. Their votes count the same as delegates won through the primary.
New Hampshire has 8 superdelegates, 6 of which are committed to Hillary Clinton, giving her a total of 15 delegates from New Hampshire as of Wednesday at 9 a.m.
The state’s 2 remaining superdelegates remain uncommitted.
In the overall delegate count, Clinton holds a commanding lead after a razor-thin victory in Iowa and a shellacking in New Hampshire. Clinton has 394 delegates, both super and electorally assigned, to only 42 for Sanders.
Understandably, all of this is raising questions on whether the electoral process is rigged: Does the voice of the people matter, or is it a done game? And just what is a “superdelegate”?
A superdelegate is, in fact, an unpledged delegate. A superdelegate is free to support any candidate for nomination, as opposed to a pledged delegate. It should be noted the term “superdelegate” is not an official term used by either party.
The term “superdelegate” actually entered the lexicon as a bit of a pejorative for an unpledged delegate. It has been argued that a superdelegate has more power than other delegates because of their greater leeway to vote as they so choose.
An entry at WikiPedia describes the differences on the selection process of superdelegates between both parties (emphasis added):
For Democrats, superdelegates fall into two categories:
- delegates seated based on other positions they hold, who are formally described (in Rule 9.A) as “unpledged party leader and elected official delegates” (unpledged PLEO delegates); and
- additional unpledged delegates selected by each state party (in a fixed predetermined number), who are formally described (in Rule 9.B) as “unpledged add-on delegates” and who need not hold any party or elected position before their selection as delegates.
For Republicans, there are generally 3 unpledged delegates in each state, consisting of the state chairman and two RNC committee members. However, according to the RNC communications director Sean Spicer, convention rules obligate those RNC members to vote according to the result of primary elections held in their states.
A common criticism is that unpledged delegates [i.e. superdelegates] could potentially swing the results to nominate a candidate that did not receive the majority of votes during the primaries.
The Democratic Party’s selection process for superdelegates has been met with accusations of being “undemocratic” in the past. A February 2008 article penned by David Nather for CQ Weekly opened with the following:
They were supposed to be the voice of the Democratic Party’s insiders, free to participate in the party’s conventions without picking sides and to vote for the candidate they thought would have the best chance to win the White House. Now, the party’s “superdelegates” may be forced to become exactly what they were never supposed to be: a rubber stamp for the party’s voters.
In 2008, Geraldine Ferraro, who at the time sat sat on Hillary Clinton’s campaign finance committee, defended the inclusion of superdelegates as being beneficial to the party. Television host and legal commentator Dan Abrams wrote an article entitled “Voters Not Superdelegates,” in 2011, asserting the use of superdelegates in the 2008 presidential race was “troubling.” Abrams claimed, “Each of the superdelegates’ votes is now equivalent to about 10,000 Democratic voters.”
An article posted today at Paste Magazine explores the whole superdelegate issue, and its ultimate impact on the general election. in much more detail. The author claims superdelegates compromise about 15 percent of the total number of delegates. It remains to be seen whether superdelegates will play a decisive role in selecting the Democratic presidential nominee. But it certainly raises a number of questions on whether superdelegates serve the interests of the party or the voters.