Sanders: Democrats Should Sharply Reduce Superdelegates For 2020 Presidential Race

Dec 15, 2017

One of Bernie Sanders biggest complaints during the 2016 Democratic presidential race was the influence of so-called superdelegates. Before the primaries even started, Hillary Clinton had more than 400 of these superdelegates backing her candidacy. Sanders says it's system that has to change.

The superdelegates were elected party officials in each state, including governors and members of Congress, and they comprised roughly 15 percent of the entire delegate total for the Democrats.

"If the Democratic Party is going to open its doors and tell working people and young people that the process is vibrant, that you can come in and join the party, you cannot have a situation where you have 700 super delegates who can vote any way they want regardless of how the various states vote," said Sanders.  

A look at the results of the 2016 New Hampshire primary illustrate why Sanders and his supporters are strong critics of the super delegate system:

  • Sanders won 60 percent of the popular vote to Clinton's 38 percent.
  • As a result, Sanders was awarded 15 of the state's 24 national delegates and Clinton won nine.
  • All six of New Hampshire's superdelegates supported Clinton

So the two candidates left the state with an equal number of delegates, despite a big win by Sanders.

"If the Democratic Party is going to open its doors and tell working people and young people ... you cannot have a situation where you have 700 superdelegates who can vote any way they want." — Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sander maintains that this system is undemocratic and favors special interests.

"If somebody wins a state by 10, 20, 30 points and you have people from that state who are super delegates voting the opposite way, whose interests are they representing and are they reflecting the interests of the people of that state and the answer is no they're not," said Sanders. 

A special commission set up by the Democrats to review this issue has recommended a 60 percent reduction in the number of super delegates for the 2020 Presidential campaign.

The panel is also calling for same-day voter registration in states that have so-called "closed" primaries. These are states that require a voter to officially register with a political party in order to vote in that party's primary.

"In New York state, for example, right now requires you to become a Democrat six months before the primary day," says Sanders. "That is totally absurd and totally undemocratic."

"I'm not sure that your normal primary voter either in the Republican or the Democratic parties necessarily represent the mainstream center of the party ... which is one of the reasons that superdelegates were brought about in the first place."— Ted Kohn, professor, Norwich Univeristy

Norwich University political science professor Ted Kohn has questions about how the reduction in superdelegates will affect the Democratic Party.

He notes that the superdelegate system was put into place in the early 1980s after the Democrats suffered landslide losses in the 1972 and 1980 presidential elections.

He says the system was created to help give party leaders some ability to block insurgent candidates within their party.

"I'm not sure that your normal primary voter either in the Republican or the Democratic Parties necessarily represent the mainstream center of the party,” said Kohn. “They often represent in fact an activist fringe which is one of the reasons that superdelegates were brought about in the first place." 

Kohn notes that the Republican Party doesn't use a superdelegate system and he thinks the election of Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee shows what can happen when all delegates are chosen by primary voters.

"The more we open our parties to simply the loudest or the angriest voices, the voices of passion, or the most divisive rhetoric this is only going to increase the polarization that is hitting our electoral system so terribly right now," said Kohn.    

The plan to reduce the number of superdelegates is expected to be considered by the Democratic National Committee sometime next year.