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Compromise Reached After DNC Attempt to Squash Superdelegates

Michigan has 17 superdelegates who can vote for whomever they choose at the DNC. (Kelly DeLay/Flickr)
Michigan has 17 superdelegates who can vote for whomever they choose at the DNC. (Kelly DeLay/Flickr)
July 25, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia kicks off Monday just as groups fighting to end the superdelegate system lost a battle with the party's rules committee.

Superdelegates are appointed by party leaders and are free to vote for whomever they choose, regardless of who wins the presidential primary in their state. Michigan has 17. On Saturday, the convention's rules committee rejected petitions signed by more than a half-million people calling for an end to superdelegates.

"It's really about making sure that the processes and structures of our party reflect our core values,” said Rhode Island state Representative Aaron Regunberg, who serves on the committee.

The committee did agree to a compromise in the form of a "unity commission," which will meet after the election to draft changes to the party's nominating process, and possibly reduce the number of superdelegates by up to two-thirds.

The primary process this year produced complaints in some states where the division of delegates didn't necessarily reflect the distribution of votes between the candidates. Although the superdelegates may not tip the balance at the convention, Regunberg said the process created suspicion among the voters.

"The mere existence of this system creates a perception among a whole lot of our party's base that the political system is rigged in some ways,” he said.

The system, originally established in 1984, set the number of superdelegates at 14 percent of the total delegate count. Over time their numbers grew, and by 2008 a full twenty percent of all convention delegates were superdelegates.

Regunberg said the superdelegates have become increasingly unrepresentative of the diversity of the party as a whole.

"They skew whiter, they skew more male and they skew older than the pledged delegates," he said, "to say nothing of our party's voters.”

A vote to approve the amendment could eliminate superdelegates in future presidential primaries, but would not change the delegate count at this year's convention.

To learn more, visit

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI