Democrats Vote to Change Role of Superdelegates in Presidential Nomination Process

August 26, 2018 Updated: August 26, 2018

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a package of measures that includes restrictions on the role of superdelegates in selecting the party’s presidential nominee, a change that was sparked by a tumultuous 2016 primary process.

The new rules, approved by a voice vote at the DNC’s summer meeting in Chicago on Aug. 25, stipulate that superdelegates can only vote for the presidential nominee if the vote has already been decided or if the nominating convention is deadlocked.

In a tweet, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) applauded the move: “Today’s decision by the DNC is an important step forward in making the Democratic Party more open, democratic and responsive to the input of ordinary Americans. This has been a long and arduous process, and I want to thank @TomPerez and all of those who made it happen.”

In the latter stages of the 2016 campaign, Sanders complained that Hillary Clinton, the eventual Democratic nominee, and the DNC had “rigged” the process against him. Part of his complaint centered on the role of superdelegates.

When the Associated Press called the primary race for Clinton on June 6, 2016, it reported that 571 of 714 superdelegates were planning on voting for the former secretary of state.

The superdelegates were created in 1982 in an effort to prevent the party from nominating “unelectable candidates,” by giving party elders a say in who was chosen. Typically, superdelegates are chosen from members of Congress, Democratic governors, members of the DNC, and distinguished party elders, and have comprised 14 to 20 percent of the overall number of delegates.

In contrast to the pledged delegates that are chosen in primaries, superdelegates are free to vote for whomever they wish.

The vote to change the role of the superdelegates was the conclusion of a process that began just before the 2016 Democratic National Convention, in response to complaints from Sanders and his delegates.