Democrats vote to overhaul superdelegate system

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The Democratic Rules Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of a major shift in the superdelegate system Saturday night after a deal was reached between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

The committee approved nearly unanimously an amendment that preserves the existing superdelegate role for elected U.S. lawmakers and governors, but will bind the remaining superdelegates — roughly two-thirds — to primary and caucus results.  

{mosads}The new rule, which will still need to be formally approved by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and won’t be in effect until the next presidential election, establishes a “Unity Commission” to make recommendations on the reforms. 

“The Commission shall make specific recommendations providing that Members of Congress, Governors, and distinguished party leaders remain unpledged and free to support their nominee of choice,” reads the amendment, “but that remaining unpledged delegates be required to cast their vote at the Convention for candidates in proportion to the vote received for each candidate in their state.”

The 21 members of the commission are to be appointed no later than 60 days after the November general election. Nine will be appointed by Clinton, seven by Sanders and three by the DNC chair. It will be chaired by Clinton supporter Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and vice-chaired by Sanders supporter and former Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen. The commission will aim to be evenly split between men and women and geographically and demographically diverse.

The commission would report its recommendations by Jan. 1, 2018, with the Rules and Bylaws Committee taking action on its report within six months.

The proposal also tackles voting reform, especially in caucus states, with the “goal of increasing voter participation and inclusion through grassroots engagement of the party’s voter base.”

The commission will make specific recommendations on how to ensure participation in caucuses and make them “less burdensome and more inclusive, transparent and accessible” and encourage new and unaffiliated voters to get involved.

The approval of the amendment struck a note of unity after a string of other superdelegate-related amendments were voted down, including a complete abolition of the process. 

Delegates from both the Sanders and Clinton camps spoke out in favor of the deal before the vote. No one spoke in opposition.

“I want people to understand that this commission is different from others that we’ve had in the past. It’s something that has real teeth in it because it prescribes the outcome, for the most part, that we are going to see a real change in the superdelegates, basically reducing them by two-thirds,” said Michaeleen Crowell, Sanders’s chief of staff.

Crowell said the arrangement was the result of many conversations between the two camps.

Several delegates who spoke called for a unified front to take down GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in November. 

“We have our differences. Like any family, we have our differences, but here comes a time where we have to hang together or we’ll hang separately,” said New York delegate Arthur Cheliotes, a Sanders supporter.  

Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was the last to speak before voting started, and she said that primary votes for Sanders or Clinton “divide us no more.” 

“We will climb our journey of victory together, that our arms will be linked and we’ll go to the floor of this great convention,” she said. “For I see that mountain that we’ve been challenged to cover, and I am going to say we shall overcome and elect the next [president] of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton, together, together, together.”

The amendment was approved 158-6.

As it quickly became clear that the amendment had passed, delegates stood to applaud and cheer. 

Democrats are hoping to present a unified front behind Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and her new vice presidential pick, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, as the Democratic National Convention kicks off next week in Philadelphia. 

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver praised the move in a statement Saturday.

“This is a tremendous victory for Sen. Sanders’ fight to democratize the Democratic Party and reform the Democratic nominating process,” Weaver said. “We were pleased to work with the Clinton campaign to enact this historic commission.”

Dems hoping to bridge the Sanders-Clinton gap hit a major bump this week when internal DNC emails were leaked online. Several emails show an effort by Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and aides to undermine Sanders’s campaign in the face of his continued criticism of the party structure. 

DNC Vice Chairwoman Donna Brazile dropped in on a meeting of Rules Committee members supporting Sanders to apologize for how the emails came out, Politico reported.

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Sheila Jackson Lee Tim Kaine

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