Democrats move to limit role of superdelegates in presidential nominations

Democrats move to limit role of superdelegates in presidential nominations
© Greg Nash

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to limit the role of superdelegates in choosing the party’s presidential nominee, moving to heal internal divisions that emerged during the bitter 2016 primaries.

The reform, adopted by voice vote at the DNC’s summer meeting in Chicago, will bar superdelegates — lawmakers, former presidents and other party dignitaries — from voting during the first ballot of the nominating process.

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But superdelegates would be allowed to vote in the rare instance where a second ballot was needed to nominate a presidential candidate.

The reform was pushed by DNC Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE, but faced strong opposition from a relatively small but vocal group of party members, who argued it would disenfranchise some of the party’s most prominent members.

Earlier on Saturday, opponents of the measure, led by former DNC Chair Don Fowler, sought to require a two-thirds majority vote to pass the reforms, arguing that doing so would require a change to the party’s charter.

But committee members voted to uphold Perez’s ruling that the reforms amounted to a rule change and required only a simple majority vote to pass.

Fowler then moved to suspend the rules and vote by a voice vote, paving the way for DNC members to swiftly and overwhelmingly adopt the reforms.

The reforms seek to heal divisions exposed during the 2016 Democratic nomination, when Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIt is wrong to say 'no collusion' 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era And the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin MORE prevailed over Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersThe biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone GOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Warren unveils plan to cancel student loan debt, create universal free college MORE (I-Vt.) after receiving the support of the superdelegates — “unpledged delegates” in the party’s parlance.

“Today is a historic day for our party," Perez said in a statement following the vote. "We passed major reforms that will not only put our next presidential nominee in the strongest position possible, but will help us elect Democrats up and down the ballot, across the country."

Unlike pledged delegates, whose votes at the convention are determined by state primary and caucus results, Democratic superdelegates can vote for whichever candidate they prefer.

Sanders and his supporters had argued that gave party elites the power to snuff out the will of Democratic primary voters.

“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," Sanders said in a statement. "This has been a long and arduous process, and I want to thank Tom Perez and all of those who made it happen.”

Many Democratic leaders have since come around to supporting limiting the role of superdelegates in the nomination process, including former DNC chairs Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Dems ask Justice Dept to release findings of Acosta-Epstein investigation MORE (D-Va.) and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrump pushes back on impeachment talk: 'Tables are finally turning on the Witch Hunt!' Moulton enters 2020 White House race Trump takes aim at Dem talk of impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) has also spoken out against the role of superdelegates.

But some DNC members sought to rally opposition to the reform proposal, including Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondHillicon Valley: Facebook, Google face tough questions on white nationalism | Nielsen's exit raisers cyber worries | McConnell calls net neutrality bill 'dead on arrival' | Facebook changes terms for EU data Facebook, Google face tough questions over white nationalism Reparations bill wins new momentum in Congress MORE (D-La.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Critics of the reforms argued that it would disenfranchise party leaders and create tension between Democratic lawmakers and their constituents.

Other opponents of limiting the roles of superdelegates believed it gave Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, undue influence over the DNC.

At the end, Perez prevailed in pushing the reform, having argued it would grow trust in the party by voting members.

“Our North Star is very simple: We want to grow the party, we want to make sure that people embrace the Democratic Party and we want to make sure people trust the Democratic Party,” Perez told CBS News in an interview this week.

-Updated 1:46 p.m.