Congressional Black Caucus chair slams DNC superdelegate reforms

Congressional Black Caucus chair slams DNC superdelegate reforms
© Greg Nash

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondExperts warn mail-in voting misinformation could threaten elections One way we can honor John Lewis' legacy: Amend the 13th Amendment Lawmakers, public bid farewell to John Lewis MORE (D-La.) says a proposal to limit the influence of superdelegates in picking the next Democratic nominee for president would disenfranchise members of Congress and create friction with their constituents.

Superdelegates are elected officials who have the power to vote at the presidential nominating convention which takes place every four years and who are not bound by the voting results of their state or district.

Superdelegate reform has been a priority for the DNC since the last presidential election, amid a push by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersLongtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (I-Vt.) and his supporters.

But Richmond came out strongly against proposed reforms in a letter dated Monday to 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, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), in which he said that other members of the Congressional Black Caucus feel the same way he does.

“Passage of the reforms in their current form would disenfranchise elected officials for no substantive reason and would create unnecessary competition between those elected and their constituents,” Richmond wrote in the letter.

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Richmond said he is expressing the concerns of “many of my colleagues in Congress who are members of the Congressional Black Caucus.”

DNC members will gather in Chicago the week of Aug. 23 for their summer meeting where proposals to reform the influence of superdelegates in the 2020 presidential primary will be a top item on the agenda.

The role of superdelegates became a flashpoint of controversy in 2016 when Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war Should Biden consider a veteran for vice president? Biden leads Trump by nearly 40 points in California: poll MORE amassed 544.5 superdelegates while Sanders, her more liberal challenger, collected only 44.5.

Sanders supporters argued that he could have won the nomination had elected officials not tipped the scales in favor of Clinton.

The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee has proposed barring superdelegates from voting on the first nomination ballot during a contested convention unless it’s clear that one of the candidates has an overwhelming lead in delegates.

Under the proposed reform, however, elected officials could run to become pledged delegates if they agreed to give up their superdelegate status.

Richmond argued this would create unnecessary tensions between elected officials and constituents.

“The thought that a member of Congress would have to compete with their constituents in an election to secure a first ballot vote on the party’s nominee creates unnecessary friction between those elected and the people they are elected to serve,” he warned.

He argued it could create the “perception of an uneven playing field” if members of Congress and residents of their districts are campaigning for the same job.

Richmond argued the proposed reform isn’t necessary because superdelegates have never usurped the candidate favored by most primary voters, although Sanders supporters might dispute that claim. 

“To add insult to injury, it appears that this is a solution in search of a problem,” he wrote. “Unelected delegates have never gone against the will of primary voters in picking Democratic presidential nominees.”