Democracy, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.” So why does the Democratic Party have superdelegates?
Democratic primary elections are run in a rather complicated way. In each state, the American people vote for the candidate they believe should be the next president of the United States. Every state has a different number of allotted delegates, which are divided based on the number of districts each candidate gets the majority of votes for. The candidates then receive that number of delegates, adding to their total so they can reach the magic number of delegates: 2,383.
The Republican party, although the rules and numbers involved are different, has basically the same process for choosing their presidential nominee. However, the Democratic Party has another group of delegates, called superdelegates.
Superdelegates are unelected delegates who are permitted to vote for whichever candidate they want at the Democratic National Convention in July. These 712 superdelegates can make a huge difference during an election, which is incredibly unfair, considering they are elite unelected officials who can legally vote for their own self-interest and not in accordance to the people.
For example, according to the Associated Press, although Hillary is only leading Bernie in delegates by a little over 300 delegates, and there are many more delegate-heavy states that still haven’t voted, 524 superdelegates are gathering behind Clinton and only 40 behind Sanders, despite his several recent wins. Furthermore, Sanders has won 19 states that have voted while Clinton has only won 4 more than he has, and yet currently, she holds 93% of the superdelegate vote.
It’s easy to see why superdelegates are undemocratic. Although superdelegates are expected to vote for the candidate their state delegates were allotted to, technically they can choose whichever candidate they want. According to DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, superdelegates are in place to protect party leaders from running against grassroots activists. This makes sense until one realizes superdelegates have the power to go against the votes of the American people, and to do so legally.
This system “gives too much weight to ruling elites, disenfranchising ordinary voters,” according to New York Times contributor Emma Roller. In this election in particular, many opponents of superdelegates are frustrated with the system and how they have the ability the swing the election, especially due to mainstream media outlets, including the unofficial superdelegate count in their delegate counts. Even Donald Trump came out, supporting Bernie Sanders and saying that both he and Sanders are political outsiders getting shut out by the mainstream media despite several wins.
The superdelegate debate has led to some new changes as well. Recently, the Maine Democratic Convention introduced and passed an amendment that will strip superdelegates of their voting autonomy so superdelegates will be allotted according to popular vote starting in 2020. All in all, whether one believes superdelegates are undemocratic or not, it is necessary to realize they can truly make a difference in the 2016 election and elections in the future.