Chicago, Illinois, USA : The Democratic National Committee (DNC) at their summer meeting in Chicago on Saturday, voted to significantly reduce the power of superdelegates by limiting their ability to vote on the first ballot for the party’s presidential nominee – ahead of what’s expected to be a wide-open Democratic field in 2020.
DNC members voted on a proposal to take away the role of elected officials and other party dignitaries in selecting a nominee at the Democratic convention — leaving it up to delegates selected in primaries and caucuses only — unless the process becomes deadlocked.
Opponents of the move stood down and the measures were adopted in a voice vote. A DNC panel overwhelmingly approved the move earlier this summer.
The reforms adopted also encourage states that hold presidential caucuses, run by state parties, to switch to primaries, administered by state and local election officials. They require caucuses, in-person meetings, to have some provision for absentee participation, citing barriers to participation ranging from military service to child care to disability.
The proposal had broad support among the top leaders of the DNC, including chairman Tom Perez and vice chair Michael Blake.
“Voters want us to be listening to them, and this is a way to show that we’re listening, to show that we’re understanding the changes that had to be made after 2016,” Blake said Friday.
Rallying his party ahead of national elections in 2018 and 2020, Perez told the party members gathered in Chicago on Saturday, “Folks, what we all have in common is we’re here to win elections.”
Tom Perez said the reform is historical and will not only put the party’s next presidential nominee in the strongest position possible, “but will help us elect Democrats up and down the ballot, across the country.”
“These reforms will help grow our party, unite Democrats, and restore voters’ trust by making our 2020 nominating process the most inclusive and transparent in our history,” Perez said.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose supporters pushed for reforms after the contentious 2016 primary, expressed approval of the vote. “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.”
Sanders said the move will make the party “more open, democratic and responsive to the input of ordinary Americans.”
The move will prohibit almost 700 unpledged party leaders, elected officials and activists from voting for presidential nominee during the DNC’s 2020 convention, unless the candidate already has a secured majority.
The overhaul also requires state parties to accept absentee votes, which addresses concerns that the caucuses are less democratic than primaries because they require people to physically attend in order to participate
The 2016 Democratic primary was contentious for a number of reasons, but the issue of superdelegates loomed large over the fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
That’s despite the fact that the votes of superdelegates never overturned those of primary voters in picking the Democratic presidential nominee, since they were first part of the process in the 1984 election.
The vast majority of superdelegates sided with Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in their primary fight.
.Two years ago, the party created the Unity Reform Commission to propose changes, which led discussions in the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee and a vote by the Executive Committee before approval by the full DNC.
After the 2016 election, the DNC’s Unity Reform Commission recommended drastically reducing the number of superdelegates. Instead, the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted 27 to 1 in June to prevent superdelegates from voting on the first round of ballots at presidential nominating conventions.
“No candidate should have an accumulated lead, whether real or perceived, before a first ballot is cast,” Perez said at the time.
The proposal won support among progressive Democrats and lawmakers, including Sanders, as well as outside activists. Michigan Education Association president Paula Herbart told NPR that she believes the proposal will help keep the Democratic Party relevant.
“We’ve always said that we are the party of all, and we are proving it by working this resolution and moving and changing our rules,” Herbart said. “When we include all voices, we have the power to move mountains.”
But some opponents launched a last-ditch effort to sink the proposal at this week’s DNC meeting, arguing it disenfranchises top party officials.
Despite an intensely contested debate, the party came together in Chicago to clear the way for the overhaul, which will begin in 2020.