Officials at the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday approved changes to the party’s controversial system of unpledged delegates, better known as superdelegates, part of an effort to unify and expand the party after a 2016 presidential election that brought intraparty divisions to the fore.
The Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to prevent superdelegates from voting on the first ballot during the party’s presidential nominating convention, “unless a candidate has already earned enough pledged delegate votes from state primaries and caucuses to win the nomination.”
Long a source of tension within the party, the superdelegates, who are typically elected Democratic lawmakers and other party notables, are allowed to vote for whomever they choose, independent of the candidate’s number of delegates won during the primaries. Critics say this gives the superdelegates a disproportionate amount of power and potentially tilts the race toward the establishment candidate.
2016 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has strongly advocated for curbing the influence of superdelegates. Progressives in the party have criticized the role that the superdelegate process may have played in favoring his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as many superdelegates expressed support for Clinton early in the primaries.
Members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee first approved the changes on a conference call last month, acting on recommendations from the DNC’s Unity Reform Commission, which has been working on solutions to improve the party’s practices and promote more inclusion.
“We have to make sure that we work to rebuild the trust among many who feel frankly alienated from our party,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said during the call, according to CNN. “No automatic delegate will cast a first-ballot vote unless the nomination has already been decided.”
The full DNC will vote on the changes in August.