Maine Democrats will be voting at this weekend’s state convention on a rule change to eliminate superdelegates, in a move that could reshape future presidential elections in the United States. If successful, the vote would do away with involving superdelegates in the primary process starting in 2020.
The concept of superdelegates, or Democratic Party leaders and elected officials who are not bound to any candidate and are free to vote for whomever they want at the convention, has been under fire from critics, media personalities, and progressive voters who call the concept undemocratic and claim party elites have a disproportionate vote in choosing the presidential nominee without necessarily representing the party’s voter base.
The proposed change is expected to trigger floor fights between the supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at a contested convention, though Portland state Representative Diane Russell, who introduced the rule, hopes that clashes don’t happen, but that the superdelegates will be eliminated.
“We have a system of government where you have one person, one vote, by and large,” Russell told the Bangor Daily News. “The primary system is not when that happens. And I think that we need to start moving toward a system that’s more fair, that’s more democratic and more reflective of the popular vote.”
Russell’s amendment would require superdelegates to be distributed among candidates in proportion to the state of Maine’s caucus results, just as regular party delegates are. Currently superdelegates are not bound to support the winner of a state’s primary contest when they vote at the national convention, and can assign points to whichever candidate they please. Russell’s amendment came as the result of popular discontent with the party elites, according to US Uncut.
“The proposal comes in the wake of public outcry after Sanders received nearly double the votes of Hillary Clinton in the state’s caucus (64% – 35%), but only 1 of the state’s 5 available superdelegates. Clinton has secured three of the other Maine superdelegate endorsements, with one still remaining undeclared.”
While the proposed rule change would make a “strong suggestion” that Democratic superdelegates vote in accordance with the wishes of the state of Maine’s voters in the primaries this year, if passed, the amendment will not become binding until 2020. Sanders’ supporters are expected to want the delegate allocation to occur this year, which could cause a floor fight. In the 2016 presidential primaries, superdelegates have overwhelmingly voted for Clinton in contrast to her slim lead over Sanders in regular pledged delegates.
“When you have a process when you have over 700 delegates in the beginning who are unbound and can sort of sway the election, obviously that’s raised some concerns,” Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, told Russia Today.
Sanders’ campaign strategy has recently reoriented to calling on the superdelegates nationwide to switch their allegiances to him, because it is now mathematically impossible for him to win the nomination from Clinton on pledged delegates alone. Sanders points to state wins like Washington and Colorado as to why they should change their decision, as well as polls consistently showing that he would do better in a general election against Trump than Clinton.
Russell has said she doesn’t support an immediate change of the delegate allocation, because it would put the Maine Democratic Party out of compliance with the rules laid down by the Democratic National Committee. Other big figures in the Maine Democrats disagree, however.
“If you’re representing the state of Maine as a superdelegate, you should be going the way of the voters,” Troy Jackson, the only Maine superdelegate to endorse Sanders, said to US Uncut. “The voters of the Democratic Party told us very much who they wanted.”
The proposed amendment will be brought to a vote this weekend at the Democratic Party convention in the city of Portland.
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