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Set for Convention Floor Fight, Push to End Superdelegates 'Catching Fire'

'The current system stands against grassroots activists and the will of the voters,' says Tulsi Gabbard

The superdelegate system "was created to block the nomination of candidates who would challenge a political system that has for far too long been dominated by corporate interests and a wealthy elite," says Bernie Sanders supporter and National Nurses United co-founder Deborah Burger. (Photo: Dawn Endico/flickr/cc)

The push to abolish the "antidemocratic superdelegate system" within the Democratic National Committee is at its apex ahead of a DNC Rules Committee meeting on Saturday, at which an amendment to minimize the influence of those party insiders will be considered.

Superdelegates, which only exist within the Democratic Party, are unpledged elected officials or party elites who may back the candidate of their choosing at the convention, regardless of how their state voted in a presidential primary or caucus. The vast majority lined up behind Hillary Clinton before the 2016 primary race even began. 

Between 11am and 2pm EDT on Friday, a plane calling for an end to superdelegates will fly over the Philadelphia Convention Center. According to a press statement from organizers, the plane will be flown "on behalf of a coalition of both [Bernie] Sanders and Clinton supporters who agree about the superdelegates cause."

"The time has come to end the archaic and undemocratic superdelegate system once and for all—and that starts Saturday in Philadelphia."
—Aaron Regunberg, DNC Rules Committee

Meanwhile, more than 130,000 people have signed a petition in support of the effort, and more than 50 Rules Committee members have joined in by cosponsoring and filing an amendment to sweep away superdelegates. While this is "far from a majority of the 187-member committee," as NBC, it does put the amendment past the 25 percent threshold of support within the committee that will be needed to issue a "minority report" and force a vote on the floor of next week's Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.

"The campaign to end superdelegates is catching fire," said Aaron Regunberg, Rhode Island state representative and a DNC Rules Committee member leading the fight. "Superdelegates disempower voters, they are less diverse than our overall delegates, and they are wildly unpopular. The time has come to end the archaic and undemocratic superdelegate system once and for all—and that starts Saturday in Philadelphia."

In an open letter to the DNC last week, a coalition of 14 national organizations outlined why the system should be scrapped, saying it is "unrepresentative, contradicts the purported values of the party and its members, and reduces the party's moral authority."

The groups demanded that "moving forward, the DNC retain at least the current total number of delegates, inclusive of superdelegates—4,770—for future national conventions, but allot all of them to states, territories, and Democrats abroad through the rubric that governs pledged delegate allotments, and require that all of them be selected through popular primary and/or caucus processes."

According to those behind the amendment push, the language to be considered Saturday proposes to eliminate "the provision of the charter of the Democratic Party of the United States authorizing unpledged delegates found under Article 2, Section 4 (h) of the national charter."


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The call to end superdelegates is at the top of the list for Sanders supporters, who plan to be out in force in Philadelphia starting this weekend. According to USA Today, which reported that "pro-Sanders demonstrations" are expected to draw the largest crowds during the DNC,

organizers say they will use their protests to push for major reforms in the Democratic Party—including calling for abolishing superdelegates in future elections, ousting Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and pressing party leaders to push for laws that would trigger automatic voter registration for Americans when they turn 18.

"In my view, both as a superdelegate and a former DNC official, the nominee of our party should be decided by who earns the most votes—not party insiders, unelected officials, or the federal lobbyists that have been given a vote in our nominating process," said former DNC co-chair and Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. "The current system stands against grassroots activists and the will of the voters."

She added: "We've seen a historic number of new voters and activists join our political process in the past year, many of whom are rightly upset at how rigged the political system can seem at times. If we want to strengthen our democracy and our party, we must end the superdelegate process."

The Rules Committee may also consider a call "to open up the Democratic primary process so that independents and Republicans can vote in caucuses and primaries," Politico reports.

However, David Dayen wrote for the New Republic this week, "the superdelegate fight has the greatest likelihood of success, because the role is completely in the control of the DNC, in a way that state-by-state election rules aren't. And the combination of grassroots pressure and insider agreement could finally bring down the least democratic institution in the Democratic Party, in just a week's time."

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