Opinion: Superdelegates contradict democracy


Lucas Misera

Lucas Misera

A quirk in the Democratic National Convention’s method of electing the party’s presidential candidate is proving to be a burden on democracy.

The DNC features superdelegates—a lesser-known element of the primaries with a drastic effect. Superdelegates are free to commit themselves to any candidate within the Democratic Party.

So, hypothetically, even if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won every delegate from Pennsylvania in the state’s primary on April 26, Pennsylvania’s superdelegates could still opt to vote for Hillary Clinton. Though superdelegates make up less than 20 percent of the DNC’s delegate total, their votes are burdensome for the Sanders campaign.

As of April 1, Clinton holds approximately a 700-delegate lead over her competitor, a nearly insurmountable deficit for the Sanders campaign that has been gaining momentum in recent weeks. However, looking at the number of pledged delegates, or delegates earned through primary elections for each candidate, the story is much different: If superdelegates were removed from the race, Clinton would only hold a 250-delegate lead, a small margin when big-ticket states such as New York, Pennsylvania and California loom on the horizon. Clinton’s support from 469 superdelegates to Sanders’ 31 represents a ratio clearly unrepresentative of the nation’s narrowly divided support for each.

Superdelegates are specific to the Democratic Party. The Republican candidate is, for the most part, elected by the people. The Republican National Convention recognizes the first candidate to reach 1,237 delegates as its nominee, only taking the power of electing the nominee into its own hands if all candidates fall short of that mark. Because of this, the RNC’s primary is much more representative of America’s voice.

Many complain that low voter turnouts are a frustrating indicator of a lack of democratic participation, but the DNC’s primary system is not providing a fair representation of American support. When several hundred delegates can freely out-influence the votes of millions of Americans, then there is a broken system in place that robs an entire party of its most basic, fundamental right to choose its representative.

My opposition to the superdelegate system did not arise because Sanders is losing (even without superdelegates, it’s likely that Clinton will become the Democratic nominee for president of the United States). However, the system in place with superdelegates is an affront on what democracy is intended to be. As Sanders runs an entire campaign based on equality, less than 800 “specially chosen” delegates are dampening his chances of continuing his run to the White House.

If you are a Clinton supporter, don’t forget that she won the popular vote in 2008 when she ran against now-President Barack Obama, but lost on delegate count due to superdelegates.

If you happen to be a Sanders supporter, the greatest tragedy is not that Clinton may be the next president of the United States, but rather that she may be the next president because your voice was drowned out by the preferences of a few.

Lucas Misera is a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].