The Maroon

Superdelegates act as a Democratic counterweight


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With the Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders separated by around 200 delegates, the purpose of superdelegates come into question.
According to Philip Dynia, professor and chairman of political science, superdelegates were created in the ‘80s because the Democratic Party was concerned the race would have resulted in popularly chosen delegates who were not part of the party leadership.
“There was a sense that the party professionals should be guaranteed some say in the choice of the presidential nominee,” Dynia said.
Sean Cain, associate professor of political science, furthered Dynia’s claim by saying that superdelegates made the difference in the
Carter administration.
“Superdelegates re-shaped American politics. It allowed for new candidates to emerge issues that prior to the 70s were not talked about too much,” Cain said. “Democratic party leaders were disappointed with those who took advantage of
the system.”
Cain said what makes superdelegates special is that they have the ability to choose who they vote for despite which candidate wins in a state caucus or primary. They also can change their vote if they desire.
Because of this freedom, Cain said that even though Hillary Clinton is leading with superdelegates, Bernie Sanders could still sway them to his side.
“What’s interesting is that they seemed lined up behind Clinton; however, if there’s a strong swing toward Sanders, the superdelegates could change their mind. When you watch the news or listen to delegate reports, it seems as if they strongly favor Clinton when in fact they could change their mind,” Cain said.
Clinton is currently leading with 469 superdelegates compared to Sanders’ 31, according to an Associated Press report on April 12.
Because the Republican Party does not use superdelegates, Cain said that it marks a major difference in the voting process between the two parties.
“Democrats choose their voters proportionally, if this continues throughout the election. The Democratic Party wanted to prevent candidates from winning in a landslide. They also wanted to not split the party. The superdelegates could help direct the final result toward a specific person,” Cain said. “With the Republican Party, they were more focused on winner-take-all states. This system would prevent a split-delegate vote. From a Republican perspective they didn’t need a new system to prevent a
divided convention.”
However, Cain said that the Republican Party not using superdelegates could cause problems later down the road.
“Unfortunately for the Republican Party 17 candidates ran, and now down to four, it’s split several ways and no one has a majority, so the superdelegates can’t be there to come to the rescue. In each state, there are three delegate positions for party leaders,” Cain said. “These people aren’t akin to superdelegates; they are a smaller percentage. They can’t vote against their state on the first ballot; however, these party officials can vote for the candidate if there is a contested convention.”
Regardless of Clinton’s lead, Cain said that anything could happen, especially since superdelegates have the option of changing their commitment.
“It’s very murky. The rules are murky and there’s a lot of behind- the-scenes maneuvering,” Cain said. “In some states the delegates are supposed to commit to the candidate who won their state on the first ballot, but then they’re opened up to vote for whoever they want on the second and third ballot. It’s going to be a real mess there.”

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Superdelegates act as a Democratic counterweight