Can Superdelegates Change Their Candidate?

democratic super delegates in washington

People take part in Washington State Democratic Caucuses at Martin Luther King Elementary School in Seattle. With Bernie Sanders’ big win, will superdelegates switch their support? (Getty)

Can superdelegates who have previously committed to Hillary Clinton change their mind later and support Bernie Sanders? Sanders may be walking away with a big win today, and it’s stirring up conversations about superdelegates. Current projections give him a big win of more than 70 percent in Washington state, which will also bring him many more pledged delegates. But some people are wondering what this means for the superdelegates from Washington state, who can vote for whomever they want. Could the superdelegates who have already “committed” to Clinton change their minds? What about super delegates in other states?

Here’s what you need to know.


Understanding Superdelegates vs. Pledged Delegates

superdelegates

Voters gather for Super Tuesday votes. They select pledged delegates, but superdelegates work differently. (Getty)

Pledged delegates are earned through each candidate’s performance in the primaries and caucuses. Meanwhile, superdelegates are elected officials and party leaders who can support whichever candidate they want. A candidate needs a total of 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination, including pledged delegates and superdelegates. There are 4,051 pledged delegates total and 712 superdelegates. Of the superdelegates, 469 have said they will vote for Clinton at the convention, and 29 have said they will vote for Sanders. That still leaves 214 superdelegates undecided.

Here’s what you need to know.


Superdelegates Can Change Their Minds About the Candidate They’re Supporting

Just because a superdelegate has said they are going to support Clinton or Sanders, it doesn’t mean that they are committed to that decision. In fact, superdelegates can change their minds at any time, up until they actually vote for a candidate during the Democratic Convention.


Voters Are Asking Washington Superdelegates Who Supported Clinton to Change Their Endorsements

Washington had a total of 17 superdelegates. CNN and other news outlets have projected that Sanders will win the Washington caucus by a huge margin of at least 72 percent. This is prompting some voters to ask the superdelegates who had previously endorsed Clinton to change their minds. According to The Seattle Times, nine endorsed Clinton, seven were undecided, and one was unknown.

In fact, some voters are so passionate about getting the superdelegates to change their affiliation that they’ve started a petition on MoveOn.org. You can read the petition here, which currently has 9,962 signatures.

The superdelegates supporting Clinton, according to the Seattle Times (as of November 2015) were: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, U.S. Rep. Lick Larsen, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith.

The unpledged superdelegates were the Washington state members of the Democratic National Committee, who felt it was their duty to remain unpledged until the precinct caucuses. These are Ed Cote, Juanita Luiz, Sharon Mast, David McDonald, State Democratic Party Chairman Jaxon Ravens, Valerie Brady Rongey, and Lona Wilbur. The last DNC member, Rion Ramirez, couldn’t be reached by The Seattle Times.

In an interview with Rachel Maddow last week, Sanders suggested that voters in the primaries where he won could ask their superdelegates to support the popular vote and endorse him.


Superdelegates Don’t Typically Go Against the Popular Vote

Interestingly, an article by Raw Story suggested that superdelegates won’t typically go against the popular vote. The article quoted David Karol, a professor of government at the University of Maryland and the author of a book about presidential nominations. Karol said there was no historical evidence of superdelegates ultimately voting against a candidate who led the primary and/or caucus. The only time they had a meaningful role was in 1984, when they put Mondale — who was already ahead of his rivals — over the top at the convention. This means that whoever wins most of the pledged delegates, whether it is Clinton or Sanders, the superdelegates will likely vote for that candidate. However, that’s certainly not guaranteed.

17 Comments

17 Comments

Anonymous

The Democratic National Committee is the body that has the power to rid the party of SD but this is like asking the fox to watch the hen house. Super Delegates make the DNC powerful so why on earth would they change this. Very unfair to the presidential candidates and to the voters of the US, since they can swing the election to their favorite candidate if the state delegate count is close. What can 1 voter do to stop this mockery of democracy by the DNC and get rid of the Super Delegates? Any ideas?

Jim Weinhold

I do have an idea. third party run by the rules of the general election. electorial votes (which would be in this scenario, delegate votes), choisen or elected on the premise of who they support as the candidate. No wondering if the delegate you vote for supports the candidate you vote for. Here in pa we have no clue , some of the delegates must go with the majority vote getter and some are free to vote the way they choose . put it out in the open; are you not trump or are you for trump,… are you with Bernie or never to be elected because of the auwful background she has of fibbing clouding or otherwise distorting the facts about what she did or caused to have done hillary?

Nora Dodson

Superdelegates are not bound by votes. But, if ALL superdelegates for each state DID go to the winning candidate of their state, then the delegate count would be 1502 Hillary to 1099 Bernie. Hillary would still be ahead, and by 403 delegates.

Zeph Rexx

I got slightly different math than you, but that is just the point. A lot of news outlets try to pad the true number of the delegate lead Clinton has over Bernie by suggesting that super delegates should be included into the math at this stage of the election process (which they shouldn’t.) The valid delegate count should be somewhere around Clinton:1256 vs Bernie: 1051. That’s a difference of only 205 delegates. But that is too scary close for corporate media so they decide to add in the super delegates, who will always end up voting for the winning candidate anyway. They’re numbers come out to be more like Clinton: 1712 vs Bernie 1004, for a difference of 708 delegates. That sounds more impressive and unbeatable. Now, with just YOUR quick math of giving all of the super delegates of the states Bernie’s won to him, your revised total comes out to a 403 delegate difference. That already erases her inflated lead by 57%. And as Bernie keeps winning more and more states, he WILL to catch up to Hillary’s delegate count. The moment he tips that scale, all super delegates will flip sides, just like they did when they abandoned Hillary for Obama. When that day comes, Bernie will have the majority of the super delegates anyway.

Dakota (@doodlebug0)

The SDs won’t switch from a Democrat to a socialist who bashes the party, and sues the party. Hillary is millions of votes ahead of Bernie. Stop giving false hope.

Rod

He’s a democrat, with socially oriented policies in line with most other western countries, Canada, the Nordic parts of Europe. How you can not see this is social democracy and not socialism is a mystery. Voting Hillary is a terrifying risk. She’s simply not trusted or liked across the board. Trump would win against her. Please don’t let that happen.

Sandro Spano

How can you trust a person who signed up with your party, then switches to independent, then switches to socialist-democrat? How many more parties should the United States have to accommodates Sanders?

Shaina Lavellan

Did you do the division right? Pledged delegates are divided by percentage, so even if Hillary lost in states she still was pledged a fair percentage of delegates. It looks like you did 100% or nothing.

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