Superdelegates’ clout could be significantly diluted in future presidential elections, thanks to a deal Saturday night between backers of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
Sanders, Clinton’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination, had long sought to cut the number of superdelegates, or party insiders unbound to vote as their constituents did.
Earlier Saturday, the convention rules committee rejected a plan by liberal groups, most sympathetic to the Vermont senator, to cut the number in th future. But they had enough strength to go to the convention floor Monday, a move the Clinton forces wanted to avoid.
The Saturday evening deal will create a new commission to study the nominating system. It will have 21 members and look into a variety of issues. Membes of Congress, governors and party leaders are likely to remain superdelegates, but that could be about it.
The members will be chosen by Sanders, Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Chairing will be Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, co-founder of Precision Strategies and deputy campaign manager of President Obama's re-election campaign.
The Sanders-named vice chairman will be Larry Cohen, former president of the Communication Workers of America Larry Cohen..
Clinton has 602 superdelegates to Sanders’ 48. Without them, she would fall short of the 2,343 needed to nominate, though she would still have far more delegates than Sanders. The final tally, including superdelegates, was Clinton, 2,807, Sanders, 1,894.
The superdelegate system was created in the early 1980s as a way to give the party insiders more say about the nominee. There were fears among more centrist Democrats that the party’s nominating process was too tilted towards liberals who can’t get elected.
The bid to overhaul the system has strong support from liberal groups still lukewarm about Clinton.
"The super delegate system undermines the promise of one person one vote that is bedrock of democracy,” maintained Deborah Burger, co-president of National Nurses United and a Rules Committee member. The committee will discuss the subject later Saturday.
To Burger and others, curbing the influence of superdelegates would send a powerful signal. Superdelegates, she said, were “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.”
Sanders’ campaign, though, was pleased Saturday night. "This is a tremendous victory for Sen. Sanders' fight to democratize the Democratic Party and reform the Democratic nominating process," said Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager.