The Democratic National Committee last weekend approved key changes to the party’s presidential nomination process as part of an effort to bring the party back together as it gears up for the 2020 elections.
The reform package, backed by Bernie Sanders supporters and by DNC Chairman Tom Perez, was approved Saturday at the party’s summer conference in Chicago.
In a historic move, DNC members voted to ban superdelegates from voting on the first ballot at the 2020 presidential nominating convention – unless there is already a clear winner from caucus and primary wins. Superdelegates will have the opportunity to vote if the nominating process moves into a second round, but that hasn’t happened since 1952.
Superdelegates, which include members of Congress and all DNC members, will still have the opportunity to endorse and campaign for the candidate of their choice at any time during the election process.
“Today is a historic day for our party,” said Perez after the vote. “We passed major reforms that will not only put our next presidential nominee in the strongest position possible, but will help us elect Democrats up and down the ballot, across the country.” Perez said he hoped Millennials, many of whom register as Independents, will “look at what we did today and say, wow, the party is listing to me.”
Saturday’s vote, which marked the conclusion of a lengthy review process that began in the wake of the 2016 primary elections, represents the most significant reform to the party’s nomination process since superdelegates were created in the 1980’s.
The elimination of superdelegates is a direct appeal to Sanders supporters, who in 2016 argued that ‘insiders’ had too much influence in choosing the party’s presidential candidate.
The package was approved by a majority of the DNC’s 400+ voting members, with most of those opposed agreeing that superdelegate reform was a price worth paying for intra-party peace.
“I was skeptical of this proposal, but I’m a team player, and the most important thing we can do is elect Democrats this fall and in 2020,” said DNC member William Owens (TN).
Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA) described the reform package as a “solution in search of a problem,” adding that “unelected delegates have never gone against the will of primary voters in picking Democratic presidential nominees.”
Be that as it may, Sanders supporters were frustrated by how early on Hillary Clinton was able to secure superdelegates’ backing in 2016. After the election, they claimed the superdelegate process was unfair and demanded reform.
Other changes approved Saturday include:
- State-run caucuses are encouraged to accept absentee votes and to allow same-day party changes
- DNC will increase transparency on operations, finances, and dealings with presidential candidates
- Candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination will be required to declare themselves as Democrats
This last measure is aimed directly at Bernie Sanders, who refused to join the Democratic Party even as he sought its presidential nomination and pushed for reforms of party procedures. As Vermont Senator, Sanders is an Independent that caucuses with the Democrats.