Fixing The Super Delegate Problem

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Super Delegates exist for good reasons. In order for them to do their job, which hopefully is never, they need to have two characteristics. These are:

1) The capacity for thoughtful and well informed decision making at the convention, in case something untoward has happened to require this.

2) Independence with respect to whom to vote for … in other words, being unpledged.

A big downside of Super Delegates is that they tend to endorse a candidate early in the process. This is their right as Americans and it may be seen by some of them as their duty as politicians or party officials (which most are). This results in a lot of problems, not the least of which is people wanting to get rid of Super Delegates, forgetting that they can have a very important role now and then.

So, I have a solution that I think would work. It is blindingly simple. It will be opposed by elected officials and party officials who like being Super Delegates, because as part of my plan, they don’t automatically get to do this job.

Here’s the plan.

First, you decide what percentage of delegates should be unpledged (the more correct term for “Super Delegate”). Let’s say, for now, 10%.

Then, you have a primary or caucus in a given state. Say there are 100 delegates in total normally awarded in that state.

Then, you proportion the delegates across the candidates, for the first round of voting at the national convention. Say each candidate got half the votes in a primary, this means you are sending 50 delegates for each candidate. So far this is very simple, very democratic.

Then, the last step in choosing delegates among these that have the potential to act as super delegates should the need arise.

At the convention, there are two possibilities. One is that there are no Super Delegates, and everyone votes as pledged proportionately. The other is that the 10% of designateed Super Delegates are released, and can do what they feel is right.

At the opening of the convention, when rules are being adopted, the motion is put to the convention as to whether or not the designated Super Delegates be released. The default rule is that they are NOT released. Normally, a rule suspension (which would be required to release the delegates) would require a 60% vote. So, if the full body of delegates at the convention choose with a 60% majority to release the delegates, then they are released. Normally, this would not happen.

The down side of this is the possibility that a candidate can pack the delegates with unfaithful individuals. I’m Candidate A, you are Candidate B, and I am going to play this game with you. I get a bunch of potential delegates, actual individuals who have a good chance of becoming delegates to the national convention, to pretend to represent you. They get elected as your delegates in this state where we each got 50% of the vote, but I secretly have 60+% of the individuals in this delegation at my bidding. When it comes to rule suspension, my people vote to suspend the pledge rule. I do this in every state, and now the Super Delegates can vote for whomever they want, plus I’ve got these sleepers that, if there is as second ballot, I own. If the race is close, this could give me the majority on the first vote, if it is somewhat less close, it could cause a failed ballot the first time around, then I get my other sleepers to vote for me, I win, you lose. Bwahahahaha.

This sort of game playing is a) likely to happen (similar things have happened before) and b) not likely to be very successful. But it could be successful enough. Therefore, it might be a good idea to make the required super majority to be 65% rather than 60%.

Anyway, with this system, most election years, there really won’t be any Super Delegates, effectively, but they are there if needed.

This could work. Somebody start a petition or something!

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5 thoughts on “Fixing The Super Delegate Problem

  1. Question: In primary balloting where ‘X’ voters choose ‘Y’ delegates, we have some typical range of the ratio ‘N’ voters per delegate.

    Super Delegates, however, are not voted into place. Hence, since the Super Delegates “elect themselves” to play that role, we have a 1:1 ratio for them.

    Ergo, a Super Delegate has a “voting weight” equal to ‘N’ times that of a primary (citizen) voter. (Here we’re restricting our discourse to the first balloting in the convention, and making the assumption that the normal delegates will vote according to their pledged candidates faithfully.)

    What is the typical range for this weighting factor that makes these Super Delegates so Super in terms of influencing an election outcome?

  2. In a sense, they are voted into place, if they are elected officials.

    Bit I think you might be asking what is the ratio of participants to normal delegates.

    The answer is that it is wildly variable.

  3. From wipediea,

    Under the party’s delegate selection rules, the number of pledged delegates allocated to each of the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. is determined using a formula based on three main factors:

    The proportion of votes each state gave to the Democratic candidate in the last three presidential elections (2004, 2008, and 2012)
    The number of electoral votes each state has in the United States Electoral College.
    The stage of the primary season when they hold their contest. States and territories that hold their contests later are given bonus seats

  4. This really is complicated!! Who knew?

    (So perhaps all the brou-ha-ha over events this election year have the positive effect of increased awareness on the part of the voters on how their system actually works. Or doesn’t, as the case may be…)

    The point about some of them being elected officials is a good one to point out… Yet another proxy for actual Democracy.

    I like your proposal, though.

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