Elections

Iowa Democrats vote to oppose superdelegates

Proposal faces uncertain future at national convention

Supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention in Des Moines Saturday celebrate the passage of a platform measure putting the party on record opposing superdelegates, the unpledged delegates to the national convention who are free to vote for the candidate of their choice. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
Supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention in Des Moines Saturday celebrate the passage of a platform measure putting the party on record opposing superdelegates, the unpledged delegates to the national convention who are free to vote for the candidate of their choice. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Democrats moved to abolish superdelegates, the officeholders and party leaders who are free to vote at the nominating convention for the candidate of their choosing.

It was a victory for Bernie Sanders delegates to the Iowa Democratic Party state convention Saturday.

“We won something,” an elated Sanders supporter said after delegates voted rejected a minority report to the platform that would have put the Iowa convention on record as supporting superdelegates, those unpledged party insiders who are free to vote for the candidate of their choice at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July. The platform, as proposed, stated the party opposed superdelegates.

“The spirit of the plank is that we oppose unpledged delegates,” explained Holly Herbert, a Sanders supporter from Polk County. “They don’t represent the will of the people.”

Herbert said the delegates want all delegates to be pledged to represent the will of party members who participate in the caucus-to-convention process. In Iowa, precinct caucus participants supported Hillary Clinton over the Vermont senator 49.9 percent to 49.6 percent. However, 23 of the 51 delegates are pledged to Clinton, and six of the seven superdelegates said they will support her. That gives her nearly 56 percent of the national convention delegates.

Delegates to Democratic conventions in Iowa’s 1st, 2nd and 4th U.S. House districts adopted similar language. Eliminating unpledged superdelegates failed by two votes in the 3rd District, Herbert said.

Those unpledged superdelegates “are not beholden to the people,” she said. “They’re supposed to be party leaders, but they could be lobbyists.”

Iowa Democratic Chairwoman Andy McGuire said whether superdelegate reform is taken up at the national convention is up to the Democratic National Committee.

“We’ll have to wait and see what the DNC does,” she said.

The vote late Saturday night might be seen as symbolic by some, but that doesn’t mean it is not important and meaningful, McGuire said.

The platform “is a way for people to express how they feel about an issue,” she said. “If you call that symbolic or you call it the way the platform works, either way that’s important. That’s what we do as Democrats. We listen to our constituents.”

Herbert said Sanders supporters hope the party leaders continue to listen. Democratic parties in Vermont, Colorado, Main and Alaska have recommended superdelegate reform.

If it is taken up by the national convention, Herbert said it is “likely” to be approved because it is not only Sanders supporters who support reform.

“We started the day with Clinton delegates as the majority and I don’t think more Clinton delegates have left the convention than Sanders delegates,” she said. “So I think we had Clinton delegates voting with us.”

If that was the case, McGuire said, it bodes well for party unity.

“I’ve been trying all day to make sure that everybody feels like we are listening, like everyone is trying to get to a place where we are unified,” she said about the vote. “That may have been part of it.”

However, as midnight approached, a petition was submitted to remove the superdelegate plank, making the platform silent on the issue. It failed on a voice vote.

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