Maine Democrats Hope to Avoid Fight at Convention with Vote On Superdelegate Change

May 4, 2016

Maine Democrats will vote on a rule change at this weekend’s state convention that could reshape future presidential contests.

The change has widespread support, according to its leading proponent, Portland state Rep. Diane Russell. But she’s also hoping it doesn’t provoke a nasty floor fight.

Russell says she prefers “quiet demolition” of what she considers un-democratic rules. That’s why she is proposing to regulate — and potentially eliminate — superdelegates at this weekend’s Democratic state convention.

In Russell’s view, superdelegates should be made to honor the will of voters.

“We have a system of government where you have one person, one vote, by and large,” Russell says. “The primary system is not when that happens. And I think that we need to start moving toward a system that’s more fair, that’s more democratic and more reflective of the popular vote.”

Superdelegates are essentially party officials who can vote for whichever presidential candidate they wish at the national convention, even if the candidate didn’t win a state’s party election.

Earlier this year Sanders’ supporters, which include Russell, lamented the very existence of superdelegates. But now Sanders is hoping he can convince superdelegates committed to Clinton to back him, thereby improving his increasingly diminishing prospects of winning the Democratic nomination.

Russell’s floor amendment would ensure that all delegates, including superdelegates, are allocated proportionately to a state’s caucus results in the next presidential election.

The amendment also would send a nonbinding but “strong suggestion” that this year’s delegates vote according to this year’s Maine caucus results. That would be a good thing for Sanders, who defeated Clinton with 64 percent of the vote in the Maine caucuses in March.

Russell says that some Sanders supporters want the delegate allocation to occur this year. That could cause a floor fight that she’s hoping to avoid.