An amendment has been made to completely eliminate the influence of superdelegates at the Maine Democratic Party’s statewide convention this week.
Rep. Diane Russell, who introduced the amendment, said that once it passed the crowd erupted into chants of “Bernie! Bernie!,” in celebration.
“I never expected this kind of response from the amendment,” Russell said in a phone interview. “I’m suddenly seen as the hero of the convention.”
The adoption of the amendment means that Maine’s superdelegate votes will now be allocated proportionally according to the overall popular vote, rather than each superdelegate having complete autonomy. Currently, three of Maine’s five superdelegates are supporting Hillary Clinton, with one supporting Bernie Sanders and one who remains uncommitted to either candidate. Under the new rules, Sanders, who won the Maine caucus with 64 percent of the vote, would have three superdelegates to Clinton’s two.
Another component of the amendment is that the Maine Democratic Party will now petition its Democratic National Committee members to move to get rid of the superdelegate system altogether, at the national level. The amendment is nonbinding for the 2016 election, but will take full effect in the 2020 election and every election thereafter.
“There was a lot of debate over whether or not to adopt it in 2016 or 2020,” said Russell, who wrote the amendment with the intention of not changing the rules in the current election. “Many wanted it to take effect this year.”
Rep. Russell added that some county delegates at the convention also opposed the amendment on the grounds of wanting to preserve the superdelegate system, but that their opinion “was not well-received by the convention.”
“Their arguments were basically ‘respect your elders’ and ‘remember McGovern,’” Russell said. “But if the party wants to engage and bring in younger people, they can’t turn around and tell them to wait their turn.”
“A lot of the millennials feel like they’re being talked down to,” She added.
While she’s happy with the success of her amendment, Russell said she wants to continue moving forward and eventually replace the delegate system altogether and choose the Democratic presidential nominee by popular vote.
“I hope people will stop focusing on the superdelegates themselves and instead focus on the system,” Russell said. “But that’s really something that has to happen at the national level.”
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