Rhode Island Democrats would lose 4 of their 9 superdelegates if the Democratic National Committee adopts the recommendation of its recently-adjourned Unity Reform Commission.
If the DNC adopts the recommendation, the overall number of superdelegates would be reduced nationally by about 60 percent, said a DNC spokesperson who asked not to be identified by name. In 2016, there were 712 unpledged delegates, 9 of which were from Rhode Island.
The governor and members of the Congressional delegation would retain their superdelegate status at the party’s presidential nominating convention in 2020, as per the recommendations, but other DNC members living in Rhode Island would be required to vote for whomever wins the state primary.
Assuming everyone retains their current positions, that means Governor Gina Raimondo, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline would still be superdelegates, while state Democratic Party Chairman Joe McNamara, Vice Chair Grace Diaz, and national committee members Edna O’Neill Mattson and Joe Paolino would not be.
In 2016, all nine Rhode Island superdelegates voted for Hillary Clinton, who lost the primary in Rhode Island to Bernie Sanders 55 to 43 percent. “Our state gave substantially more delegate votes to the candidate who won substantially less actual primary votes,” said state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, who has long been an outspoken critic of superdelegates.
Undemocratic outcomes like what happened in Rhode Island’s Democratic primary were a reason the Unity Reform Commission was formed and recommended changes to the superdelegate process. The commission is made up of supporters of both Sanders and Clinton, was formed after the primary.
“We are incredibly proud of the work this commission has undertaken since May to ensure that our party’s presidential nominating process is far more inclusive and brings new people into the party,” according to a joint statement from Unity Reform Commission Chair Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Vice-Chair Larry Cohen. “This includes reducing the number of unpledged delegates or ‘superdelegates’ by nearly 60%, and making our caucuses and primaries more accessible, transparent, and accurate.”
The DNC Rules and Bi-Laws Committee is expected to receive a formal report from the commission before January. The full DNC could vote on the recommendations by late summer of fall of 2018. Other recommendations include doing away with caucuses in states with more than 5 congressional districts (not Iowa, Maine, or Nevada).
The Unity Reform Commission also recommended making it possible to register, or switch parties, to vote in a primary or caucus on the day of the event. This isn’t the case in Rhode Island.
“So the Rhode Island Constitution requires that a person be registered 30 days prior to an election,” said John Marion, the executive director of common Cause RI. “It’s a practice that dates from the days of all paper registration. We put in a constitutional amendment a few years ago that predictably didn’t go anywhere. Instead we focused on online voter registration and automatic voter registration, which passed in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Same day registration would be great because it’s proven to increase turnout.”