How Democratic Superdelegates Decided the 2016 Election

In effect this year, more than any before superdelegates may have not only decided the Democratic nominee, but they likely also chose the next President of the United States.
05/23/2016 06:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The effect of Superdelegates on the Democratic nomination process has never been more apparent than in the 2016 election. Created in 1982 largely by the party establishment, the superdelegate was to serve as a safeguard to ensure a populous candidate did not take the nomination, and keep the Democrats out of the White House. This election more than any prior, proves no one can say what a populous candidate might be able to do once they get to the presidential debate stage. Polls show if Bernie Sanders were allowed to run as the Democratic nominee, he would do quite well against Donald Trump.

Superdelegates are largely comprised of party establishment, according to NBC News

Superdelegates are unpledged delegates to the Democratic convention, meaning that they aren't beholden to the results from the primaries and the caucuses (the way pledged delegates are). They are, for the most part, current and former Democratic politicians. They make up 15 percent of all delegates (714 out of 4,765) -- down from 20 percent in 2008. And they are free to support the presidential candidate of their choice at the convention. According to NBC News' latest count 4/11/2016, Clinton leads Sanders in superdelegates, 460-38.

Focusing in and looking at a state like New Hampshire, we can clearly see how superdelegates have effected this race. At the polls Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire's pledged delegates by a landslide 22 percent. Bernie Sanders received 60.4 percent of the poll vote, just about 150,000 votes. Clinton received 38 percent of the poll vote, tallying just about 95,000 votes. Yet, all six Democratic New Hampshire superdelegates gave their support to Hillary Clinton, effectively erasing Sanders win, leading both candidates to leave the state with the same 15 delegates. The six votes of support by Governor Maggie Hassan, Representative Ann Kuster, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, and DNC members Bill Shaheen, Kathy Sullivan, and Joanne Dowdell, effectively erased the impact of 55,000 Democratic voters on this election.

2016-05-23-1463969363-7196927-NH.jpg

According to MSN today Clinton leads in pledged votes, with 1768, while Sanders has 1494.

But to look at the aftermath of the vote count we truly have to critically evaluate the start. Hillary Clinton entered Super Tuesday in March in a virtual tie in pledged delegates with both candidates holding just about 50 pledged delegates, yet she held the support of nearly 400 super delegates. This early lead created the visual that Sanders could not defeat her for many voters, clearly affecting the race.

In effect this year, more than any before superdelegates may have not only decided the Democratic nominee, but they likely also chose the next President of the United States.


Antonio Moore
, an attorney based in Los Angeles, is one of the producers of the documentary Freeway: Crack in the System. He has contributed pieces to the Grio, Huffington Post, and Inequality.org on the topics of race, mass incarceration, and economics. Follow on Youtube @Tonetalks