Introducing The Superdelegate Transparency Project

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Feb 13, 2008 at 17:33


Today I am pleased to announce the launch of the Superdelegate Transparency Project on Congresspedia and SourceWatch. It is a joint project of LiteraryOutpost.com, OpenLeft and the Congresspedia community on SourceWatch. It is meant to build on the work at DemConWatch.

The project describes itself as follows:

The Superdelegate Transparency Project is the central gathering place for compiling primary and caucus results--Congressional district by Congressional district--for states that have to date held their races, and going forward until the Democratic nomination is secured. We are compiling the district-by-district results of the popular vote and pledged delegates, and then tracking these results against how superdelegates are currently pledged (or have publicly endorsed a candidate), and how they eventually vote. The aim of this project is to open up the Democratic nomination process, and to gauge what effect the superdelegates have on the nomination. Rather than hypotheticals at the end of this nomination process, we seek to make hard data available to all interested parties, including citizens, activists, journalists, bloggers, campaign staffers and people around the world who are following this U.S. election. This is the only project currently tracking this data at the district level.

The reporting arms of the project reside at the blogs at LiteraryOutpost and OpenLeft. The participatory arm is here on the wiki at Congresspedia, where we're keeping running tallies in each state/district, who the superdelegates are, and whom they are backing. The STP is intended as a collaborative project among all interested parties to bring transparency and accountability to the Democratic National Convention by providing citizens with information on how the superdelegates could impact the outcome of the nomination.

In addition to increasing transparency in the process, another central value for the project on my end is democracy. Until a single leader in the popular vote and pledged delegate count emerges at the end of the primary and caucus season, superdelegates should not make a firm commitment to vote for any candidate at the convention other than the popular choice of their constituents. Endorsements can be made, but in order to uphold the principles of democracy within the Democratic Party, there should be no firm commitments from any given superdelegate to vote for anyone at the convention other than the candidate chosen by the constituents of that superdelegate.

This project and these values in no way violate the rules of the Democratic National Committee. Instead, this project and these values seek to inject much needed transparency and democracy into the Democratic presidential nomination process. Together, with a group effort, we can find out which super delegates are pledging to uphold the popular will of their constituents, and which super delegates are seeking to cancel out the will of their constituents.

In order for the Superdelegate Transparency Project to work, we need volunteers If you are interested in helping out, please register and get started! If you have any questions or media requests, then please send an email to Avelino Maestas at amaestas@sunlightfoundation.com. Also, please visit the super delegate sections of Literary Outpost and Open Left for up to date reporting on superdelegates. Let's shine some light on the process!

Update: In order to clear up confusion, my democratic standard for super delegates is that if one candidate wins pledged delegates and popular votes according to all counts, then all super delegates should vote for that candidate. However, since we won't know if a candidate achieves that standard until the end of the primary / caucus season, and since it is possible no candidate will ever achieve that standard, then in the interim all super delegates should pledge to vote their districts. That is democracy, and it is well within the rules.

But really, this specific project is more about transparency than about haggling over definitions of democracy. The goal here is simply to identify all of the super delegates, and how Democratic candidates performed in every district around the country.  

Chris Bowers :: Introducing The Superdelegate Transparency Project

Tags: , , , , (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

This is a GREAT idea! (0.00 / 0)
I strongly believe that the vast majority of super delegates with faithfully represent their districts -- these are our elected representatives, after all, and we in the same party. A project like this will insure that the outliers, that vote against their own districts, are brought to light quickly. After all, many of the super delegates will be up for re-election in the Fall.

ec=-8.50 soc=-8.41   (3,967 Watts)

One Flaw with "Vote Your District" (4.00 / 2)
I'm a little concerned that no real definition of what constitutes a "fair" superdelegate vote is emerging. If no one absolutely nails this down, it's like not having one at all.

Suppose you want to pick one candidate over the other. All you have to do is look and see a count that your chosen candidate won.

Did they win your district? Great.

But if not, say you're voting with who won the pop vote in your state. If that doesn't work out, say you're voting with the popular vote winner in your state. Or the national delegate winner. Or the national vote winner.

You get the idea.

Hold these people's feet to the fire is going to be pretty hard.


indeed (4.00 / 2)
I'd rather it just be, "I pledge to vote for whoever leads among pledged delegates nationally," which would be the best way to thwart any antimajoritarian impulse.

[ Parent ]
My standard (0.00 / 0)
My standard is that if one candidate wins pledged delegates and popular votes according to all counts, then all super delegates should vote for that candidate. However, since we won't know if a candidate achieves that bar until the end of the primary / caucus season, and since it is possible no candidate will ever achieve that standard, then in the interim all super delegates should vote their districts. That is democracy, and it is well within the rules.  

[ Parent ]
Technically (0.00 / 0)
That's democratic republicanism.

[ Parent ]
One question (4.00 / 1)
As we know, every Democratic member of Congress is a superdelegate, as well as current governors and Lt. Governors.

Obama has been racking up some of his biggest victories in red states and swing states (along with smaller blue states), while Clinton has won some massive blue states like NY, MA, CA, NJ.

That makes me wonder: would Clinton therefore have the advantage of winning more Congressional districts that are represented by Democrats (aka superdelegates) while most of Obama's wins have been in districts with Republican congressfolk?  If so, this could present a serious disadvantage to Obama if superdelegates only look at their own district.  I'm guessing Obama had a lot of blowout victories in places where he's not gonna get cash in on any superdelegates via Senators or Representatives.

It looked like Hillary won most Congressional district in California, even though she only won the state by 10%.  Does that mean she should get almost every superdelegate in CA?  The same goes for NY, MA, NJ, etc.

I'll be curious to see how the numbers pan out.  But I could imagine a scenario where Obama has more votes, more pledged delegates, more states -- and yet less superdelegates because Hillary squeaked by in more blue-colored Congressional districts.


[ Parent ]
Well (0.00 / 0)
That'd be odd seeing as how delegates are rationed out based on, I believe, the relative strength of the state Democratic Parties. That's why I believe Massachusetts has more delegates than Georgia or New Jersey. Others would obviously have more data than I but that's what it seems like, so I don't know if it's feasible to think Obama wouldn't still have the lead in total delegates if he had the lead in pledged delegates before the supers vote. (Based on your scenario)

[ Parent ]
In States that haven't voted yet (0.00 / 0)
the SDs can be asked to set their critgeria in advance of the Primary, as Ron Kind (WI-3) did this AM.  He's going with the winner of his District. Since the District has 6 delegates, and will likely be too close to split it's pledged other than 3-3, his SD vote makes it worth the Candidates' effort. (Bill Clinton's there, LaCrosse, this afternoon.)



This is a Test of the Emergency Free Speech System. This is only a Test. In an actual Free Speech Emergency, I'll be locked up.


[ Parent ]
Clinton supporters won't go for this (0.00 / 0)
Unless, of course, Super Delegates start defecting en masse to Obama and Clinton pulls off huge wins in upcoming states.

At least, this is the sense I'm now getting from reading Clinton supporter's blog entries, who seem to regard the super delegates "independence" as more important than the votes of millions of people.


Michigan and Florida muddy the waters (0.00 / 0)
What muddies the waters are the MI and FL pledged delegates. Rather than rehashing the arguments here for counting them, as a practical matter, Clinton's lead of about 80 in superdelegates compensates for the MI and FL pledged delegates which at the moment are not counted. This is no secret to the uncommitted superdelegates. So including Clinton's committed superdelegate lead of 80, Obama's lead in delegates is now about 50. Clearly, the remaining 450 uncommitted superdelegates  are waiting for the outcome of the race before deciding and I'm sure they are factoring in the MI and FL results. As long as Obama maintains an overall lead (or a lead of about 80 in pledged delegates), he will win most of the remaining superdelegates. You won't get the committed superdelegates to uncommit unless Obama maintains this overall lead. I think this is the practical outcome which seems fair enough.  

How many even have "constituencies?" (4.00 / 2)
Of the 796 (which doesn't even count MI and FL), 411 are DNC members (though some of these are also elected officials, because the rules stipulate that if members of congress or governors are also members of the dnc, they get their delegate status as dnc members).  Still, that's a lot.  76 are "add-on" delegates, which are simply additional unpledged faceless delegates apportioned to states at the rate of 1 per every 4 members of the dnc from that state.  Do those people have "constituents" to whom they must answer? Finally, 23 make up the category of "distinguished party leaders", comprised of former democratic presidents, former vice-presidents, former speakers, former senate majority leaders, former house and senate minority leaders and former dnc chairs.  That leaves fewer than 300 who are answerable to the ballot box.

So what? (0.00 / 0)
Together, with a group effort, we can find out which super delegates are pledging to uphold the popular will of their constituents, and which super delegates are seeking to cancel out the will of their constituents.

This project doesn't answer a vital question: So what?

So you find out which supers are going along with the popular vote and which ones aren't.  

So what?

Teddy Kennedy & John Kerry endorsed Obama but Clinton won Massachusetts.  What if Kennedy & Kerry don't uphold the popular will of their constituents?

So what?  What happens? Your premise suggests there's some consequence tied to "canceling out the will of the constituents."  

But then you say well, the goal here is simply to identify all of the super delegates, and how Democratic candidates performed in every district around the country.  

Which is it?


The 'So What' is in the eye of the beholder (0.00 / 0)
Some people might not care, others will. The point of the project is to provide transparency to the process.

The 'So What' is left up to the voters. I imagine some voters might be a bit peeved if their representative votes contrary to the will of her constituents. That's their right.

Some people might decide to lobby a super based on the info compiled. That's their right.

The purpose of the project is to compile the data so that it can be viewed at the macro level; but also to provide clarity for what is happening on a district-by-district basis.


[ Parent ]
That's fine for the elected superdelegates (0.00 / 0)
John Kerry plans to vote for Obama at the convention even though Hillary won Massachusetts.  What is the point in lobbying him?  And if some voters are peeved at Kerry, which is their right, what are they going to do about it?  I suppose they can lobby him to support Hillary since she won the primary but I doubt he'll be receptive to any arguments in that regard.

And what about superdelegates like Stephen Grossman who aren't answerable to voters?

I sense a lot of hyperventilating going on here, viz. superdelegates could "thwart the will of the people," but really there's little that's actionable here.  


[ Parent ]
Superdelegates are Bad for Democracy (0.00 / 0)
And not just because it is an egregious violation of one-person, one-vote.

I have a lot of friends who are getting interested in the political process for the first time in their lives. They follow the results, listen to the candidate's speeches, and even send donations. I find it TRULY AMAZING!

But, as they start to learn more, they come to me with questions. Questions about Mi/FL, questions about caucuses and, of course, questions about superdelegates.

And let me tell you, from first-hand experience, nothing deters someone from politics like the depressing realization that a bunch of elites get to cast votes that are worth a thousand-plus times more than the vote you just cast. I can see it in their eyes when I explain it to them. I can see the disillusion setting in.

If we want to expand the party, and we want to expand the general public's interest and participation in politics, then we need to end these anti-intuitive, undemocratic practices in the party system.



"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra


These are party rules (0.00 / 0)
Not election rules.  Parties have the right to make rules to support whatever aims they have.

And strictly legally speaking "one man one vote" does not pertain to party elections.  

These can be ideas and values applied to how the rules should be promulgated.....but the orignal purpose indeed of the Superdelegates, sad or not, was not to further democracy within the party, perhaps it was even to thwart democracy,  but to further the interests of the party at large in the world of electoral poltics.

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"
Stoller


[ Parent ]
Multiple Standards would be good for the project (4.00 / 1)
I suggest that the tables on the project include whether they voted with their district, voted with their state, and/or pledged to support the popular vote winner or the pledged delegate leader.  All four of these are defensible positions.  Just supporting someone for the hell of it really isn't.

Here's a stupid idea:  Encourage the delegates to find a vote trade, ala nader 2000 - if people really like their candidate even though their district / state / whatever didn't, they could find someone on the opposite side in the same situation and just consider their votes traded.  That way people can keep their friends while still honoring the popular vote.  :-)


Winner take all? (0.00 / 0)
Doesn't this create a winner take all problem at the state or district level?  I agree that the national vote should count first.  However, the back-up plan in your system seems to impose a bonus windfall for the winner of a close election in a particular district or state.  Also, your system seems to overvalue the popular vote, particularly in light of the number of caucuses that have taken place.  The candidates have been competing for pledged delegates based upon a particular criteria for allocating those delegates.  I think it would be a mistake to alter the meaning of those competitions by retroactively giving a close "win" more value than the campaigns anticipated at the beginning of the process.  

I would prefer to see the super delegates pledge to vote based upon the winner of the pledged delegates.    

A vote against Health Care Reform is a vote for ten 9/11s every single year!


Weird assumption (0.00 / 0)
"Until a single leader in the popular vote and pledged delegate count emerges ..."

What if this doesn't happen?

It seems very plausible at this point that Hillary could end up ahead in the popular vote, while Obama has more pledged delegates.  


Rep. Ron Kind WI-3 to vote w District (0.00 / 0)
pledges to cast his Superdelegate ballot in line with the winner of his western Wisconsin Congressional district.

My take, the largely rural district goes narrowly to Obama.



This is a Test of the Emergency Free Speech System. This is only a Test. In an actual Free Speech Emergency, I'll be locked up.


At Large Delegates? (0.00 / 0)
I was under the impression that the super delegates are at-large delegates, not representatives of their congressional districts per se. Shouldn't they be voting along with the majority of Dems in the nation rather than to match the constituents in the congressional districts where they reside? I'm not entirely sure on this understanding. Does anyone know?

Visit my blog, Democracy for New Mexico.

USER MENU

Open Left Campaigns

SEARCH

   

Advanced Search

QUICK HITS
STATE BLOGS
Powered by: SoapBlox