On Saturday the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet to decide the fate of Florida and Michigan's delegates to the Democratic National Convention. As DNC members, the 30 rules committee members are all superdelegates and also have a vote at the convention. Between them, 13 have endorsed Hillary Clinton, eight have endorsed Barack Obama and nine are uncommitted. They also include one DNC member from Michigan (uncommitted) and one from Florida (endorsing Hillary), who are unable to cast a vote concerning their home states. (See the full membership here.)
The committee will hear challenges to its earlier ruling that Michigan and Florida's delegates would not be seated at the national convention, with their votes thus not counting towards the presidential nomination. Bringing the challenges are Florida superdelegate and DNC member Jon Ausman (undeclared for either Clinton or Obama) and a representative from Michigan's state democratic party. Other representatives from the two state parties and the presidential campaigns will also make their case to the committee.
The committee will hear three specific challenges:
- The Michigan Democratic Party is challenging with a compromise plan between the Clinton campaign's call for all the delegates to be seated according to the January vote (with 69 going to Clinton and the 59 earned by the "uncommitted" slot on the ballot going to Obama because he was not listed there) and the Obama campaign's call for the delegates to be split evenly, 64-64. This would result in 69 going to Clinton and 59 going to Obama.
- Ausman is challenging that the DNC rules dictate that a state party breaking the primary schedule (as Michigan and Florida did) will be penalized by losing half their pledged delegates (those resulting from the primary results) and not all, as was previously ruled by the committee. This would result in Florida's delegates going roughly 52 for Clinton, 34 for Obama and 6 for Edwards.
- Ausman is challenging that the Florida party charter specifies that its superdelegates will be seated, regardless of any penalty imposed on the pledged delegates. The current tally from Congresspedia's Superdelegate Transparency Project is that eight of the superdelegates are committed to Clinton, five are committed to Obama and 13 are uncommitted.
The candidates have both weighed in on the proposals, with Clinton maintaining that all the pledged delegates should be seated without penalty (a position opposed by DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who wants the parties punished for breaking the DNC's calendar and pushing the schedule forward). Obama has said that while the state parties should face some penalty for breaking the national party rules, he would like to see some seated and has acquiesced to a split that gives Clinton some sort of advantage without specifying what sort of split that would be.
The rulings on the challenges have the potential to put Clinton in the lead because while she is behind Obama by 199 delegates (according to the AP), the Michigan ruling would cut his lead by 10 votes, the Florida superdelegates could cut his lead by up to sixteen votes (if all the uncommitted superdelegates went her way) and the Florida pledged delegates cut his lead by up to 24 votes (if all the Edwards delegates went her way). While this alone would not be able to put her in the lead, there are still 194 uncommitted superdelegates, and the Clinton campaign has focused hard on trying to convince them that she is more electable than Obama.
The tribulations of Florida and Michigan aside, this may be the last year that the superdelegates have a say in the nomination (at least in present form). A growing chorus of voters and activists have been upset by the system in general and the ability of superdelegates to vote contrary to their constituents in particular. WhiteHouseRocks.com, a progressive video project of Agit-Pop, the League of Young Voters, and True Majority, have released an informative and witty video throwback to the old "Schoolhouse Rocks" cartoons urging people to call Democratic Party leaders to reform the system. The big news this weekend will be the rules committee ruling, but the more fundamental question of what to do with superdelegates is likely to persist for a while.
To see who the superdelegates from your state are (and if they are voting with or against the popular vote), see Congresspedia's citizen-driven, open-source Superdelegate Transparency Project. You can also find the WhiteHouseRocks video at http://www.whitehouserocks.com .