What is a Super Delegate?

The Democratic Nominee race seems to be going down to the wire between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. With a slim margin of delegates between the two candidates, the power held by super delegates have become a popular topic on political shows. The news programs have emphasized super delegates as having the voting power to swing the Democratic primaries to either candidate. But what is a super delegate and who are they?

First some background information on how a candidate is chosen in a Democratic primary race.

This year, the winner of the Democratic primary must collect 2,025 delegates. The delegates earned by each candidate are composed of two categories–pledged and super delegates. The pledged delegates are those earned from the public vote in the State. Each state has a certain number of delegates; after the public votes are tallied, the state’s delegates are split between the two candidates based on the vote percentages. In essence, you can say each pledged delegate is worth an x number of votes where x is a portion of the voters. If there were 100 total voters and 10 pledged delegates, each delegate would be worth 10 voters.

Now, this is where the super delegates come in. Super Delegates are comprised of a state’s current and former political leaders–senators, governers, ex-senators, political party trumpeters, etc. If you are “in-the-know” in terms of political circles, then you could potentially be selected as a super delegate. There are no actual rules as to how someone becomes a super delegate.

The importance of super delegates is their voting power. Going back to the example, pledged delegates must vote for the candidate based on voter polls. Super delegates do not have to vote based on polls and their vote count just as much as a pledged delegate’s vote. Going by the previous example, a super delegate’s vote is worth as much as 10 votes from the general public. This is why news programs say a super delegate is worth as much as 100,000 normal voters.

Courting support from super delegates is a pretty shady business. These people are usually active in the political arena, having run for offices locally and state-wide. The Democratic candidates contributed a large amount of coin to the super delegates campaigns in the past. So, you can say the super delegates’ votes are being bought by the candidates. CNN or Fox News had a report a few days ago indicating a trend where super delegates voted for the candidate which contributed the most to their past campaigns.

There hasn’t been such a close Democratic primary in the past few years, so super delegates weren’t closely examined. But now the system doesn’t seem very democratic. We could have a repeat of the Gore vs Bush presidential debacle where Gore won the popular vote but Bush became the president by winning the electoral college.

The current delegate standings are as follows:

Obama – 1,339 total (1174 pledged/165 super)
Clinton – 1,252 total (1023 pledged/229 super)
Edwards – 26 total (26 pledged/0 super)

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