The Bernie-Hillary Unity Commission Is approximately To Vote On Changing Superdelegates, Caucuses, And More. Here Are The Details.


After the contentious primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party formed the Unity Reform Commission to form the nominating process more unbiased. This weekend, after four meetings over the course of seven months, the commission will gather for a final time to vote on recommended changes to the superdelegate system, caucus process, voter registration, and other rules.

The proposals, guided by the commission’s official mandate, are meaningful. Members of the 21-person commission are still finalizing the language in the report they will present this weekend, but Democrats in and around the Unity Reform group say the recommendations would effectively reduce the number of superdelegates by approximately 60%, require absentee voting and mandatory vote counts in caucuses, encourage states to allow same-day party and voter registration, and set novel guidelines at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure that the party remains neutral during presidential elections.

Still, even whether the Unity Reform Commission votes in favor of the proposals, that doesn’t mean the changes are guaranteed. There’s still a months-long, more or less complicated process ahead before a final vote in 2018, cast by the DNC’s 447 members. The result will either widen or befriend shrink the divide between grassroots progressives and the party — one that DNC chair Tom Perez has so far struggled to shut.

Here’s what you need to know approximately the Unity Reform Commission, their proposed changes, and what happens after this weekend.

How’d we fetch here?

The Clinton–Sanders primary was a tough-fought contest of policy and message that few could occupy predicted: Sanders, a puny-known US senator from Vermont and Democratic socialist, mounted a real challenge against Clinton, a candidate with total the donors and endorsements on her side, and he nearly won. The Clinton-Sanders primary will also be remembered as a race that exposed structural flaws in the nominating process and helped ignite a deep and bitter distrust among grassroots progressives toward the DNC and its leadership in Washington.

At points, Sanders campaigned as much against the party as against Clinton, raising questions approximately the debate process, superdelegate system, and closed primaries. In July 2016, WikiLeaks published hacked emails from the DNC that showed an internal bias against Sanders. By early 2017, as Democrats prepared to elect a novel DNC chair, every major candidate agreed that the primary process had been unfair — and required a meaningful fix.

Enter the Unity Reform Commission.

Clinton and Sanders allies formed the commission at the Democratic conference in Philadelphia. Representatives from both camps — led by operatives such as Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, and Charlie Baker, Clinton’s chief administrative officer — crafted a two-page resolution to set up the group.

Delegates approved the resolution on the floor of the 2016 conference. The resolution functions as the commission’s “mandate,” outlining specific changes to consider, as well as the process and timetable for making those changes — details hashed out at the conference as a kind of Clinton–Sanders compromise. The recommendations up for a vote this weekend largely reflect what’s already in the mandate. This is key when it comes to the final vote in 2018. (More on that below.)

How will the voting work?

The commission will meet this weekend in Washington, DC. On Friday, members will discuss each proposed change, and occupy the chance to introduce amendments to the final report, Democrats said. Votes will bewitch station on each individual proposal. To pass, they need a simple majority of the 21-member commission, which is made up of appointees chosen by Clinton, Sanders, and Perez. (There is some confusion over whether the co-chairs, Larry Cohen and Jen O’Malley Dillon, will vote. A DNC official said they will. Two Unity Reform Commission members said they will not.)

After the vote, the next step in the process begins.

Based on which recommendations enact and enact not pass this weekend, the Unity Reform Commission will form revisions to their final report. The report then goes to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee. The Rules and Bylaws Committee then has six months to keep together their own report of sorts — a proposal with specific language to change the rules as they currently exist in the DNC structure and Bylaws. After that process has concluded, the Unity Reform Commission will review the Rules and Bylaws Committee report and resolve whether it sufficiently reflects their own report. whether they resolve it does not, the original Unity Reform Commission report will still fade before DNC members for a vote. whether they resolve it does, then the Rules and Bylaws Committee report alone will fade before DNC members for the final vote.

When will the final DNC vote bewitch station?

Probably during the party’s drop assembly in 2018. There is chance the process could conclude sooner, and the vote could bewitch station at the DNC’s spring assembly instead. But most Democrats anticipate a drop vote.

At that point, the rules change need two-thirds support to pass. That’s approximately 295 DNC members.

The proposed changes drop into four main categories: superdelegates, caucuses, voting, and “party reform.”


Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

1. The colossal one: superdelegates.

The superdelegate system has been perhaps the most contentious topic of discussion among members of the Unity Reform Commission. It’s also the area where activists and Sanders supporters want to see the biggest change.

Under the current system for choosing a Democratic nominee, candidates compete in primaries and caucuses, amassing a number “pledged delegates” tied to their performance. In 2016, the candidate to hit 2,382 delegates became the nominee. Apart from the delegates decided by voters, generally,normally around 700 people, called superdelegates, fetch their own unpledged delegate to award to the candidate of their choosing, regardless of voters. Superdelegates are DNC members; Democratic governors, US senators, and members of Congress; and distinguished leaders like former presidents, vice presidents, and party chairs. Their unpledged delegates form up approximately 30% of the 2,382 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

The Unity Reform Commission will propose a novel system: The superdelegates who are elected officials and distinguished party leaders would remain unpledged delegates. In 2016, that group numbered 280 people, according to Vox. The rest, DNC members (there are 447), would hold the title of superdelegate, but their votes would be bound proportionally to the vote count in their states.

The proposal, outlined by people in and around the commission this week, would effectively eliminate approximately 60% of superdelegates, though not in name. (As you’ll hear some Democrats joke, DNC members want to hold their lanyards.)

The concept is the same one agreed upon and proposed in the 2016 mandate. But the topic was still a source of debate this year among commission members. At the Unity Reform Commission assembly in October, one of the members main the charge on superdelegates, former Nevada state assembly member Lucy Flores, voiced a concern approximately creating “two categories” of superdelegates — putting rank-and-file members and activists a step below elected officials. “Those voices should not be treated as any lesser than others,” she told other commission members.

2. Caucuses.

Hillary Clinton called them “creatures of the parties’ extremes.” Bernie Sanders won most of them in 2016. Iowa Democrats, who host the first caucus in the nominating process each year, are dead-set on protecting the process. Still, many in the party agree that the caucus system could certainly be improved, particularly to form the process more unbiased for lesser-known candidates.

The Unity Reform Commission will keep forward a few changes.

One is a degree to form total vote counts public. This would benefit candidates who may not meet what’s called the “viability threshold” in each caucus, meaning they enact not receive support from 15% of caucus attendees and are therefore disqualified, releasing their supporters to fade caucus for a different candidate. In 2016, for instance, Martin O’Malley did not receive enough support in many caucuses to meet the viability threshold, so he scored zero delegates. Under the novel rule, that wouldn’t change, but a vote count would display him with, say, 4% support, perhaps allowing him to point to some success and advance in the race.

Another change the commission is considering: absentee ballots in caucuses. The degree would address perhaps the biggest concerns approximately the caucus process, which afre accessibility and flexibility. whether voters can’t display up in person to a caucus at the allotted time — because of work or family obligations — they cannot participate in the primary. Caucus absentee ballots are already available in Nebraska’s Democratic caucus.

3. Voting Rules.

As of Thursday, Democrats said, there is no language in the Unity Reform Commission report approximately mandating open primaries, which allow voters to participate in a primary regardless of party registration. But expect to see the commission address concerns approximately states like novel York, which form it difficult for voters to change their party registration at the final minute. Ahead of the 2016 primary there, the deadline was Oct. 9, 2015, nearly 200 days before the primary. As Sanders and his aides saw it, they were lost out on a key voting bloc — 27% of eligible voters who had chosen to list themselves as independents and likely missed the registration deadline to participate in the Democratic primary.

The Unity Reform Commission will propose a system to penalize states like this, by docking their number of pledged delegates, should they not adjust deadlines.

Also expect to see language encouraging states to pursue same-day party and voter registration, and to enact so through litigation whether essential.


Kamil Krzaczynski / Getty Images

Former interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile with her novel memoir.

4. “Party Reform.”

This category is aimed broadly at making the Democratic National Committee more obvious and unbiased during presidential elections. Since 2016, the DNC has been a major source of resentment among progressives and Sanders supporters. Donna Brazile, the veteran Democrat who took over as interim DNC chair final year after the WikiLeaks scandal, reignited that fury final month with a novel memoir, Hacks, which portrayed the primary as “rigged.” In an explosive excerpt released in Politico, Brazile cited a joint fundraising agreement signed between Clinton and the DNC. That agreement gave her campaign some say in hiring and strategic decisions at the DNC before the start of the primary. (Sanders also had a joint fundraising agreement with the DNC, but his did not grant the same authority, nor did his campaign know approximately the terms of Clinton’s agreement, former aides said.)

As such, the Unity Reform Commission has added language to their final report to address joint fundraising agreements, sources said.

They will also tackle another concern raised by Brazile’s book: that the same Democratic law firm, Perkins Coie LLP, represented both Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, including in things like joint fundraising agreements. “The nexus here of a single law firm representing both sides of the equation in the Clinton campaign and the DNC — that was totally unethical,” former top Sanders aide impress Longabaugh said after the release of Brazile’s memoir. Weaver, the former campaign manager, similarly described the arrangement as an “obvious clash.” Perkins Coie declined to comment on the Brazile book, or the charges from Sanders allies.

Members are looking at a rule change to prohibit vendors and consultants from working for a campaign and the DNC at the same time in scenarios where there might be a clash of interest.

So, will the changes actually pass? And will they be enough?

The Democrats involved know the stakes are high. Sanders voters in specific want to see the DNC bewitch meaningful steps toward a unbiased process. Still, there is precedent for “reform” committees that launch with colossal promises and ultimately drop short.

The “Democratic Change Commission” — formed under DNC chair Tim Kaine after a drawn-out 2008 primary — moved to form similar changes to the superdelegate system, binding the votes to state results. By the time the proposal got to the Rules Committee, it was dead in the water. (Kaine, Clinton’s vice presidential pick final year, said recently that he’s “long believed” superdelegates should be eliminated.)

One concern here is that the vote on reducing superdelegates comes down, in the close, to superdelegates themselves — the 447 DNC members who will either vote to strip themselves of power or hold it. Still, this time around, Unity Reform Commission members are more optimistic. They point to the mandate, which clearly lays out the proposed superdelegate system and was approved by delegates, including DNC members, on the floor of the conference final summer.

As Weaver keep it at the final Unity Reform Commission assembly: “This was passed unanimously at the quadrennial Democratic National conference, the highest authority in the Democratic Party — which means that every superdelegate, including total the DNC members and total the electeds, already voted for this.”

Ruby Cramer is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in novel York.

Contact Ruby Cramer at ruby.cramer@buzzfeed.com.

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