BY SANDRA RIANO
Senior Opinion Editor
Senator Bernie Sanders received the most votes ever in the New Hampshire primary with 60 percent of the votes and 15 delegates in the New Hampshire primary while Hillary Clinton took 38 percent and technically tied with Sanders in delegates with 9 delegates and 6 superdelegates. With only two states votes accounted for, both candidates should be far from reaching the 2382 of 4763 delegates required to win the Democratic Party’s nomination. In fact Senator Sanders has 44 delegates after New Hampshire, and Clinton has 394. How can Clinton have almost 400 delegates when she lost New Hampshire and barely left Iowa with a victory? The answer is the superdelegates who often pledge before any votes are even cast.
So how does this system work and how does it ensure that your vote is accounted for? First we need to understand how the delegate system works, not to be confused with the Electoral College that determines the outcome in the General Election. Each party, the Republican (RNC) and the Democratic (DNC) parties mainly, have delegates that decide the nominee for that party at the respective National Conventions. Each party uses a slightly different system for choosing the candidate who will be the nominee. Democrats use a system of pledged delegates and superdelegates. A superdelegate is a Democratic elected leader like a member of Congress or a former president. There are 712 superdelegates currently and Clinton has more than half of them but Democratic superdelegates have the power to switch over to another candidate regardless of popular vote. This is exactly what happened in 2008 that caused Clinton to lose the nomination when many of her superdelegates began switching their support over to Barack Obama. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, was quoted as having said “Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists“. Superdelegates are considered the party insiders and would most likely support an establishment candidate like Clinton over an anti-establishment candidate like Sanders.
Republican superdelegates are called unpledged delegates, must be a current Republican elected leader and are required to vote for the candidate that won their state’s primary or caucus.
There are 3,253 Democratic pledged delegates that are chosen by the party at the state level and they are often bound to a particular candidate but are not required to support them and can switch their loyalties at the convention.
According to the DNC, “A delegate goes to the Convention with a signed pledge of support for a particular presidential candidate. At the Convention, while it is assumed that the delegate will cast their vote for the candidate they are publicly pledged to, it is not required”.
So what does this mean for you? Recent counts have New Jersey at 146 total Democratic delegates including 16 superdelegates. New Jersey has one of the latest primary elections in the country, falling on Tuesday, June 7. Eligible New Jersey residents must be registered to vote by Tuesday, May 17 in order to vote in the primary election.
Many feel that their vote doesn’t count because the primary is so late in the season that the party’s candidate is already picked. Obviously the party’s system of delegates and superdelegates has affected the way citizens see their right to vote. Citizens are not directly voting for their next president, they are voting instead for representative electors who will possibly choose the candidate that the citizens are calling for. This system leaves room for political corruption and makes citizens wary of their role in the political process.
So if the system seems rigged why should you vote at all? Not voting means you are forfeiting your say in this country’s future and logically a party would nominate the candidate with the most votes overall in order to insure a win in the general election. Realistically, your vote does matter.