If you thought Al Gore got screwed in 2000, or if you think the Electoral College is just another Ivy League school not worth applying to, get a load of how the Democratic Party selects its presidential nominee — and how Rhode Island fits into this process.
 
Here’s how the system works: 4050 delegates at the Democratic Convention in Denver will select a nominee for president. Of these, 3250 are elected delegates who are chosen through the state-by-state primaries or caucuses. In addition, 800 superdelegates have a vote at the convention.
 
Superdelegates are quintessential Democratic insiders: governors, senators, representatives, and party officials. Thus, after 37 contests, while Obama currently holds a 1180–1026 elected delegate lead over Clinton, according to The Associated Press, Clinton retains a 239-176 superdelegate lead over Obama. 
 
The power of superdelegates to “anoint” a nominee has raised the ire of party activists. The advocacy group MoveOn.org recently published a full-page ad in USA Today, urging the superdelegates to postpone their endorsements and to allow the elected delegates to determine the winner. More dramatically, Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s former campaign manager, has threatened to resign from the Democratic National Committee if the superdelegates contradict the choice of the elected delegates.
 
How does this process play out in Rhode Island? A 50-page delegate selection plan available at the RI Democratic Party Web site provides a road-map.
 
Rhode Island will send 33 delegates to the Democratic Convention: 21 elected delegates, 11 superdelegates, and one delegate chosen at the June state convention. Rhode Island voters will select 13 of the 21 elected delegates in Tuesday’s presidential primary. Six will be elected from Congressional District 1 and seven from Congressional District 2.
 
These delegates will be proportionately allocated, depending on the popular vote in each district, to Obama or Clinton. For example, if a candidate gets 60 percent of the vote in District 1, that candidate gets four of the six delegates (meaning, the top four vote-getting delegates for that candidate in that district).
 
Similarly, the remaining eight elected delegates must be proportionately allocated to Clinton or Obama, depending on their performance in each Congressional District. These remaining slots are open to RI Democratic Party members who apply and who are accepted by the party leadership, although preference is given to women and people of color.  
 
Of the 11 superdelegates, Clinton currently has eight, and Obama two, and there remains one uncommitted vote.
 
Here is a list of the superdelegates, their titles, and who they currently support: Bill Lynch, RI Democratic Party Chair (Clinton); State Representative Grace Diaz, RI Democratic Party Vice-Chair (Clinton); Frank Montanaro, RI Democratic National Committeeman (Clinton); Edna O’Neill Mattson, RI Democratic National Committeewoman (Clinton); Mark Weiner, DNC Member, (Clinton); US Senator Jack Reed (Uncommitted); US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Clinton); US Representative Patrick Kennedy (Obama); US Representative Jim Langevin (Clinton); Attorney General Patrick Lynch, Democratic AG Association (Obama); Providence Mayor David Cicilline, Democratic Mayors Association (Clinton). 
 
Thus, due to Clinton’s strong support among Rhode Island superdelegates, even if Obama wins an upset victory in Rhode Island on Tuesday, a greater number of Rhode Island delegates will be committed to Clinton.
 
The prospect of such a result and the ongoing controversy surrounding the role of superdelegates have led many party activists to question why the “Democratic” Party has such convoluted and possibly “undemocratic” procedures for selecting its presidential nominee.
 
Those activists would be wise to follow their own implied advice about the best way to change democracy and its institutions: get involved! 

  Topics: This Just In , Barack Obama, U.S. Government, RI Democratic Party,  More more >
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