# Superdelegates Are Stupid and Aravosis Can't Do Arithmetic

I know I've been attacking John Aravosis for his disdain of helping the poor. But he is right that the twenty percent of unelected Democratic convention delegates known as superdelegates is an undemocratic idea. Unfortunately, his arithmetic is a little off:

As you know, the Democratic nomination is going to be decided by how many delegates each candidate has. And as you also know, candidates win delegates by winning state primaries and caucuses (or at least placing in those states that don't award all the delegates to the top candidate). Well, what you may not have known is that your vote may have nothing to do with who actually wins the Democratic nomination in August. That's because a number of "superdelgates" exist and they have nothing to do with how you vote. They are senators, House members, governors, and every elected member of the DNC, who are appointed as delegates automatically - they're called superdelegates - and they can vote for whomever they want.

....Olbermann explains that there are 797 Superdelegates. A candidate needs 2,025 delegates to win at a convention. And that means that 39% of the delegates that a candidate needs to win are these superdelegates. Thus a candidate could win the Democratic nomination even if he/she lost the vote in the states. That means that our members of Congress and governors may throw the election. How's that strike you?

Actually, there are 4,049 total delegates, including the 797 superdelegates. Thus, in a two candidate race, if all of the superdelegates voted for one candidate, the other candidate would need to win 2,025 delegates out of 3,252 delegates, or 62.2% of the popular vote.

Imagine a brokered convention (i.e., no candidate has 2,025 delegates going in), which to me seems a distinct possibility if Edwards stays in the race.

(a prognosticatory aside: Predicting electoral outcomes is stupid because usually people are wrong including the Mad Biologist, and because it doesn't matter. Nonetheless, I think Edwards could do quite well in the Northeast (~20-30%) on Super Tuesday which makes a brokered convention likely if he hangs around).

OK, back to the brokered convention. Once the horse trading for delegates' votes starts, it can get pretty crass. Trust me, if I were a delegate, I would have a couple line items that I would try to negotiate for at the state and federal level (antibiotic resistance surveillance programs, and infectious genomics). It's pretty ugly with or without superdelegates. Remember: just as superdelegates are free agents, so too, are regular delegates.

The way to fix this is with instant runoff balloting....

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Well, if you don't like the way the party chooses its candidate, get some friends, work your way high up in the party and change it.

This is after all how the *party* selects its *candidate*, not the way the nation elects the president.

(This is a generic you, not aimed at you specifically, Mike.)

Frankly, I think we should go back to smoke-filled rooms. Much less hassle for me.

Does your 4049 count the delegates from Michigan and Florida who are not going to be seated?

"Well, if you don't like the way the party chooses its candidate, get some friends, work your way high up in the party and change it."

Or start a new party. Or run an independent campaign. Parties may choose candidates however they like (within the applicable limits if election laws, which are mainly concerned with finance). I think it's high time we started breaking up the two major parties; they've clearly outlived their usefulness.

The Republicans do the same thing with their "unpledged" delegates.

Keith B,

Yes, it does. I have a feeling those delegates will ultimately be seated, but even if they're not it only changes the percent needed slightly.

Consider also the lack of uniformity among the states--some are winner takes all delegates, some are proportioned; some let anybody vote for either ("either" as in Democratic or Republican) regardless of their party affiliation (or lack thereof). If the nomination process were to be made more democratic, (1 person, 1 vote) would there even be a point? There would be no sense in rewriting the nomination process without reorganizing the presidential election itself, which, like the nominations, is not intended to be a direct election by the people. It would require a rethinking of the two-party and electoral (state-based) system.

Or start a new party. Or run an independent campaign. Parties may choose candidates however they like (within the applicable limits if election laws, which are mainly concerned with finance). I think it's high time we started breaking up the two major parties; they've clearly outlived their usefulness

Consider also the lack of uniformity among the states--some are winner takes all delegates, some are proportioned; some let anybody vote for either ("either" as in Democratic or Republican) regardless of their party affiliation (or lack thereof). If the nomination process were to be made more democratic