Change Commission: Findings and recos for unpledged delegates (superdelegates)

Reducing Unpledged Delegates


In 2008, unpledged delegates played a significant role in the nominating process. Unpledged delegates constituted 19% of the total convention and the presidential candidates were compelled to spend a substantial amount of candidate time and other resources to seek the support of these automatic delegates. We learned that in a closely contested presidential race, the nomination could be decided by this category of delegates.

The Resolution establishing the Commission mandates that there be “significant reduction” in the number of unpledged delegates to reduce the chance that a nomination could possibly be in contravention of the wishes of our voters and caucus goers.20


The DNC must address the perception that there are too many unpledged delegates and those delegates could potentially overturn the will of the people, as determined by the state contests. It is critical that significant changes be made in the number of unpledged delegates to ensure a visible reduction in the role unpledged delegates play in the nominating process.

The unpledged delegates cover a wide range of elected officials and local Democratic activists. Commission members felt it critical to keep these party leaders involved in the process. Any reduction to the number of unpledged delegates must continue to provide participation in the convention, and also during the primary process in their own states. Several Commission members mentioned the importance of retaining unpledged status for unpledged delegates who often act as gatekeepers and impartial referees in the nomination process, so they can maintain a neutral status in their state’s process.

Given the enhanced level of public participation in our primaries and caucuses, as exemplified by the expanded turnout for our 2008 contests, it is now time to significantly reduce the role of automatic, unpledged delegates in our nominating process.



Accordingly, the Commission recommends:

  • The category of unpledged add-on delegates will no longer be allocated and automatic voting status for all remaining categories of unpledged delegates (DNC members, Democratic Members of the House and Senate, Democratic Governors and Distinguished Former Party Leaders) be retained in a new category of pledged delegates each with a full vote at the National Convention.
  • Under this new category, these pledged delegates would be called National Pledged Party Leader and Elected Official (NPLEO) delegates. Each state would be allocated NPLEO slots equal to the number of current DNC members, Democratic members of the House and Senate, Democratic Governors and Distinguished Former Party and Elected Leaders from their state.
  • NPLEO delegate slots would be allocated to the presidential candidates based on the state wide primary or caucus results, which is the same manner by which at-large delegates are allocated.
  • Members of the NPLEO Categories shall automatically serve as a NPLEO delegate by submitting a statement of candidacy and presidential pledge of support to the State Democratic Party by a date certain.
  • Any member of the NPLEO Delegate Categories who does not wish to apply or pledge for a NPLEO Delegate position shall have the automatic right to serve as a Non-Voting Delegate to the National Convention with all the privileges associated with being a member of the state delegation to the National Convention, except for voting on the floor of the National Convention. These Non-Voting Delegate privileges include floor credentials and housing in the same manner as is provided for their state’s delegation.
  • The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee shall specify the procedures for the members of the NPLEO Delegate Categories to apply for and pledge their delegate vote, and for other matters in connection with the selection of the NPLEO Delegates, including but not limited to the filling of vacancies.

20 Resolution establishing the Democratic Change Commission as adopted by the Democratic National Convention on August 25, 2008 – text of resolution in the Appendix


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