Are superdelegate counts skewing election results?

DNC chair blasts media for 'inaccurate' portrayal of delegate counts

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders speak in Flint, Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders speak in Flint, Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Some media outlets are no longer including superdelegates in calculated totals for presidential primary results.

The move comes weeks after Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz ridiculed the media for its incorrect portrayal of delegate counts.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks before a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks before a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

“The way the media is reporting this is incorrect,” Wasserman Schultz told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on February 20. “There are not pledged delegates, or superdelegates, earned at any of these caucus contests.”

She explained that superdelegates are “free to decide [who to vote for] all the way up until July.” Even those who have committed to a candidate can change their minds, as some did during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, she added.

“It’s really important that we separate the types of delegates,” the DNC chair said.

The New York Times recently updated its 2016 Primary Results and Calendar page to exclude superdelegate counts from Democratic delegate totals.

The New York Times no longer includes superdelegates in its primary results. (NYT)

But many other sources, including Google, still include superdelegates in presidential primary results, although they are typically displayed using a different color.

According to Wasserman Schultz, candidates earn pledged delegates, which make up 85% of delegates that participate and cast a vote in the convention, through primaries and caucuses. Superdelegates account for the remaining 15% of votes.

“Combining them at each phase of this contest is really not an accurate picture,” she said. “It’s really important to report these in a completely different way.”

Some are accusing media outlets of skewing results by incorporating superdelegates. Hillary Clinton’s 469 declared superdelegates show her with a much larger lead over Bernie Sanders, who is only behind by 219 when superdelegates aren’t included.

Google includes superdelegates in its primary results charts. (Google)

While Clinton has a 45-1 superdelegate advantage over Sanders, Wasserman Schultz is reminding voters and the media that superdelegate counts are not set in stone.

Superdelegates differ from normal delegates in that they can pledge to support a candidate regardless of how the state they represent votes. They are generally former elected officials or high-ranking party members. Superdelegates account for less than 1/3 of the 2,382 total delegates needed to win the nomination.

And superdelegates are not technically bound to vote for anyone.

Petitions urging superdelegates to honor the popular vote rather than the opinions of party elites have surfaced online. A MoveOn.org petition calls for Democratic superdelegates to “back the will of the voters” so the nomination is “decided by who gets the most votes, and not who has the most support from party insiders.”

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