There’s plenty of anticipation leading up to Super Tuesday, which will take place this year on Tuesday, March 3. What is Super Tuesday, exactly? It’s the day during the presidential primary season when the most amount of states hold primaries or caucuses. The name “super” indicates the large number of states that hold voting contests on that day. But, delegates and superdelegates play a large part in this process. So, how exactly does this voting process work and what role do superdelegates play in it?
Delegates are individual people who presidential candidates must ultimately win the support of in order to score their respective party’s nomination, and are often either local party leaders or advocates from their communities. Delegates were thought up after a chaotic Democratic National Convention in 1968 when a man named Hubert Humphrey became the nominee even though he didn’t win a primary. The government came up with delegates, then, to ensure that the popular will of the people is listened to and supported as the winner of any given state’s primary.
However, the nominees that some elite Democrats wanted still weren’t winning primaries and gaining power. In light of losses like Jimmy Carter losing to Ronald Reagan, Democrats decided they needed superdelegates. Now, each election season, 4,700 delegates are selected on the Democratic side. Then, superdelegates, who make up about 15 percent of all delegates, are allowed to support any candidate they choose and are also able to switch who they support at any time up to the actual nomination period. They can be major elected officials like members of the house of Representatives, former or current presidents or vice presidents, senators, or members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In essence, superdelegates can completely change the results of a nominating process and override primary results.
It’s also important to note that this process is specific to Democrats, because the Republican Party doesn’t use superdelegates in the same way. Superdelegates from the Republican National Committee (RNC) represent less than 7 percent of total Republican delegates, and are harshly held to reflecting the will of voters, which has not always been true of the Democratic party, which was specifically critiqued for its treatment of Sanders in 2016.
For Super Tuesday, which was created in the 1900s so that candidates could cohesively spread messages across the nation and focus on issues important to large groups of Americans who would all go vote at once, superdelegates play a huge part in deciding the party's presidential nominee. Nowadays, Super Tuesday has come to signify the day that the winner of most of the primaries that day will go on to become that party’s nominee. It’s treated as if the primaries are essentially over once Super Tuesday is done, and it looks like that’s the upholding opinion for 2020 as well.
This year, there’s talk of some of the 771 superdelegates overriding Bernie Sanders’ popularity and going with another candidate. Any candidate in the DNC this year will need to secure 1991 regular delegates at least to win the Democratic party’s presidential nomination. If no candidate hits that jackpot, a new round of voting will begin, giving superdelegates the power to sway the nomination and choose who they deem fit to represent the party.