Statement from DFL Chairman Ken Martin on Presidential Primary and Superdelegates

Statement from DFL Chairman Ken Martin on Presidential Primary and Superdelegates

In the days since the Precinct Caucuses there have been a number of questions swirling around with regards to my position on a Presidential Primary and additionally my role as a Super Delegate to the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer.  There has been enough rumor, conjecture, and innuendo, which I wanted to clear it up so all of us can get back to building our Party to win and to last.

Presidential Primary

Even though there was a tremendous turnout at the Precinct Caucuses for both parties on Super Tuesday, it has become clear to me that the process by which we do our Presidential nominating here in Minnesota needs to be reformed.

Over 206,000 Minnesotans came out and voted in our Presidential Preference Poll but the long lines, short voting window, and shortages of ballots and registration sheets made for a very confusing and dispiriting experience.  We’ve been told that there were thousands more Minnesotans who were so frustrated that they turned around and left without participating in the process.  In addition, there were thousands more who wanted to participate but couldn’t because of illness, accessibility issues, or work related issues.  That is no way to welcome people to our Party or to ensure that their right to participate is guaranteed.

I have reached out to legislative leaders in both parties to indicate my support for moving to a hybrid Presidential Primary system which ensures that those who want to vote in our Presidential nominating contest can do so in a more convenient manner throughout the day and via absentee ballot if they so choose.  No one who wants to participate should have to jump through the extraneous hurdles of the current system.

That said, the DFL is widely seen as one of the strongest state parties in the nation; part of the reason is that we have a system that empowers the grassroots in the decision making of the party and the selection of candidates at all levels.  I started in politics with Paul Wellstone and there is no doubt in my mind that if we did not have our caucus system he never would have been elected to the U.S. Senate.  Primaries tend to favor the most established, deep-pocketed, candidates and incumbents.  Our caucus system forces a more personal type of politics where our candidates and elected officials have to have conversations with the grassroots.

Another benefit of the caucus system is that it brings together neighbors to discuss issues and debate the direction our party should be heading.  In this day and age of the internet and social media, people coming together in person to build community is a rarity.  We should embrace a system that allows people to gather to build power around issues and influence our party leaders and candidates.

The hybrid model I am suggesting would establish a Presidential Primary conducted by the state of Minnesota to allow for easier voting. The results of that ballot, much like now, will bind the election of delegates to the national convention.  One week after the Presidential Primary, the DFL would conduct caucuses and begin the normal party business of electing officers, debating resolutions, and electing delegates to the next level.  We would change our rules internally to require anyone who wishes to be elected as a national delegate to have participated in both the Presidential Primary and the caucus process itself.

I believe that this system would ensure the broadest participation possible without disenfranchising people.

I have asked Vicki Wright, our Director of Training and Party Affairs, to convene a committee to look at ways in which we can strengthen our caucus system. We look forward to hearing many of the good ideas out there on how we can make sure our process is as inviting, accessible, fair, and open to all DFLers in the state of Minnesota.

Super delegates

Minnesota has 16 Super Delegates on top of the 77 elected delegates to the convention.  These Super Delegates are not bound by the results of state caucuses or primaries and can change their vote at any time.

It is important to understand the history of the Super Delegates for context.  During and after the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, there were a number of activists and advocates who felt that the convention composition favored the party elites – elected officials, party leaders, etc. – and that there was little to no voice of the grassroots at our party convention.   Many reforms started to come to the forefront to create a more democratic system including the creation of the Super Delegates.  Before Automatic Delegates came to be our elected officials and party leadership ran for delegate spots against regular convention attendees.  More often than not these delegate elections were won by high ranking elected and party leaders thereby depriving the voice of ordinary, regular people at the National Convention.   The reform to create Super Delegates was twofold: to create an automatic delegate pool so that elected officials and party leaders don’t run against grassroots, ordinary activists for delegate spot; and increase the delegate pool so that the vast majority, 85%, of delegates are elected directly by the people in caucuses and primaries throughout the country.  The Super Delegates only make up 15% of the convention.

In the history of Super Delegates there has never been a time where the Super Delegates have gone against the will of the people.  Never.  In fact, in the most recent contested Presidential contest in our party in 2008, all of the Super Delegates swung their support to Senator Obama when he won a majority of elected delegates.

I have been very consistent about my position on this for many years now, as a Super Delegate I will support the candidate who wins the majority of delegates throughout the country. Once all states have had a chance to weigh in, I and many other Super Delegates, will support the will of the people.  All of the Super Delegates are elected officials and as people who care deeply about the health of our Party, the last thing we would ever do is tear the party at the seams by voting against the will of Democrats around the nation.  The number of Super Delegates a candidate has truly does not matter; the only number that truly matters is the number of elected delegates that one of our candidates has – whoever gets a majority will be our nominee in Philadelphia this July.

Lastly, for those who are deeply interested in the issues of Presidential Primaries, Super Delegates, and in general the DFL Party, I would encourage you to get involved.  The Party belongs to those who show up and participate.  If you want to be a part of a revolution than you need to do the hard work of showing up, rolling up your sleeves, and committing yourself to changing institutions, processes, and structures; voting one time is not enough.  Our great grassroots caucus process allows your voice to be heard and change to occur; use it to make change.

I greatly appreciate the interest on process and I hope I have answered your questions, but now that I have please let’s get back to focusing on how we are going to win elections up and down the ballot this November.  We have 249 days until one of the most consequential elections in our lifetime and the more we are focused on the internal process the less we are focused on communicating with voters about our DFL values and the candidates that represent them.



Filed under: DFL News, Election Coverage