Democratic Superdelegate Rule Changes for 2020 

Unpledged delegates, better known as superdelegates* will make up about 17% of Democratic Party delegates in 2020. These party insiders are part of each state's delegation, but are not committed to vote based on the outcome of the state's primary or caucus. This has caused considerable friction over the years. This came to a head in 2016 when many superdelegates announced early support for Hillary Clinton, creating the perception that the party was putting its thumb on the scale in her favor against Bernie Sanders. 

As a result, the party has made a significant change for 2020. Superdelegates will no longer vote on the first ballot at the convention unless there is no doubt about the outcome. To win on the first ballot, the frontrunner must secure the majority of pledged delegates available during the nominating contests (primary and caucus) leading up to the Democratic Convention.  We estimate^ 3,768 total pledged delegates, with a majority being 1,885. 

If the frontrunner has fewer than 1,885 delegates, the pledged delegate vote will lead to a contested convention. On subsequent ballots, all delegates become unpledged and superdelegates will also vote. A majority of all 4,532 delegates (2,267) will be needed to secure the nomination. Given the large field, front-loaded calendar and the party's proportional allocation process, a contested convention is by no means an unlikely outcome.

* The party is now calling them 'Automatic Delegates', based (we assume) on the fact that these people are made delegates to the convention based on their position within the party. 

^ Delegate counts courtesy of The Green Papers.

† There appears to be some provision for any candidate who withdraws to release their delegates prior to the convention/vote. These formerly-pledged delegates will be allowed to vote as they wish on the first ballot. If a frontrunner can secure 1,885 of pledged and formerly-pledged delegates, they can still win on the first ballot.

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