Thursday, January 31, 2008 - Learn about the DNC Super Delegates

It’s looking increasingly likely that the race for a nominee in the Democratic party will take some time to settle out… and the “super delegates” may actually have a hand in deciding who the Democratic nominee is.

If you don’t know what a “super delegate” is, don’t worry – a lot of people don’t. Each state has a number of “pledged” delegates – these are the delegates chosen during the primary or caucus. (I’m simplifying, but that’s more or less the case.) In the Democratic party, those delegates are awarded on a proportional basis – if a candidate gets 50% of the vote, they’ll get 50% of that state’s delegates (Again, there’s a bit more to it, but for purposes of this discussion, that’ll do.)

In addition to the 3200 pledged delegates, there are another 800 delegates who are “unpledged”. Made up of elected officials (Senators, Representatives, former presidents) and party officials (state chairs and the like), these so-called “super delegates” get a vote at the convention, and make up 20% of the vote. In past years, these super delegates basically get a ticket to the convention to participate in the formality of “choosing” a nominee… but the nominee became a de facto nominee by winning so many primaries and caucuses that noone else had any mathematical possibility of getting enough delegates to win the nomination.

As Barack and Hillary continue in their race for delegates, one thing is certain: they both have the money and infrastructure to continue for quite some time. (Barack raised $32m in January alone, from 170k new donors. Wow!) And neither has a clear advantage in the delegate race: they need 50% + 1 of the delegates, and if they continue at their current pace (in the 40-45% of the vote), they’ll both have a lot of delegates, but not the 2000+ needed to secure the nomination.

Which is where the super delegates come in. If a candidate secured enough superdelegates in addition to 40-45% of the pledged delegates, they’d stand a good chance of wrapping up the nomination. Right now, one third of the super delegates have pledged their support to one candidate (180 or so to Hillary, 80 to Barack). Super delegates can change their mind at any time, and many haven’t expressed a preference.

In an attempt to shed some light on this process, I built a site over the weekend – Starting with a terrific list provided by the guys who maintain DemConWatch, I started filling in a little info about the super delegates and linking to their endorsement (if given). After finding a great extension to MediaWiki (KMLExport, in case you’re interested), I was also able to add in geo coordinates (latitude and longitude) to the delegate pages, so that you can see the delegates in a Google Earth layer.

The data is far from complete, but that’s by design: this is a wiki, and the site will succeed only if others decide to contribute to it. It takes just a couple minutes to do some quick searches on Google to find basic info about the delegates, and entering in the basic info on a delegate is simple:

{{Endorsed Barack Obama|Latitude|Longitude}}

That will auto-categorize the delegate’s page, and add the necessary mark-up to ensure that the delegate is accurately mapped in Google Earth. (A Google Maps mapplet is on its way, maybe later tonight.) In any event, I’d love to see more people contribute to this. While it’s clearly a Democratic-focused project, it’s something that will benefit the party as a whole, not necessarily either candidate. My hope is that we provide a bit more transparency to the process, and develop a useful service that will help people better understand how we may end up picking our next nominee (and President!).

Let me know what you think. More importantly, take a few minutes and head over to the site and add in some info so that it’s more complete. Thanks!


  1. Great mashup idea. I'm sure you probably know this, but the site appears to be down. As it was just mentioned on the blog, I would normally chalk it up to bandwidth being exceeded due to high traffic, however, the message looks like its in regards to billing.

    Just a heads up!

  2. Eric - Thanks for the heads up. Yeah, apparently the flood of traffic from CNN overwhelmed the database server. I'm hoping it holds up, otherwise I'll need to move it to another server. :)

  3. [...] their victory will be an illusion. The old King will call to the heavens and the God-Delegates of super power will fall upon the Obamites with a fury. Betrayed by the delegates who were not bound, ambushed by [...]

  4. [...] information, and had to find it for myself.  As far as I can tell, they’re referencing this post, which explains the creation of the relevant kml file for superdelegates, in a way similar to what [...]