Vermont Dems stand with Sanders

Times Argus, May 23, 2016

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Stefan Hard / Staff Photo At least one attendee keeps up with the historical tradition of wearing colorful headwear at political conventions Sunday at the Barre Opera House, where Vermont Democrats convened

BARRE — State democrats overwhelmingly voted to support Bernie Sanders for president while calling for reform of the delegate process.

Several hundred people packed the Barre Opera House on Sunday for the Vermont Democratic Convention, which included the election of delegates to the national convention in July, as well as calling for a change to the Democratic Party’s “superdelegate” system.

Vermont will send 26 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, including 16 pledged delegates and 10 superdelegates.

Of the 16 pledged delegates, all will be bound to vote for Sanders on the first ballot, a recognition that — with 86 percent of the popular vote in the March primary — Sanders is the only candidate to receive at least 15 percent of the vote, the threshold to win a Democratic delegate in Vermont.

Superdelegates, on the other hand, are free to support whoever they wish. In an expression of frustration among Sanders supporters with the Vermont superdelegate support for Hillary Clinton, convention attendees adopted a resolution calling for Vermont’s superdelegates to offer their support based on the proportion of support the candidates received in the March primary.

Such a move would result in nine of the 10 superdelegates supporting Sanders, as opposed to six or possibly seven of the 10.

“The unanimous support (for the resolution) shows that people in Vermont want to see change at the DNC and they want to see a more democratic process where everyone’s vote counts,” said James Haslam, executive director of Rights and Democracy.

Earlier this month, delegates at the Maine Democratic Convention approved a similar resolution.

“It’s an undemocratic system. Taxpayer money pays for the primary process and everyone’s vote should count,” Haslam continued. “Parties should not be stacking the results of the election, and the superdelegate system currently does that.”

Of the 10 superdelegates, six have pledged to support Sanders: Dottie Deans, chairwoman of the Vermont Democratic Party; Tim Jerman, vice-chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party; Richard Cassidy; Secretary of State Jim Condos; U.S. Rep. Peter Welch; and Sanders himself.

The superdelegates who have pledged to support Clinton include Vermont Democratic National Committeewoman Billi Gosh, former Gov. Howard Dean and current Gov. Peter Shumlin.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who initially maintained his support for Clinton, even in the face of Sanders’ landslide win in Vermont, has said he will support the candidate who wins the most pledged delegates.

Currently, Hillary Clinton leads Sanders in pledged delegates, 1,768 to 1,494, with 939 pledged delegates still available.

With a unanimous vote, state convention attendees voted to support Sanders for president.

Attendees also elected 11 people to be delegates to the national convention: Ashley Andreas, Matthew Birong Jr., Kevin Christie, Noah Detzer, Arshad Hansan, Aster O’Leary, Brian Pine, Claudia Ines Pringles, Maria Rinaldi, Laura Simon, and Mary Sullivan.

On June 11, the newly elected delegates — along with the 10 superdelegates and with input from the Sanders campaign — will elect an additional five delegates.

Much like the Vermont Republican Convention held the previous day, state Democratic Party leaders called for unity among Democrats, regardless of who wins the presidential nomination.

“Both campaigns understand they can’t win without the others’ support,” said Jerman, who spent Saturday in Philadelphia in advance of the national convention. “The commitment from both campaigns is to come together in unity at the end of the campaign.”

“There was a total understanding that things are going to be bumpy until after California and into the convention, but, at some point, it will be all oars in the same direction,” Jerman continued. “We have to come together, because if we don’t, we lose.”

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