Superdelegates and unpledged delegates are special members of the Democratic and Republican parties respectively, who may be called upon to decide extremely close primary elections to nominate a candidate for President. The Democratic Party has about 800 superdelegates, and may be responsible for approximately 20% of the vote. There are far fewer unpledged delegates, slightly over 100, in the Republican Party. The Republican race for a presidential nomination has to be exceptionally close for unpledged delegates to constitute the deciding factor in a race, since their votes represents only about 5% of the total delegate vote.
In either case, it may be possible to influence the vote of a superdelegate or unpledged delegate. But you have to know who these folks are in order to do so. For Democrats, you can count on most Democratic members of Congress, most Democratic governors, and Democrat mayors from major cities to be superdelegates. If in doubt about whether a person is a superdelegate, you can contact the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to obtain lists. Lists may also be posted by the candidate you support, and by a number of television or newspaper sites. The smaller number of unpledged delegates for the Republican Party may require more searching; consider contacting the Republican Party if you want a list.
When a primary race is really close, you may want to try your hand at influencing a superdelegate to support your candidate of choice. Think locally first. You can be more influential among those people who expect you to vote for them in upcoming elections. For instance, contacting local senators, your state’s governor, or your district’s house representatives may be the best first choice. These are all superdelegate representatives who will want your support in future elections.
You don’t have to tell a superdelegate you won’t vote for them in future elections. Instead, just state your candidate preference and the reason/s why you hope the superdelegate will back your candidate. Be respectful of superdelegates or unpledged delegates and their contributions. Also be aware if the unpledged or superdelegate has already pledged their support to a candidate you’re not backing. Even though this support is not “official” until a vote is actually cast at the convention, most people won’t change their minds because this would betray political alliances. Try to aim for the superdelegates who haven’t yet officially backed a candidate.
Generally, one single person, unless a master at persuasive writing, won’t influence unpledged or superdelegates. More often, you need a significant letter writing campaign from a number of the person’s constituents in order to create influence. Be aware that the candidates themselves are courting these special delegates too. Don’t ever disparage the other candidate or make threats, and pay attention to your candidate’s requests not to contact these delegates if they ask.
Some delegates will be more open to influence than others, especially if they get a high number of requests from their potential electors in future campaigns. Others already have their minds made up or won’t make up their minds until the actual convention, when they will vote with the candidate with the most delegates to preserve party unity. Even when you can’t influence a superdelegate, contacting your political officials is an excellent way to be more involved in the political process.
Thomas Jefferson once stated, “The best defense to democracy is an informed electorate.” Before contacting your elected officials, be sure you’re fully informed on the issues you wish to press, particularly the record of opponents in a primary race. Then, as Jefferson suggests, use that information to participate in and defend the democratic process Americans enjoy, by asking for support from superdelegates or unpledged delegates in an informed, intelligent and respectful manner.