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Washington Voters Back Bernie, So Why Don't Our Superdelegates?

caption: Gov. Jay Inslee (center) joins caucus-goers in Bainbridge Island.
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Gov. Jay Inslee (center) joins caucus-goers in Bainbridge Island.
KUOW Photo/Bill Buzenberg

Bernie Sanders had a big win in the Washington state caucuses with more than 70 percent of the vote.

But not everyone is feeling the Bern. In fact, most of Washington state's superdelegates are still backing Hillary Clinton.

A superdelegate can be a party leader or elected official. They’re not elected to that position, they just automatically get a seat at the Democratic National Convention.

And, unlike regular delegates, they get to back the candidate of their personal choice.

Charlie Best thinks that's undemocratic. He started a petition that calls for Washington's superdelegates to follow the popular vote and get behind Sanders. Best said his petition isn’t about candidates, it’s about the democratic process.

“If an individual wants to support a candidate, I support their right to support a candidate,” Best said.

But he believes they should go through the same process as any other candidate.

“This thought that there is a class of delegate called a superdelegate just smacks to me of elitism. I believe the rank and file has the voice and that voice ought to be listened to,” he said.

Dwight Pelz, a former superdelegate and the former chair of the Washington state Democratic Party, said the superdelegate system is a positive one. It allows the governor, elected officials and party officials to weigh in.

“In a sense they have the potential to be a moderating voice in the process,” Pelz said. “If the national Republican Party had the same system that we have in the Democratic Party this year, neither Ted Cruz nor Donald Trump would be a serious candidate for president right now because none of the superdelegates are supporting either one of those guys."

Pelz said he thinks Washington’s superdelegates should not have to follow public opinion. They should vote their conscience.

And he said that doesn’t mean a few are overruling the masses. It’s just how we pick candidates in Washington state.

“It’s not a direct democracy. It’s a representative democracy within the Democratic Party,” he said.

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