Tonight, our party’s presidential nominating process officially kicks off in Iowa. Today, I’m reflecting on the three years we’ve spent preparing for this moment, the changes we’ve made to make sure we are ready. I’m proud of the historic reforms we passed to increase transparency and accessibility, and that the power is where it belongs: with our voters.
Our party is at its strongest when we empower the grassroots. Last cycle, it was obvious some voters were unhappy with parts of the nominating process. Just like we do every four years, we looked at ways to improve how we choose our presidential nominee. And thanks to the reforms we made, we are excited to have one of the most transparent and inclusive primaries in history. This year’s process has empowered the grassroots and ensured our presidential nominating process reflects the will of the voters who will carry us to victory.
Here are some of the most significant reforms:
- Automatic delegates. Four years ago, nobody had voted but candidates had already accumulated delegates to the convention because of the old rules pertaining to automatic delegates (sometimes called “superdelegates”). This year, automatic delegates won’t vote on the first presidential ballot, unless a candidate has already passed the threshold to secure the nomination. Put simply, on the first ballot, our nominee will be determined by pledged delegates, who are selected by Democrats in their local communities and pledged to candidates based on the outcomes of the state primaries and caucuses.
- New rules for caucuses. Some of our major changes this year have to do with how states administer their caucuses — and they are all geared towards making our nominating process more transparent and accessible to more voters. You’ll see some of the changes relating to caucuses on display this week in Iowa. States with caucuses are required to provide absentee voting or some other method for those who cannot vote in person, create a process for publicly reporting delegates for each candidate, have presidential preference recorded on paper in case of a recount, and set the national convention delegates based on the first level of voting. What does this mean for caucusgoers? In Iowa, individuals can now participate through new satellite caucuses in the state — and around the world. In Nevada, there will be Strip caucus sites and expanded days of voting.
- Expanding access to primaries. This year, seven states are switching from a caucus to a primary because of our rules. We’ve encouraged states with primaries to use all means possible to allow same-day or automatic registration, and same-day party switching for the Democratic presidential primary process.
Many rules are the same from previous cycles. In every state, a presidential candidate must receive at least 15% of the vote to be eligible to receive delegates, and delegates are awarded proportionally (there are no “winner take all” contests) to how candidates fare at the local and state levels.
Our North Star has been to grow our party, increase participation in our democracy, and put Democrats in the best possible position to win in November and beyond. Unlike in past years, at the start of this process there is no presidential candidate who can say they have any delegate votes for the national convention before the contests have begun. We are proud that our nominee will be determined based on the outcome of the grassroots vote in every state and territory.
We’ve made important reforms to our debate process as well. For the first time in history, we used a grassroots donor threshold to give anyone who wanted to see a particular candidate on stage the ability to help make it happen. The goal was to make our nominating process more inclusive and grassroots-focused than ever before.
And it worked. The donor threshold energized millions of grassroots donors earlier than ever before in the process, and candidates across the country saw increased engagement, donations, and action from their supporters. Now that votes are being cast, candidates who have secured just one pledged delegate from these first contests or are polling above 10% can make the stage.
I’m exceptionally proud of the reforms the Democratic Party has made to fulfill our promise to our voters and rebuild their trust in our party. These changes are all about the future. They’re about growing our party, uniting our party, and earning the trust of committed Democrats like you. I can’t say this enough: The new DNC is doing things differently. We’ve passed the strongest reforms to our party in decades. And because of this work, we’re poised to take back our democracy in November and win elections up and down the ballot for years to come.