The REAL DNC candidate replacement rules
I was a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention in July. Since then, I’ve seen a lot of people claiming that should Hillary Clinton drop out of the presidential race, Bernie did some sort of rule-suspending magic that means that he automatically becomes the nominee.
Sure, I would love for this to happen. However, every claim that you read about this — how Bernie “retained his delegates” and the “selection rules are suspended” — is simply untrue.
Let’s clear this up for many people who are confused about Democratic Party rules.
The DNC, like many private organizations, operates under Robert’s Rules. The organization has three documents: the Charter, the Bylaws, and the Rules of Order — in that precedence. You can read along with them right here.
The Charter of the DNC defines what powers the DNC has. These powers are then refined in the Bylaws. For specific meetings (such as the National Convention), a set of Rules of Order are adopted.
The DNC Charter, its ruling document, states in Article III, Section 1c that “The Democratic National Committee shall have general responsibility for the affairs of the Democratic Party between National Conventions, subject to the provisions of this Charter and to the resolutions or other actions of the National Convention. This responsibility shall include…filling vacancies in the nominations for the office of President and Vice President.”
There were no resolutions at the National Convention that a) modified III.1c itself, or b) added bylaws that modified III.1c. Therefore, III.1c is currently in effect: The DNC has responsibility for filling vacancies in the nominations for the office of President and Vice President. (This was also covered in the Call to Convention, with the same wording.)
The National Convention operated under Rules of Order, which were adopted before the convention and expired when the convention was gaveled to a close. Even if you believe that Bernie’s nomination speech suspended or modified the convention rules, those rules expired on Thursday night. They have no effect on the DNC Charter. There was no mechanism at the National Convention to change the DNC Charter, and we did not vote on any Bylaws.
We officially voted for our presidential nominees of choice on Tuesday morning, and the votes had already been tallied before we took our seats on Tuesday afternoon. All superdelegates who didn’t abstain voted at the same time the rest of the delegates did. Bernie took no action that blocked the superdelegates from voting.
1800+ of us were chosen as pledged Sanders delegates to the National Convention. Again, at the conclusion of the National Convention, our roles in the process ended — Article II of the DNC Charter defines the National Convention as being “composed of delegates equally divided between men and women.” As delegates, we literally were the National Convention.
The role of the National Convention (Article II.3) is to nominate a candidate for President and Vice President. There is nothing in the DNC Charter or Bylaws that define a “runner-up” at the National Convention, nor is there anything in the Charter or Bylaws that compel the DNC to choose the second-place finisher should the nominee leave the race.
As a Sanders delegate, and no one reading this wants him to be president more than I do. But this can only happen if a) Clinton voluntarily leaves the race and b) the DNC chooses Sanders to replace her. There is nothing in the DNC Charter or Bylaws that allow the body to remove a candidate; it may only fill a vacancy.
Shorter: In the unlikely event that Clinton drops out, Sanders is not automatically the nominee. No matter how much we wish it to be true, it’s not.
The official DNC Charter and Bylaws are published and are easily available to anyone who is interested.