Sanders Supporters Start Pestering Superdelegates

Petitions, Google Docs and Twitter bots are proving useful in their effort

A supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. — (AFP/Getty Images)
Mar 28, 2016 at 12:44 PM ET

With Hillary Clinton looking increasingly likely to cinch the Democratic nomination for president, Bernie Sanders fans are making a new last-ditch effort to keep him in the race. The Vermont senator’s die-hards have turned their attention to the superdelegates—in hopes that they’ll switch teams at the Democratic Convention.

As of Monday, Hillary Clinton had secured 1,712 delegates compared to Sanders’ 1,004. Clinton’s count includes the ones she’s won in the states—and 469 superdelegates, party bigwigs who are free to support anyone they choose. Just 29 superdelegates are currently backing Sanders.

Sanders fans are out to change that—by bugging the hell out of everyone. They’ve rallied behind him with a slew of tools: Petitions, Google Docs and Twitter bots, all as part of a campaign to woo both unpledged superdelegates and those who previously pledged their support for Clinton, in hopes that they’ll instead back Sanders, Vocativ has found.

Sanders himself highlighted the issue of superdelegates in an interview with ABC News over the weekend. “I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to end up with more pledged delegates than Secretary Clinton,” he said, adding that he thinks a lot of superdelegates will ultimately conclude he’s the candidate better positioned to defeat Donald Trump in a general election.

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His supporters decided to take it upon themselves to speed that process along. One petition, created in February, urges people to reach out to superdelegates. Started by Women For Bernie and Ready to Fight, it declares “Dear Superdelegates: DON’T DENY DEMOCRACY.” The creators of the petition, which 175,000 people have signed, are banking on the idea that Sanders can beat Clinton in the number of regular delegates, in the ongoing primaries and caucuses. Is that’s the case, they demand that superdelegates support Sanders, too, hoping he could then secure the Democratic nomination.

It’s just one of the actions they’re taking to try to turn the political tables. As part of a “Bern Your Rep” campaign that his fans launched on Saturday, automatic tweets are being sent to the hundreds of Democratic officials who have pledged support for Clinton. The tweets ask if the officials still stand by their decisions now that Sanders is doing well.

The campaign also has a Facebook page providing followers with a list of every single superdelegate and their contact information. The page administrator explains in a post: “The purpose of compiling what I could on these elected superdelegates is to ask them to consider reevaluating their support for Sec. Clinton.”

The push is part of a broader discussion Sanders supporters have had for months about superdelegates. Since May last year, Reddit threads have cropped up urging his fans to write letters and emails to superdelegates asking them to back Sanders, Vocativ found. In December, a user on the pro-Sanders /r/SandersForPresident subreddit even put together a list of superdelegates in Google Docs as part of a letter-writing campaign. Other fans have petitioned superdelegates to align themselves with “regular voters—not party elites”—meaning Sanders, not Clinton, Politico reported in mid-February.

One user posting on a pro-Sanders Slack chat network, BernieBuilders, on Monday instructed those reaching out to be respectful to the superdelegates. “The best thing you can do is hand write a courteous, thoughtful letter and pay attention to decorum,” the user wrote. “Don’t threaten the superdelegates, that’s not helpful. Remember to be kind. We’re the good side :)”

A post on Reddit’s /r/SandersForPresidents and a conversation that ensued, however, showed that at least some of Sanders’ fans have disagreed with the tactic. “Superdelegates won’t swing the nomination,” said the February Reddit post, which was upvoted 4,134 times.

But since Sanders started bringing up the issue of superdelegates in the media, it seems that more and more fans are interpreting his statements as a call to action.