DNC Passes Historic Reforms to the Presidential Nominating Process

Today, DNC members passed the most wide-ranging reforms in decades to the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating process. These reforms will grow the Democratic party, increase participation, rebuild trust with voters, and put our next nominee in the strongest position possible to win.


These reforms will:

  • Empower the grassroots and reduce the influence of superdelegates in order to better respect the will of the people;

  • Expand the use of primaries;

  • Make caucuses more accessible by allowing shift workers, those in the military, seniors, people with disabilities, parents of young children, and others with barriers to caucus attendance to participate;

  • Encourage same-day registration and same-day party switching; and

  • Make it easier, not harder, for eligible people to participate in our democratic process.

“Today is a historic day for our party. We passed major reforms that will not only put our next presidential nominee in the strongest position possible, but will help us elect Democrats up and down the ballot, across the country,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez.  “These reforms will help grow our party, unite Democrats, and restore voters’ trust by making our 2020 nominating process the most inclusive and transparent in our history. Most importantly, these reforms will empower voters and ensure that they feel like their voices are being heard, especially young people who share the Democratic Party’s values. We listened and we acted, and I’m proud that our party is doing everything we can to bring people in and make it easier to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are working every day to divide our country and make it harder for people to exercise their constitutional rights at the ballot box. We have 73 days until the most important election of our lifetime. The future of our democracy is on the ballot. And it’s more critical now than ever that we continue to organize, engage voters, and win.  The American people are counting on us.”


“We applaud today’s vote to adopt the reforms put forth by the Unity Reform Commission.  After eight months of public meetings by this Commission and over 80 hours of discussion by the Rules and Bylaws Committee, our party has come together in unity to increase participation, empower our candidates, bring new and unaffiliated voters into the party, empower the grassroots, expand the use of primaries and make caucuses more accessible to workers,” said Unity Reform Commission Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon and Vice Chair Larry Cohen. “This progress didn’t happen overnight. Since delivering our recommendations to the DNC last December, DNC Chair Tom Perez, members of his staff and the members of both the Rules and Bylaws Committee and the Unity Reform Commission have had countless conversations with DNC members, party leaders, elected officials and activists.  Regardless of who we supported in the 2016 election, this group came together to make these reforms a reality in order to grow the party we all love. Today’s vote puts our party in a strong and unified position as we head into 2018 and 2020, and we are confident that because of these reforms, we’ll build on the wins up and down the ballot.”


Over the last year, the Unity Reform Commission spent eight months creating an initial proposal, the Rules and Bylaws Committee engaged in over 80 hours of discussion to finalize the slate of reforms, and DNC Chair Tom Perez spent over 100 hours holding meetings and calls in order to pass them. Countless elected officials, DNC officers, members, and party leaders also helped with this effort. In addition, the DNC spent the last two months whipping votes for this historic reform with a whip operation of about a dozen DNC staffers.  


Here are specifics on the reforms:


Superdelegates: The reforms passed by the full DNC require superdelegates to refrain from voting on the first presidential nominating ballot unless a candidate has enough votes from pledged delegates (based on the outcomes of primaries and caucuses) that superdelegates wouldn’t overturn the will of the people. While superdelegates have never in history reversed the will of the voters, this proposal rebuilds trust and addresses even the perception that this could occur. This proposal still gives superdelegates access to credentials, housing, and the convention floor; it maintains their voting privileges on all other party business like the platform, it maintains diversity of the 2016 delegate pool; and it does not preclude superdelegates from endorsing a candidate of their choosing.


Caucuses: The DNC passed reforms that make caucuses more inclusive, transparent, and accessible to participants. Specifically, these reforms require caucuses to have absentee voting or another mechanisms that would give folks who can’t participate in person a way to join in the process. In addition, these reforms mandate that states provide a written vote to allow for a recount if needed.


Primaries: While caucuses definitely have their place in the nominating process, the reforms encourage state parties to use a government-run primary where possible and to help ensure that primaries are more accessible to anyone who wants to participate as a Democrat. In addition, the reforms encourage state parties to work with states to strive for same-day or automatic registration and same-day party switching in Democratic primaries.


Party Reforms: The DNC passed reforms focused on strengthening the party and making it more competitive in all regions by investing in technology, empowering grassroots participation, diversifying the donor base, and supporting state parties in building infrastructure. Specifically, these reforms will combat voter suppression tactics; make the party competitive in every state and territory; increase grassroots participation; make the party more transparent, including in its Joint Fundraising Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding; and strengthen inclusivity and build on the great diversity of the party.