MADISON, Wis. — Backers of Bernie Sanders are pushing for a vote at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention this weekend that they hope will pressure the state’s superdelegates to switch their allegiance from Hillary Clinton to the Vermont senator.
The vote on the nonbinding resolution, set for Saturday afternoon, will come on the second day of the convention. On Friday, party leaders and those running for office, most notably Senate candidate Russ Feingold, will speak to delegates at the meeting in Green Bay.
The party convention is designed as a way to rally Democrats heading into the election season. Feingold’s rematch against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is the biggest race on the ballot, but Democrats are also eyeing the open 8th Congressional District seat in northeast Wisconsin and hoping to make gains in the state Legislature, where Republicans control both the Senate and Assembly.
The keynote speaker at the convention on Friday night is U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
The split among Wisconsin Democrats over Sanders and Clinton mirrors that seen nationally as the presidential primary drags on. Anger over the party’s election rules — where party insiders known as superdelegates aren’t bound to vote for the candidate who won the state’s popular vote — has led some Sanders supporters to say the system is rigged.
That rallying cry now moves to Wisconsin — where several Sanders supporters gathered near the state Capitol on Wednesday to rail against the current system. They are pushing for approval Saturday of a nonbinding resolution that would say superdelegates should cast their votes proportionately based on who won the state.
If the superdelegates in Wisconsin would do that, Sanders would leave Wisconsin with 12 more delegates than Clinton. As it stands now, the best Sanders can hope for is an eight delegate advantage, but it could be as slim as just two.
He won the state’s April primary by 13 percentage points. But six of the 10 superdelegates back Clinton, one is for Sanders, and three are undecided.
“It’s a corrupt system and it’s designed just to ensure democracy will not be stolen by the people,” said Sanders backer Buzz Davis, speaking into a megaphone next to a farmers market a block from the Capitol.
“The vast majority of Americans are against the rigged primary system we have and against superdelegates,” he said.
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released this week showed that 38 percent of Americans say they have hardly any confidence that the Democratic Party’s process for selecting a presidential nominee is fair. Only 31 percent said they have a great deal of confidence that it is fair.
Democrats embraced superdelegates in 1982 to make sure party leaders have a say in who is nominated. About 15 percent of the total delegates this year are superdelegates, and critics say this group has given Clinton an advantage. She holds a commanding lead over Sanders, however, even without counting the superdelegates.