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Anomalies in Virgin Islands Democratic Delegation

There is a double anomaly in the V.I. delegation to the Democratic National Convention.
No. 1: Barack Obama got close to 90 percent of the popular vote but, so far, has only five of the nine delegate votes.
No. 2: Superdelegates — the ones not selected by the voters — constitute two-thirds of the delegation, a percentage not exceeded anywhere under the U.S. flag.
On the first point, Obama received 89.95 percent of the votes cast in the Virgin Islands Feb. 9. This was a much higher percentage than any candidate for the Democratic nomination received anywhere this year. In any other electoral situation, 90 percent of the votes would give the winner all nine delegates — but not this year, not in the Virgin Islands.
As the Source reported earlier, the six half-vote delegates elected by the people will be for Obama, as will the governor and Democratic National Committeeman Cecil R. Benjamin, both superdelegates. Two other superdelegates, Delegate Donna M. Christensen and Committeeman Kevin Rodriquez, support Hilary Clinton, and the other two committee members and superdelegates are, as yet, uncommited. (See "V.I. Democratic Delegate Count Actually Counts for a Change.")
On the second point, the superdelegates (the non-elected ones) constitute about one-fifth of the 4,047 slated to participate in the national convention this year, but in the Virgin Islands (and in American Samoa) the superdelegates make up two-thirds of the delegation. Why such a tilt away from island voters in these two territories? There is a somewhat similar situation on Guam, where five of the nine delegates there are in the super category.
The reason for the two anomalies is the same: the presence of a large percentage of superdelegates, elected officials and party officers. And the reason why the percentages of these superdelegates is so high in the island territories is because the nationwide delegate-distribution formula established by the Democratic National Committee has differential effects in different places.
In my home state of Virginia, for example, we have 85 delegates elected directly or indirectly by the people, and 16 superdelegates. The percentage of non-elected delegates is only16 percent, compared to 67 percent in the Virgin Islands.
Why the difference between VA and VI? Well, the DNC has decided that all major elected officials, and members of the DNC, should be automatically chosen as superdelegates. It keeps those successful pols from competing with other Democrats, as they did in earlier days, for seats at the convention. They also decided to use the same formula for the distribution of superdelegates, nationwide, while giving bigger delegations to the more populous states and the smallest delegations to the three islands territories. Each of the latter gets nine delegate votes, while the smallest of the state delegations (Alaska) gets 18 delegate votes.
In short, there's a formula at work: the smaller the overall number of delegates, the higher the percentage of superdelegates.
Now with four seats allocated to the DNC members and two to the VI's elected officials, that puts a squeeze on the popularly elected delegates — and results in the allocation of six half-vote delegates to both V.I. and American Samoa.. Guam, which has a Republican governor and a Democrat in the House of Representatives, has five superdelegates and four elected by the voters.
If you wanted to give the V.I. voters a majority of the delegates to the national convention, how would you go about it?
This is a national ruling, and the territory's legislature and courts have little or nothing to say about it, nor does the Congress or the federal courts. It is up to the Democratic National Committee. That body — and once I knew it reasonably well — is unlikely to solve the problem by increasing the number of delegates for the three island territories with minimal populations — Puerto Rico gets a far larger number of delegates because of its much larger population.
And the DNC probably is loath to reduce the votes allocated to any of its own members, even those from the territories.
The key would be for the governor and the congresswoman to appeal to the DNC to reverse the current formula — give the V.I. superdelegates half a vote each, so that the six elected by the people of the territory would each have a full vote.
My sense is that the DNC would be so blown away by that suggestion — coming from those two people — that the formula would be changed on the spot regarding future elections. If you testify against your own interests, as billionaire Warren Buffett has done repeatedly about the inheritance tax, you get a lot of favorable attention.
On a minor Virginia tax issue, I had a similar experience. I was an unknown Democrat testifying before a Republican state legislative committee, seeking to close a state income-tax loophole for people — like myself — receiving foreign unearned income (book royalties I had inherited from my father). The GOP legislators, normally totally supportive of reducing taxes, were impressed by my unusual position, and — given the lack of any witness on the other side of the issue — passed the bill I favored.
Maybe a similar scenario could be played out before the DNC so that in 2012, V.I. Democrats would elect a majority of their delegation to that year's Democratic National Convention.
Editor's note: David S. North was, in the days before superdelegates, assistant to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He lives in Virginia.
We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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There is a double anomaly in the V.I. delegation to the Democratic National Convention.
No. 1: Barack Obama got close to 90 percent of the popular vote but, so far, has only five of the nine delegate votes.
No. 2: Superdelegates -- the ones not selected by the voters -- constitute two-thirds of the delegation, a percentage not exceeded anywhere under the U.S. flag.
On the first point, Obama received 89.95 percent of the votes cast in the Virgin Islands Feb. 9. This was a much higher percentage than any candidate for the Democratic nomination received anywhere this year. In any other electoral situation, 90 percent of the votes would give the winner all nine delegates -- but not this year, not in the Virgin Islands.
As the Source reported earlier, the six half-vote delegates elected by the people will be for Obama, as will the governor and Democratic National Committeeman Cecil R. Benjamin, both superdelegates. Two other superdelegates, Delegate Donna M. Christensen and Committeeman Kevin Rodriquez, support Hilary Clinton, and the other two committee members and superdelegates are, as yet, uncommited. (See "V.I. Democratic Delegate Count Actually Counts for a Change.")
On the second point, the superdelegates (the non-elected ones) constitute about one-fifth of the 4,047 slated to participate in the national convention this year, but in the Virgin Islands (and in American Samoa) the superdelegates make up two-thirds of the delegation. Why such a tilt away from island voters in these two territories? There is a somewhat similar situation on Guam, where five of the nine delegates there are in the super category.
The reason for the two anomalies is the same: the presence of a large percentage of superdelegates, elected officials and party officers. And the reason why the percentages of these superdelegates is so high in the island territories is because the nationwide delegate-distribution formula established by the Democratic National Committee has differential effects in different places.
In my home state of Virginia, for example, we have 85 delegates elected directly or indirectly by the people, and 16 superdelegates. The percentage of non-elected delegates is only16 percent, compared to 67 percent in the Virgin Islands.
Why the difference between VA and VI? Well, the DNC has decided that all major elected officials, and members of the DNC, should be automatically chosen as superdelegates. It keeps those successful pols from competing with other Democrats, as they did in earlier days, for seats at the convention. They also decided to use the same formula for the distribution of superdelegates, nationwide, while giving bigger delegations to the more populous states and the smallest delegations to the three islands territories. Each of the latter gets nine delegate votes, while the smallest of the state delegations (Alaska) gets 18 delegate votes.
In short, there's a formula at work: the smaller the overall number of delegates, the higher the percentage of superdelegates.
Now with four seats allocated to the DNC members and two to the VI's elected officials, that puts a squeeze on the popularly elected delegates -- and results in the allocation of six half-vote delegates to both V.I. and American Samoa.. Guam, which has a Republican governor and a Democrat in the House of Representatives, has five superdelegates and four elected by the voters.
If you wanted to give the V.I. voters a majority of the delegates to the national convention, how would you go about it?
This is a national ruling, and the territory's legislature and courts have little or nothing to say about it, nor does the Congress or the federal courts. It is up to the Democratic National Committee. That body -- and once I knew it reasonably well -- is unlikely to solve the problem by increasing the number of delegates for the three island territories with minimal populations -- Puerto Rico gets a far larger number of delegates because of its much larger population.
And the DNC probably is loath to reduce the votes allocated to any of its own members, even those from the territories.
The key would be for the governor and the congresswoman to appeal to the DNC to reverse the current formula -- give the V.I. superdelegates half a vote each, so that the six elected by the people of the territory would each have a full vote.
My sense is that the DNC would be so blown away by that suggestion -- coming from those two people -- that the formula would be changed on the spot regarding future elections. If you testify against your own interests, as billionaire Warren Buffett has done repeatedly about the inheritance tax, you get a lot of favorable attention.
On a minor Virginia tax issue, I had a similar experience. I was an unknown Democrat testifying before a Republican state legislative committee, seeking to close a state income-tax loophole for people -- like myself -- receiving foreign unearned income (book royalties I had inherited from my father). The GOP legislators, normally totally supportive of reducing taxes, were impressed by my unusual position, and -- given the lack of any witness on the other side of the issue -- passed the bill I favored.
Maybe a similar scenario could be played out before the DNC so that in 2012, V.I. Democrats would elect a majority of their delegation to that year's Democratic National Convention.
Editor's note: David S. North was, in the days before superdelegates, assistant to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He lives in Virginia.
We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.