- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The chairman of the Maine Democratic Party is urging Democrats in other states to follow Maine’s lead in condemning the party’s system of so-called superdelegates to pressure their national organization to make changes before the next presidential election.

Maine Democrats adopted a proposal at their state convention during the weekend to strip power from superdelegates, but the changes won’t take effect until 2020.

The goal is to pressure the Democratic National Committee to reduce superdelegates’ influence instead of having changes adopted piecemeal, said Phil Bartlett, state party chairman.

“It’s important that states be heard. If enough states express enough desire to change the way the superdelegate system works, then that could certainly have an impact on the DNC. That’s ultimately where you want the change made,” Bartlett said.

Supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who won Maine’s presidential caucus, are angry that superdelegates backing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have given her an advantage in the race to secure enough delegates to win the party’s nomination.

Superdelegates are unpledged elected officials and party insiders who are not bound by the outcome of state primaries and caucuses.

The Maine measure has no teeth for this election cycle. It merely encourages superdelegates to vote in proportion with the state caucus outcome to avoid creating a conflict with national rules that could penalize Maine’s delegation at the national convention.

State Rep. Diane Russell, who crafted the proposal, said Democrats in other states are going to press forward with similar ideas, following Maine’s lead.

“What you’re going to see is an eruption. You’re going to see this debate happening elsewhere. This whole thing has taken root,” she said.

Maine will send 30 delegates to the national convention in Philadelphia. That includes 17 delegates pledged to Sanders and eight for Clinton, based on the caucus outcome.

Maine also has five superdelegates, at least three of whom currently back Clinton. Under the new rules, the proportion would be three for Sanders and two for Clinton.

Bartlett, who hasn’t announced who he’s supporting, said he’s going to convene a meeting with the other four superdelegates: Rep. Chellie Pingree; Peggy Schaffer, party vice chairwoman; and two Democratic National Committee members, Maggie Allen and Troy Jackson.

But the meeting to discuss the non-binding recommendation for 2016 may be rendered moot depending on what happens in the presidential race, Bartlett said.

Pingree, for her part, is a supporter of Clinton but she said she’s happy that Maine Democrats sent “a clear message that the superdelegate system should be abolished.”

“She believes the nominee should be determined by the results of primaries and caucuses around the country and not by superdelegates,” said spokesman Willy Ritch.

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Follow David Sharp on Twitter at https://twitter.com/David_Sharp_AP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-sharp.

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This story has been corrected to show the spelling is Peggy Schaffer, not Shaffer.

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