How Many Superdelegates Does South Carolina Have? The Democrats Have More, And Extra Flexibility To Boot
South Carolina may have the first vote in the South this primary season, but some of the delegates in the state are pledging their votes ahead of time — way before the Republican primary on Feb. 20 or the Democratic one a week later on Feb. 27. That's because there are South Carolina superdelegates in both the GOP and Democratic Party who can traditionally support whomever they want at their conventions. In South Carolina, the Dems have six superdelegates, whereas the Republicans have three, although they're called "unpledged" or "unbound" delegates.
Take a look at the Republican party — their primary's first and their system is a lot simpler — and you'll see that the delegates in each state are apportioned by population. New Hampshire was given 23 this year, while Texas gets 115. Traditionally, three of the delegates in each state are the unpledged or unbound ones. They're three members of the state's GOP party — typically the state party chair, the national committeeman, and the national committeewoman. In the past, the state decided whether these three could vote for as they saw fit or had to follow the state's popular vote.
In December, though, the RNC set some pretty strict rules on these unbound delegates for 2016. Now they must allocate their vote in the same manner as the state's other, normal delegates — either proportionally or in a winner-takes-all manner. The only possible exception is if the winner of a state later drops out of the race; that might open up the unbound delegates to support another candidate.
The Democratic Party is where things get messy — or undemocratic, depending on who you're asking. The superdelegates can vote for whomever they like, and three of the six in South Carolina have already pledged their support to Hillary Clinton. Nationwide, more than half of the Democratic superdelegates are firmly in Clinton's camp. They are free to change their minds, though. The Democratic superdelegates are made up of current elected officials like governors and members of congress, as well as retired politicians and party leaders.
This setup keeps the system leaning toward established candidates who are connected to the party leadership. That is what DNC party chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz told CNN's Jake Tapper, anyway. "Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists," she said.
Whichever party's system you see as more fair, both the GOP and the Democrats' rules are very complicated. Only in the Democratic system, though, can personal preference tip the scales in favor of one candidate.