Bernie Sanders supporters (left of the stairway) and Hillary Clinton supporters in Natrona County caucused at the Casper Events Center on April 9. Despite large turnout for Sanders and taking 56 percent of the overall vote in Wyoming, the party split its 14 delegates up for grabs between Sanders and Clinton 7-7. The party's county-by-county proportionate distribution of delegates and first-ever absentee balloting account for caucus outcome, according to Wyoming Democratic Party officials. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Some Wyoming Democrats want the party’s four superdelegates to ditch their publicly-stated pledge of support for Hillary Clinton to more accurately represent the outcome of the party’s April 9 caucus.

The party’s 14 delegates up for grabs in Saturday’s Democratic caucus were split 7-7 between Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, despite Sanders taking 56 percent of the statewide vote. That’s because the party’s caucus formula awards votes proportionately among three categories in each of Wyoming’s 23 counties rather than based on the statewide totals.

The Albany County Democratic Party passed a resolution Tuesday in response: “Albany County Democrats, in recognition of the popular vote locally and statewide, encourage our statewide unpledged delegates, commonly known as ‘superdelegates,’ to reconsider their stated commitments in order to more accurately reflect the popular presidential preference vote.”

Other county level parties may follow suit. The four superdelegates — technically titled “unpledged” delegates — posted a note on the party’s website on April 18, stating “whichever candidate arrives at the national convention with the most pledged delegates will have our support as Wyoming’s ‘superdelegates.'” (Read more below)

“It might be a longshot to ask people to un-pledge a pledge they have made,” Albany County Democratic Party Vice Chairman Pete Gosar said. “But I think you have a really good opportunity to say [to voters] ‘Your vote counts. It does matter.’”

The Wyoming Democratic Party has a total 18 delegates in the nomination of the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. Four are so-called superdelegates, and they technically remain “unpledged” until the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

Prior to the state party’s April 9 caucus, however, all four superdelegates volunteered their choice for the U.S. president — and all four voiced their support for Clinton.

Tempers flared as results of Saturday’s caucus were read across the state. Bernie Sanders supporters, who clearly outnumbered Hillary Clinton crowds at some county caucuses, were surprised and chagrined to learn that  the candidates would split the 14 delegates.

With the four superdelegates already promising to support Clinton at the national convention, that means Wyoming would commit 7 delegates to Sanders and 11 delegates to Clinton, even though Sanders won the statewide caucus vote by 12 points. That’s why some are urging the party’s four superdelegates — Wyoming Democratic Party Chair Ana Cuprill, Party Vice Chair Bruce Palmer, National Committeeman Mike Gierau, and National Committeewoman Mary Hales — to rescind their pledges for Clinton and shift the delegate votes toward Sanders.

“There’s a sense of fairness,” Gosar said. “Whatever the deal is, we just want a fair deal.”

Caucus fracus

The county-by-county delegate formula isn’t new to the Wyoming Democratic Party. Still, there was widespread confusion over caucus results, and many Sanders supporters cried foul. A few even made threats toward state party officials on Facebook, which prompted Sen. Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie) to post a plea for civility:

“Wyoming Democrats,” Rothfuss posted to Facebook Wednesday, “It is totally unacceptable behavior to threaten, insult or harass our Executive Director because you are unsatisfied with an outcome which was based entirely on a set of predefined rules that were scrupulously adhered to by our volunteers and party personnel throughout the state.”

Further adding to confusion and frustration in the Democratic caucus was the introduction of “surrogate” or absentee balloting. Sanders supporters far outnumbered Clinton supporters at some county caucuses Saturday, but in some cases absentee ballots helped tilt the scales toward Clinton, causing confusion and leading to claims of a “rigged” caucus.

“My sense of it is it’s in the boiling stage,” Albany County Committeeman Bern Hinckley said Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know if it will calm down or not.”

Absentee balloting

Clinton won 1,551 votes via absentee ballots and Sanders earned 1,294 absentee ballots, according to Wyoming Democratic Party Executive Director Aimee Van Cleave.

Van Cleave wrote in a blog post Wednesday:

“Of the approximately 42,000 registered democrats in the state, nearly 7,200 participated in this year’s caucus — about 18 percent. That number is up from 15 percent in 2008. Of the votes in this year’s Wyoming Democratic Caucus, 2,848 were via surrogate forms — 40 percent.”

The purpose of allowing absentee voting was to enable people who might be working, studying abroad, serving in the military, homebound or otherwise unable to attend caucuses in person to participate. “Ultimately it’s a way to make caucuses more open and accessible to a variety of voters,” Van Cleave told WyoFile.

Several state parties now include surrogate voting in caucuses. Wyoming’s process is modeled after one used in Washington. It’s part of the state party’s Delegation Selection and Affirmative Action Plan updated and passed by the Wyoming Democratic Party Central Committee in April 2015, and approved by the Democratic National Committee in September.

University of Wyoming professor of history Phil Roberts said he doesn’t recall surrogate or absentee balloting in Wyoming Democratic caucuses since he first became involved in the party in 1968.

“Our caucus has become neither a caucus or a primary,” Roberts said. “The theory of a caucus is people to get together and discuss theories on an issue [in person].”

There’s an immediacy and interactive aspect of having a group of people in the same room exchanging ideas and trying to convince one another about which candidate best serves the party, and who should move forward as delegates to the state convention, Roberts said. He worries that absentee balloting may change the dynamics of the caucus, giving campaign staffs a chance to best one another on who can get absentee ballot forms into voters’ hands.

Van Cleave said the state party notified party members of absentee balloting, and made the forms available online. Likewise, both the Sanders and the Clinton campaigns notified their likely voters of the opportunity to fill out absentee ballot forms. It’s just one more part of the ground campaign as candidates try to mobilize potential voters, she said.

“Overwhelmingly, the response we’ve gotten so far is that voters are thrilled they got to participate when they might not have otherwise,” she said.

Next, the Democratic State Convention will be held May 28 in Cheyenne,  while the GOP State Convention begins today in Casper.

UPDATE, April 18, 2016: Wyoming Democratic Party superdelegates posted a note today on the party’s website regarding the status of their support for the Democratic nominee for president.

“Currently our ‘votes’ and pledges are meaningless,” the superdelegates wrote. “In 2008, a number of superdelegates switched from Clinton to Obama once it became clear that Obama had won a majority of pledged delegates. And in the end, whichever candidate arrives at the national convention with the most pledged delegates will have our support as Wyoming’s ‘superdelegates.'”

Read the Wyoming Delegate Selection Plan for the Wyoming Democratic Party:

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. “That’s because the party’s caucus formula awards votes proportionately among three categories in each of Wyoming’s 23 counties rather than based on the statewide totals.”

    The quoted statement above from Dustin Bleizeffer’s article above is incorrect and continues to illustrate and perpetuate confusion regarding how the delegates are apportioned. The 14 pledged delegates are divided into three categories [District Level (8), At-Large (4), PLEO – Party Leaders and Elected Officials (2)] and the delegates in each category are most definitely apportioned according to the statewide caucus percentages.

    Due to the small number of delegates available in each category [the result of having so few Democrats in Wyoming] the granularity is pretty course which leads to significant round-off in the calculations. For instance at the District Level (8) each of the delegates equates to 12.5% of the total statewide vote and since Sanders (56%) and Clinton (44%) were separated by only 12% which is lower than the delegate granularity percentage (12.5%) they each got 4 delegates after round-off.
    Sanders 0.56 x 8 = 4.48 –> 4 delegates after rounding
    Clinton 0.44 x 8 = 3.52 –> 4 delegates after rounding

    The same held true for each of the other two delegate categories but with even coarser granularity. The result is that the total of 14 delegates was split evenly at 7 each.

    The apportionment of the delegates is clearly explained showing the exact calculations on the Wyoming State Democratic Party website at the following URL:

    The overwhelming dissatisfaction with the results of the statewide delegate apportionment is from the Sanders’ side apparently because they seem not to understand the procedural rules for the election process and suspect some last minute twisting of the rules to favor the Clinton side. The delegate apportionment procedures is not something made up at the last minute to give the Clinton side an advantage. These procedures were first posted to the WDP website in March 2015 for a 30 day comment period, approved at the April 2015 Central Committee Meeting by representatives from each county Executive Committee, sent to the DNC for compliance review, reviewed by each campaign without any objections, finalized and reposted to the WDP website. Definitely not last minute. These election procedural rules could just have easily benefited the Sanders side as the Clinton side.

    Clearly many Wyoming Democrats are unhappy with the current delegate selection procedure rules. If you don’t like the current rules, then please get involved in your local County Party and work to change them for the next election but you can’t change the rules for the current election after the fact when they were agreed to by both campaigns well in advance of the election. Don’t be a “woodwork” Democrat that only shows up at elections, never participates or volunteers in your local County Party meetings and activities and doesn’t bother to stay educated on the Party rules, procedures and activities.

  2. For a good history of how superdelegates came to be, you can go to any one of various sources. Superdelegates are not some conspiracy hatched this year to “fix” the nomination against one of the candidates. (Here in New York today, we are hearing over and over again that our closed primary with admittedly onerous deadlines for switching parties is an anti-Sanders conspiracy when it has been the law since before World War II.)

    I think the problem stems from the fact that our superdelegates have to be considered somewhere, and so they are put in the delegations of the states (and D.C. and territories). Wyoming actually has less of a superdelegate issue than states which have Democratic governors, other statewide Democratic elected officials, U.S. senators, U.S. House members, former presidents and vice-presidents, etc.

    To threaten or harass Ana, Bruce, Mike and Mary is repulsive. They earned their superdelegate status by their positions, which involve hours and hours of hard work for the Wyoming Democratic Party. The person who calls for them to “step down and be replaced by” Sanders supporters apparently doesn’t understand that superdelegates are there because of their positions in the party or elected office. This is our Democratic Party system and has been since the early 1980s.

    The reason for the tied vote in the pledged delegates is that Wyoming, due to its low population and propensity to vote Republican, has very few delegates. If there were 140 delegates at stake rather than 14, Sanders would have gotten more delegates than Clinton. It’s harder to divide a smaller number into whole numbers. (I am old enough to remember when the Democrats had half-delegates at the conventions, and so a state might cast 22.5 votes for one candidate and 14.5 for another, but that was abandoned in the 1960s.)

    Although superdelegates may be part of a state’s delegation, if you think of them more as delegates-at-large, not representing any state’s caucus or primary results, the superdelegates make more sense.

    I guarantee that if Bernie Sanders wins today’s New York primary by 60%-40% and wins all the upcoming primaries with wide enough margins to take the lead (or even come close) in elected delegates, Wyoming’s superdelegates and all the others will start switching to Sanders.

  3. I was surprised and disappointed at the delegate split as well. I understand the sentiment of frustrations of the Sanders supporters. If the super delegates do not change their position I will understand because that is their right, disagree but understand. I strongly disagree with the early announcement of their position. To me this can be construed as vote influencing and should not be aloud, period. Their job is to lead the state party not direct them. I had the privilege to be the caucus chair for Albany County. I had opinions at the caucus. I felt it inappropriate to voice those opinions because of my leadership duties.

    One thing I ask all Wyoming Democrats is don’t get so angry you stop support of the party and whoever our Democratic Presidential Candidate may be. We have a stronger position united than divided, especially with the Republicans being so divided. If we don’t stay united It just may be Trump or Cruz as President. We as a party and a country can not afford to have a republican Preident and legislative majority. I ask that we stand strong together and not let this happen.

    I was at the Tuesday meeting in Albany County. I agree we as a state party need to petition the DNC to change the caucus to have no super delegates, just across the board allocations of delegates. We need to start now if we hope to affect change for the next caucus. As Phil stated there is another option. Talk to our legislatures and request a primary. There is much passion now to keep momentum for the change we feel is right. Since there is little to be done now let’s fight for our future.

  4. I find it outrageous that Bernie won the election, and still has fewer pledged delegates. They can hide behind ‘we followed the rules, so there!’ all they want, but the simple fact of the matter is that America is waking up to the corruption in our voting process. Either vote with the will of the people, or watch as the people make you obsolete.

  5. Rather than have the super-duper-delegates rescind their pledges, which is highly doubtful, three of them need to recuse themselves and allow Bernie delegates to go instead. That is the way to resolve this democratically and with proportional representation, as exemplified in the United States Constitution.

  6. I was told that it was not true and correct that Bill Clinton’s email, along with surrogate form were sent with the State Democratic Party’s PO Box at the bottom. I remember that other emails from the Clinton campaign had Clinton For President at the bottom, but the one from Bill Clinton came differently. This was denied by County and State officials. I had already deleted the email, so I can’t prove it and had to retract my statement on Facebook. Does anyone still have that email from Bill? Maybe I just have a faulty memory?
    We Sanders supporters were in awe of the shear number over Clinton surrogate forms that were turned in, causing Clinton the “win” in Laramie County, in spite of the huge crowd of Sanders supporters who actually turned out in person for the caucus, not the apparent absentee “primary” that Clinton supporters voted in with surrogate ballots.
    The super-delegates will continue to be a problem for Sanders supporters because of the Hillary Victory Fund and that the so-called super-delegates have already pledges support for Clinton. Was there money funneled through the State, National Parties and the Hillary Victory Fund? How much money and how has/ will it be used?

    1. Susan, I know nothing about an email sent from the Clinton campaign. What I have in my possession is a “snail mail” addressed to me with return address on envelope as “William J. Clinton, P. O. Box 1972, Cheyenne, WY 82003” Also, on the outside of the envelope it reads: “URGENT: DEMOCRATIC BALLOT ENCLOSED. iMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED.” Inside is a SAE addressed to Wyoming Democratic Party, P.O. Box 1972, Cheyenne, WY 82003. There is a copy of the Wyoming Democratic Party Caucus Surrogate Affidavit Form inside also with a message from Bill Clinton to either attend the caucus or use the Surrogate Form. At the bottom of letter from Bill Clinton, it does say, “Paid for by Hillary for America”. I would like to know who told you that this kind of mail was not sent out because it certainly did. I wanted to “trash” it but for whatever reason, I kept it and would be glad to scan everything, if needed or show whoever told you that this did not happen – because it certainly did and somewhat appearing that because the Democratic P O Box address was used that this mailing was approved by the WY Democratic Party. Something that they have denied but did not do anything to let people know that they had nothing to do with it – until people began questioning. For this reason, I certainly do not trust the Wyoming Democratic Party.

  7. Will someone please answer this: Is it truly “legal” “within the rules” if the husband of one running for president mail out an absentee ballot using the Wyoming Democratic headquarter’s address? When I received mine in the mail, I was angry. I think I would have been angry even if it had come from the wife of the other one running for president using the Wyoming Democratic headquarter’s address. Am I wrong thinking that this cannot be the correct way of doing a mailing such as that since it looks as if the Wyoming Democratic Party approved of the mailing – maybe even paid for it?

  8. People misunderstand the caucus if they think it is simply a place where a vote is cast for Presidential preference. If that is the goal, switch to a primary. I’m entirely familiar with the history of the process in Wyoming and, frankly, there was an increase in “votes” this time, but not an increase in “participation.” There’s a pretty clear distinction and, in the long history of our party–until last April, evidently–we took the position that a “caucus” meant Democrats getting together for one four-hour period every four years to discuss issues, hear down-ballot candidates introduce themselves to fellow Democrats, etc. It never was intended for the narrow role of trying to “convince” undecideds who to vote for. One huge reason to have a county caucus is to generate enthusiasm (something entirely lacking in the Clinton campaign, I might add) and to help grew the party by bringing in new people, introducing them fellow Democrats, get to know down-ballot candidates and feel a long-term affinity for the party. (By the way, down-ballot candidates did get a chance to speak at the Albany County caucus but obviously, they were not heard by the “surrogate voters” out there who did nothing but write a name on a “ballot” sent to them by Bill Clinton from our state party headquarters).

  9. At the Teton County Caucus, we didn’t even have a “meet in the middle” opportunity. It was assumed from the get go that everyone was already decided, and after nomination speeches, there was no further opportunity to convince anyone to join your side. Which was what I thought the entire point of a caucus system was! INTERACTION! But, the Teton County caucus was pretty much a junk show from the outset.

    I think the solution is to do away with this dumb caucus system. I mean, in theory I like it. I enjoy getting together with the other Dems in the area and being involved. But it’s too corruptible of a system, it’s too cumbersome for the average voter, and it’s too undemocratic (door shut at 11:00! Better be inside or you don’t get a say!)

    Let’s move to primaries and join the 21st century. Let’s get rid of superdelegates and make sure that voters’ voices and choices are actually reflected in the outcomes. We are the DEMOCRATIC Party, for goodness sake. Let’s be democratic.

  10. Good analysis of the recent Wyoming Democratic Party caucus. Having participated in the Albany County caucus, I would like to offer a couple of observations. When it was time to “meet in the middle” and persuade undecideds to come over to one candidate or the other, I was able to find exactly two individuals out of that whole crowd who were actually unsure of how they would vote. So, do most people arrive at a caucus unsure of whom they will support? Not this time around, it seems. I commend all the people who turned out. And all the people who got their surrogate ballots in. The citizens I spoke with by phone before the caucus who had voted this way were grateful for that opportunity. Several of our more senior voters said that because of the snowstorms in March they feared they would miss the caucus if we had another storm the weekend of April 9. As for the nasty remarks on Facebook, I am guessing these were written by people very new to caucuses, possibly new to a firsthand view of how democracy (at this stage) works. I agree with Sen. Chris Rothfuss’ point: the rules are predetermined and agreed upon. What is fair this year? That question will no doubt continue to well up. Let’s just hope opinions are formed based upon dependable and up to date information and not on tired bumper-sticker refrains.