WASHINGTON: Hillary Clinton on Monday hit the magic number of delegates needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination thanks to her wide support from the so-called superdelegates.
But who are they?
Answer: party heavyweights and elected officials who have the right to vote at the party's nominating convention in Philadelphia on July 25-28.
- How many superdelegates are there? -
Superdelegates represent about 15 percent of the total number of delegates to the convention. That means there are about 714 of them, according to the delegate count compiled by the Associated Press.
The Democratic Party does not release an official list of superdelegates.
The party's top elected officials are automatically given superdelegate status: 20 governors of states and territories; the mayor of Washington, DC; 45 senators and 193 members of the House of Representatives affiliated with the party.
To this group are added the more than 400 members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Lastly, there is a VIP list of about 20 "distinguished" Democrats who are superdelegates: President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and former DNC leaders.
- What is their role? -
The votes of the superdelegates are not official until they make their choice known at the convention in July. In order to know how they will vote, US media outlets have called each one of them during the presidential primary season.
By calling the last few superdelegates who had not committed to a candidate, the Associated Press on Monday said 571 of them were supporting Clinton, and only 48 were in the camp of her rival Bernie Sanders. Some remain undecided.
CNN offers a slightly different count: 572 for Clinton and 47 for Sanders.
But, as opposed to the pledged delegates whose votes are decided in the primaries and caucuses, superdelegates can change their minds.
Nancy Worley, the chair of the Democratic Party of Alabama and a superdelegate, on Monday confirmed her support for Clinton.
She said she had waited to commit herself as she sees the role of the superdelegates as a "broker at the end of a race if something goes wrong or if there's no clear nominee."
Only an extraordinary change in the status quo would make her change her mind, Worley told AFP.
Sanders has contested the fact that superdelegates have been counted in pushing Clinton past the threshold for the nomination.
The Vermont senator says only the pledged delegates can be counted so far, as their commitment cannot be changed, and that the superdelegates can only be counted at the convention.
But in 2008, Obama also sealed his historic nomination by including superdelegates in the tally.