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Biden camp agrees to let Sanders keep lost convention delegates

An agreement between the Sanders and Biden campaigns will allow the Vermont senator to retain sway over hundreds of delegates he lost by quitting the race.
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders wave before the start of a Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News on June 27, 2019, in Miami.Brynn Anderson / AP file

WASHINGTON — In an unusual move to promote unity, Joe Biden will give Bernie Sanders more influence at the Democratic National Convention and over key party committees than party rules would typically indicate, according to an agreement between the two campaigns announced Thursday.

Under the agreement, Biden will appoint Sanders supporters to fill hundreds of delegate slots that Sanders sacrificed by dropping out of the Democratic presidential race. And he'll ensure representation for Sanders allies on the committees that, for instance, write the party’s policy platform and set the rules for the next presidential nominating contest.

“It is a clear indication that Biden and, by extension, the DNC are mindful of the legacy of 2016 and don't want to go down that road again with so much on the line,” Josh Putnam, an expert on presidential primaries who runs the Frontloading HQ blog, said referring to the Democratic National Committee. "It is a good-faith effort on the part of the Biden campaign that is seeking a good-faith response from Sanders delegates and ultimately the Vermont senator's supporters.”

Four years ago, Sanders delegates walked out of the party's convention after hacked emails released by WikiLeaks revealed anti-Sanders sentiments by some DNC officials following months of acrimonious sparring between Sanders' and Hillary Clinton's campaigns.

Biden has taken a more conciliatory approach to Sanders than Clinton did, using the weeks since he essentially wrapped up the nomination to praise Sanders and his supporters, move to the left on the policy, and reach out to young voters.

Sanders has endorsed Biden, but is still hoping to accrue as many delegates as possible to the Democratic National Convention, scheduled for August, in order to influence the party’s future.

Under party rules, when a candidate withdraws from the race, a significant portion of their delegates — the roughly one-third of delegates awarded based on statewide primary results, instead of by congressional district — are automatically reallocated to whoever is still running, which in this case is Biden.

Now, despite those rules, Biden’s campaign has agreed to fill the statewide slots Sanders lost with Sanders supporters.

Biden’s campaign also committed to ensuring representation for Sanders in the delegation from New York, one of the biggest, after the state’s Board of Elections made the controversial decision this week to cancel the state's presidential primary entirely, citing the coronavirus crisis.

“Our campaigns are grateful for the unity and spirit of collaboration within the Democratic Party as we look to defeat Donald Trump and establish a government by and for the American people,” the Biden and Sanders campaigns said in a joint statement. “We look forward to working with the state parties to implement this approach, as we elect delegates who reflect and represent the diversity that is the unique strength of our great nation.”