Why Hillary Clinton Has More Delegates Than Bernie Sanders

Hillary Clinton is leading Bernie Sanders in the delegate count.

ByABC News
February 11, 2016, 2:05 PM

— -- Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton by 22 points in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, the largest victory in the state's history for a non-incumbent in the Democratic party.

But when the dust settled, the delegate count was roughly equal, with ABC estimating that each candidate picked up 15 delegates. So what is going on?

To win the Democratic nomination, a candidate must obtain a certain number of delegates -- individuals who will cast votes at the DNC convention this summer. But there are two types of delegates in the Democratic party: pledged delegates, which are generally based on vote count, and unpledged delegates, or superdelegates. The latter include former and current Democratic leaders and elected officials, including presidents, vice presidents, governors and senators. They can select the candidate of their choosing, wherever they want and whenever they want - and can switch at any time.

Sanders leads in pledged delegates; he has 36 while Clinton has 32, according to ABC News estimates. But Clinton has a huge lead in superdelegates, with 362 to Sanders' 8. (There are a total of 712 superdelegates). In New Hampshire for instance, Clinton currently has the support of 6 of the state's 8 superdelegates, which accounts for her total win of 15 delegates. Sanders picked up none (two have yet to decide).

This count has angered Sanders’ supporters, who are claiming the establishment is rigged against their candidate of choice. MoveOn.org, which endorsed Sanders earlier this year, started a petition to tell the superdelegates to honor the will of the voters last night. As of today, the petition has over 90,000 signatures. Democracy for America, which also endorsed Sanders, told ABC they plan to launch a similar petition with former Labor Secretary Robert Reich tomorrow.

“In a close race, Superdelegates can snatch that victory away,” the petition reads. “Only by pushing back against this possibility can we ensure that the candidate WE vote for becomes the nominee.”

As stated above, these superdelegates can switch their allegiance at any time. Just because they are supporting Clinton now doesn't mean they have to do so in July. And in 2008, that scenario materialized. Clinton originally had a large superdelegate lead over then-Senator Barack Obama. When it became clear that Obama had a stronger likelihood of becoming the nominee, superdelegates who had originally pledged their support for Clinton switched to Obama. By May 2008, Obama had narrowed that lead to 1, according to a CNN report.

In a statement to ABC News, the Democratic National Committee emphasized that the only delegates awarded in Tuesday night's primary were the pledged ones.

"Let's be clear, the only delegates at stake on Tuesday in New Hampshire's First in the Nation primaries were 24 pledged delegates," DNC press secretary Mark Paustenbach wrote in an email to ABC.