Democratic Party officials, desperate to present a unified front in advance of the all-important 2018 midterms, are working to revamp their presidential nominating process and erase the final vestiges of the bitter 2016 presidential primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders.
The most significant, and divisive, step would involve reducing the role and power of superdelegates — the unpledged party insiders who are free to back any candidate regardless of how the public votes — ahead of the 2020 election. Their influence caused substantial tension two years ago when supporters of Mr. Sanders zeroed in on superdelegates as “undemocratic” and said they created an unfair and even rigged system favoring Mrs. Clinton.
Now, party officials, including loyalists held over from both the Sanders and Clinton camps, are inching toward a compromise that would not only minimize the role of superdelegates but change the party’s operational structure as well.
The ideas on the table range from eliminating superdelegates altogether to reducing their numbers significantly — from more than 700 currently to about 280. Some officials said they preferred a proposal in which only elected government officials, and not party leaders, retain their superdelegate status.
The final agreement could be completed in late August, as party officials try to get their house in order and suppress talk of an continuing Clinton-Sanders divide within the Democratic National Committee.
“People are getting to a decent place,” said David Pepper, a committee member and the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. “I think there’s an understanding that if we spend all our time in this internal discussion — so much so that it becomes our external message — then we’ve become off message with voters.”
“This conversation needed to happen but it’s internal politics, and we need to get it over with,” Mr. Pepper said. “We need to move on.”
Liberal reformers have already won crucial concessions from D.N.C. officials responsible for leading the party’s overhaul, including higher accountability standards for state parties and likely new rules for state primaries and caucuses aimed at increasing voter participation.
In the 2016 primary elections, “there was a lack of transparency that led people to create some conspiracy theories, and it’s useful that will likely go away now,” said Charlie Baker, the former chief operating officer of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and a member of the party’s post-2016 reform commission.”
Larry Cohen, the former union president and chairman of “Our Revolution,” Mr. Sanders’s political arm, praised