Thursday, September 1, 2011

Draft Resolution Changes to 2012 Illinois Republican Delegate Selection Rules

There has been some discussion over the last few days about the potential impact of a series of proposed changes to the traditional delegate selection rules employed by the Illinois Republican Party. Is it a proxy war between the Romney and Perry camps? Is it a fundamental departure from the loophole primary rules? Does it represent a switch to proportional allocation of Illinois Republican delegates? Without the actual rules changes before us, though, it is difficult to assess just how much impact the proposed changes would have.

But now we have access to the draft resolutions seeking to change the Republican delegate selection rules in Illinois. The picture painted indicates some interesting changes to the rules. For starters, there continues to be a tremendous problem throwing around the terms winner-take-all and proportionality without much consideration of the lines gradation between them. FHQ will continue to urge those following these changes -- in Illinois or elsewhere -- to look closely at the rules or proposed rules changes.

Let's breakdown the proposal and attempt to assess the changes.

  • First of all, the allocation of the bulk of the Illinois Republican delegates -- those apportioned to the state based on population (three delegates per each of the state's 18 congressional districts) -- is now being done proportionally. That is a fairly significant change. In other words, for 54 of the state's 69 delegates, the allocation method has changed from directly electing delegates who express a candidate preference to allocating delegates based on the percentage of the vote a candidate has received. The interesting thing is that the proposed changes constantly cite the rules  put in place by the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee, but does not utilize the full measure of leeway built into those rules. Illinois Republicans could simply have changed the formula for the allocation of at-large delegates and left it at that. That the switch to proportionality extends to the congressional district delegates is indicative of a broader change;  changes being spearheaded by someone in the Romney camp.
  • For those 54 delegates plus 12 of the remaining 15 delegates (3 are automatic delegates -- party officials -- who are not bound by the primary results), the rules change proposals call for a couple of triggers. The trigger receiving the most discussion is the 50% threshold. If one candidate surpasses the 50% of the statewide vote barrier, that candidate receives all of the at-large delegates. Winner-take-all. That also applies to the votes within congressional districts. If a candidate clears the 50% mark in the congressional district, that candidate nets all of the delegates in that district. Again, winner-take-all. 
  • The second trigger is a floor trigger (as opposed to the ceiling trigger above). Candidates must clear a certain vote percentage in order to lay claim to any delegates. In the past Illinois has had no minimum threshold.1 The maximum threshold allowed by the 2012 Republican rules is 20% The draft resolutions being considered in Illinois, however, propose dropping that threshold to 10%. Candidates winning 10% or more of the vote in the March 20 Illinois primary will receive a proportional portion of the 54 congressional district delegates and also the 12 at-large delegates if no candidate wins a majority of the vote either statewide or in the congressional district.

If these rules are instituted their impact will largely depend on the dynamics of the race as it approaches March 20. If the race is down to just two candidates, the chances that one of the candidates receives 50% of the vote statewide or on the congressional district level increases. If however, someone like Ron Paul sticks around as he did in 2008, that could affect Romney's or Perry's or Bachmann's ability to reach 50% and claim all of the delegates, whether at-large or in the congressional district. Those are some pretty big ifs though. IF there are more than two active candidates in the race. More importantly, IF these rules changes are passed by the Illinois Republican Party State Central Committee. Of course, it also depends on the race hinging on delegate count instead of one candidate overwhelming the race early -- something that seems somewhat remote, at least from our September 2011 vantage point. March 2012 is still a ways off.

1 Please note that an earlier version of this post said that Illinois in previous years had a 20% minimum threshold. That is not the case. The state party has not had a minimum threshold prior to this -- assuming the rules change. FHQ is stuck in a "reading primary bills" mindset where strikethroughs in bills mean that is a portion of the bill that is being replaced. Again, that is not the case with this draft resolution. The 20% figure was from a previous draft of the resolution. Thanks to Steven Daglas of the Illinois Republican Party for pointing that out.

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