Friday, February 17, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: New York

This is the eleventh in a multipart series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation by state.1 The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2012 -- especially relative to 2008 -- in order to gauge the impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. As FHQ has argued in the past, this has often been cast as a black and white change. That the RNC has winner-take-all rules and the Democrats have proportional rules. Beyond that, the changes have been wrongly interpreted in a great many cases as having made a 180º change from straight winner-take-all to straight proportional rules in all pre-April 1 primary and caucus states. That is not the case. 

The new requirement has been adopted in a number of different ways across the states. Some have moved to a conditional system where winner-take-all allocation is dependent upon one candidate receiving 50% or more of the vote and others have responded by making just the usually small sliver of a state's delegate apportionment from the national party -- at-large delegates -- proportional as mandated by the party. Those are just two examples. There are other variations in between that also allow state parties to comply with the rules. FHQ has long argued that the effect of this change would be to lengthen the process. However, the extent of the changes from four years ago is not as great as has been interpreted and points to the spacing of the 2012 primary calendar -- and how that interacts with the ongoing campaign -- being a much larger factor in the accumulation of delegates (Again, especially relative to the 2008 calendar).

For links to the other states' plans see the Republican Delegate Selection Plans by State section in the left sidebar under the calendar.


Normally, FHQ would not put the cart before the horse like this and jump not only a description of the Arizona delegate selection process, but the processes in the March and most of the April primary and caucus states as well. Yet, for New York, a blow-by-blow account of the delegate selection there is necessary now for one particularly pertinent reason. While most of us were glued to a kind of ho-hum night of Florida primary returns on January 31, a deadline came and went that set in stone the Republican delegate selection process in the Empire state. Since no congressional district boundaries had been settled upon by the New York legislature that had the effect of triggering the enactment of one of two delegate selection plans the New York Republican Party had submitted to the RNC.

The rationale behind that boundary issue being relevant is that one delegate selection plan operated under what would have been a new 27 seat (congressional district) map while the latter -- the safety plan -- accounted for the possibility that a deal on the districts could not be reached. That plan was based on the old 29 seat map that existed before the 2010 census reapportionment.

And what does that mean for the New York primary, the delegate selection there and the race for the Republican nomination?

The big differences are:
  1. Instead of having 3 delegates per congressional district, under the 29 seat plan that was triggered on January 31, there are 2 delegates per congressional district. 
  2. Importantly, that reduces the total congressional district delegates from 81 to 58, which in turn, increases the number of total at-large delegates from 11 to 34. 
Now, what emerges from this is that the balance between winner-take-all and proportional allocation shifts. Those congressional district delegates will be allocated winner-take-all based on the vote in each of the 29 existing congressional districts, but the at-large delegates will be proportionally allocated if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote statewide. Again, April 24 is a long way off and it is a fool's errand to assume that a volatile race won't in some ways continue to fluctuate between now and then. Things will likely remain competitive barring a sudden string of victories by one candidate, but it is entirely possible that a candidate will be well-positioned to capture greater than 50% of the statewide vote in New York in late April. It is also entirely possible that the conditional winner-take-all/proportional allocation of those 34 (rather than 11) at-large delegates could be consequential depending on the dynamics of the race -- and the delegate count -- at that time.2

There is one other note to make concerning New York and the state Republican Party method of delegate allocation in 2012. The primary moved back from February to April, and contrary to what the rules would seemingly allow, shifted from a straight winner-take-all primary (see Florida) in 2008 to a system that divided the allocation of delegates across congressional districts (still winner-take-all by district) and at-large delegates (conditional winner-take-all/proportional based on the statewide vote). The point is that despite being free to maintain the winner-take-all rules after April 1, the New York Republican Party opted to shift in a slightly more proportional direction. Part of this is explained by the fact that the party made the decision on delegate allocation -- the overall method -- early in 2011 before the legislature moved the primary from February to April. However, the legislation was signed well in advance of when the rules needed be finalized in the eyes of the RNC (October 1, 2011), so at least in theory a change back to straight winner-take-all allocation could have been made but was not.

Let's close with a look at the New York GOP delegate allocation plan:

  • 58 congressional district delegates (2 per each of the existing 29 congressional districts -- unchanged since census reapportionment): Delegates will be allocated winner-take-all based on the vote within each congressional district.
  • 34 at-large delegates: Delegates will be allocated proportionally based on each candidate's share of the statewide vote unless one candidate clears the 50% share of the vote threshold. In that event, the 34 delegates will be allocated winner-take-all.
  • 3 automatic delegates: Delegates are unbound and free to endorse any candidate.

Again, the 29 congressional district plan is potentially slightly more proportional than the 27 seat version. With only two delegates in each congressional district the remainder -- thus at-large delegates -- are greater in number in the former than in the latter.

1 FHQ would say 50 part, but that doesn't count the territories and Washington, DC.

2 It would most likely be consequential in terms of the ongoing tabulation of the delegates, but not in the overall delegate count at the end of primary season. The overall Democratic delegate count in 2008 for instance gave Obama a more than 200 delegate lead by even some of the more conservative estimates.

Recent Posts:
April Primary Given the Heave Ho in Texas

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Michigan

Bill Would Repeal Arizona Presidential Primary

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

No comments: