Monday, December 30, 2013

Another Take on the RNC's Efforts to Alter the Presidential Nomination Rules for 2016

S.V. Date has a nice synopsis up over at NPR today about what's different about the RNC work to reign in the 2016 presidential delegate selection rules relative to 2012. What is particularly worth reading is the discussion of the prospective penalties as compared to the penalties that were. The short version: In 2012, there was just one 50% penalty that could be levied once against states -- whether they violated the timing rule or the proportionality rule. In 2016 there will be a couple of sanctions; one for each type of violation.

The problem with the short version is that it glosses over a lot of the nuance.

The main issue with Date's account is that it hinges on a flawed understanding of the history of the rules the Republican National Committee has used in its delegate selection process. This flaw led to many missing out on the true essence of the proportionality rule the RNC added for the 2012 cycle. And it looks like it is going to carry over into 2016 in some cases.

Here's the line that stuck in FHQ's craw (emphasis mine):
"If this thinking sounds familiar, it should. The RNC tried to accomplish similar goals heading into 2012. The four early states were given the month of February. Other states could start holding contests on March 1 if they allocated delegates proportionally, and on April 1 if they awarded all the delegates to the top vote-getter. A state that violated either rule faced a 50-percent loss of delegates."
There was a proportionality requirement in 2012, but this makes it sound as if there was something of a winner-take-all requirement as well. There was not. The point of the April 1 threshold in 2012 was that states that chose to hold contests on or after that point on the calendar could allocate their delegates to candidates in any RNC-sanctioned method; not just winner-take-all. That was consistent with how the party had viewed delegate allocation at any point the calendar in years prior. The national party viewed that as a decision that was completely at the discretion of the states -- parties or governments.

In other words, the RNC provided no mandates -- no guidance -- to the states on the issue of delegate allocation. It was up to the states. That is just how it was for any state that held a delegate selection event on or after April 1, 2012. States were certainly allowed to allocate delegates in a winner-take-all fashion after that point on the calendar, but there was no rush by states with contests beyond that point to do so. The majority of states took the road of least resistance: they left their delegate allocation alone. The only newly added winner-take-all states to the back end of the 2012 calendar were the ones that moved beyond April 1 to protect the winner-take-all allocation they had utilized in the past (see Maryland and Wisconsin).

The point here is to point out this faulty view of the history of these rules. The Republican nomination process has never been a bastion of rampant winner-take-all rules. If anything was or has been rampant, it has been states having the freedom to choose their methods of allocation. There were curbs -- or attempts at curbs -- on that freedom for the first time on the Republican side in 2012. With a new super penalty added to the mix in 2016, there are hopes within the RNC that they have gotten things right this time.

As the party's general counsel, John Ryder, said, "I think this strikes a good balance."

FHQ will have more on this story later.

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