Sunday, August 30, 2015

Colorado Republicans' Preference-less Caucuses and the Delegate Binding Conundrum

Late last week, the Colorado Republican Party executive committee unanimously voted to hold caucuses next year but to do so without a presidential preference vote. The opening precinct caucuses across the Centennial state would initiate the delegate selection process, but not include a vote on which to base the binding of those delegates to the national convention. In part, that was intended to allow Colorado Republicans the latitude to conduct those caucuses as early as February 2, but also to keep the overall process as consistent with the past standard operating procedure the state party has traditionally utilized.

That party protocol has been to keep the delegation to the national convention unbound (though not necessarily unpledged/unaligned to particular candidates). A change in the Republican National Committee delegate selection rules for the 2016 cycle, however, necessitated some change in the state party rules in Colorado. Either the party could hold caucuses with a presidential preference vote that would bind the delegates to particular candidates, or it could seemingly reduce its role in the nomination process by removing the preference vote altogether as a means of skirting the binding provisions (in order to maintain an unbound delegation at the Cleveland convention).

Colorado Republicans have chosen the latter.

Yet, one of FHQ's reactions to this change was that this was possibly only part of the process of changing the rules. Executive committees tend to make/recommend changes but state central committees ultimately ratify them. The Colorado Republican rules change has cleared the first barrier but not the second. This has been underreported to this point, but was made quite clear in former Colorado Republican Party chair, Dick Wadhams', op-ed response to the decision to eliminate the caucus's preference vote.1 Wadhams was asking for reconsideration of the unanimous executive committee vote at the state central committee meeting next month.

And the party may be headed in that direction if Colorado's Republican National Committeeman, Mike Kopp, is to be believed. Kopp, who was not present for the executive committee vote last week told the Denver Post's John Frank that the decision to eliminate the preference vote at the caucuses was based on a misinterpretation of the RNC delegate selection rules.

There is a lot that does not add up about that conclusion and/or the process from which it was derived. First, FHQ spoke with Frank about his initial story concerning the preference vote decision. In our discussion, Frank mentioned that he had spoken with someone at the RNC and that the party had said that the decision out of Colorado was "rules compliant". Second, Kopp may not have been at the executive committee meeting, but FHQ is hard-pressed to imagine that there was no forewarning -- no agenda -- about what would transpire. The Colorado Republican Party informed FHQ in late July that the rules for 2016 would be considered at a late August executive committee meeting and finalized at a late September state central committee meeting. This could not or should not have come to a surprise to either the RNC or one of the Colorado representatives in the body.

That is perhaps a long way of saying that FHQ does not buy the "misinterpretation" angle in this instance. It feels more like there is some back channel pressure from the RNC for Colorado to bind the delegates, and that, in the near term, it is ex post facto being called a state-level misinterpretation.

This really is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things (of the Republican nomination, for instance). FHQ is not here to piece together some wild conspiracy theory or cover up story. Rather, this Colorado example is indicative of a broader question that has popped up periodically, but persistently throughout 2015.

Not a Uniquely Colorado Issue
Colorado Republicans are not alone. The addition of a Republican binding requirement for the 2016 cycle has been a problem almost since it was added in 2012 at Tampa and amended in April 2013. The binding requirement itself has been problematic because some Republicans both rank-and-file and within state parties have balked at being forced to bind delegates to candidates based on primary or caucus votes. The position of the RNC has traditionally been to leave that discretion up to the states. Asking the states to give up that latitude, then, is by its nature a problem to some. Giving up power in politics is never easy.

But that is only part of the picture in Colorado and elsewhere. The binding requirement is described in Rule 16(a)(1), but it is that rule in combination with Rule 16(a)(2) that has served as a real chokepoint in the state-level decision-making in response to the national party rules change as well as the interpretation of how it will be implemented. 16(a)(1) lays out the binding requirement, but 16(a)(2) describes how that will translate to an actual delegate count at the convention.

Let's look at the language of the latter component -- Rule 16(a)(2) -- before proceeding:
The Secretary of the Convention shall faithfully announce and record each delegate’s vote in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under these rules, state law or state party rule. If any delegate bound by these rules, state party rule or state law to vote for a presidential candidate at the national convention demonstrates support under Rule 40 for any person other than the candidate to whom he or she is bound, such support shall not be recognized. Except as provided for by state law or state party rule, no presidential candidate shall have the power to remove a delegate.
The intent behind the addition of this rule and its amended version was to tamp down on some of the perceived mischief at the Tampa convention during the roll call vote. The quickest, easiest way to do that is to set up some form of binding mechanism with some modicum of enforcement. Rule 16(a) seems to accomplish both.

Still, questions linger. The main one is just how strict the RNC is going to be in its own interpretation of these rules at the convention. There, we have a few clues, but also quite a bit of ambiguity. Will, for instance, the RNC strictly adhere to that passage in the rules and count up the delegates as a direct reflection of the primary and caucus results? If so, that makes the doomsday, Rule 40 fueled convention scenarios Dave Catanese and Reid Wilson recently described.2 Instead, though, will the RNC take a more relaxed approach to following that binding mechanism at the convention? That relaxed approach might look as it traditionally has. In other words, as candidates withdraw from the race, they release any acquired delegates, thus making them unbound free agents at the convention. Those free agent delegates would be difficult to fit into the Rule 16(a)(2) strictures. The delegate in that scenario has no "obligation".

The thing is, there is no real guidance in the rules about the release of delegates as traditionally practiced or otherwise. Absent that, there is confusion once a new rule like the binding requirement is introduced. How do states react? How do they respond with rules changes to delegate selection rules at the state level?

Again, there are some clues as to the position of the RNC on this. Colorado Republican National Committeeman Kopp mentioned this in his comments to John Frank at the Denver Post that part of the misinterpretation within the Colorado GOP was that, "You can unbind your delegates if the candidate is no longer in the race."

That may be true, but that is not a message that is clearly conveyed in the national party rules or universally known by state parties in the wake of the binding rule's addition for 2016. That has led to some guessing and second guessing at the state level and among those following along with the process in terms of interpreting the rules and crafting compliant rules for state level processes. It is that kind of ambiguity that introduces potentially significant variation in how states respond.

Now, throw on top of that the October 1 RNC deadline to complete delegate selection rules and the uncertainty of the moment and one ends up with a messy context in which to craft rules.3 That late deadline means that state parties are finalizing their rules when attention to the campaign is ramping up. And during this 2016 cycle that translates to an extra dose of uncertainty -- whether just perceived or real -- given how large the field is, how wide open the nomination appears.

If you are at the state level attempting to craft rules in a time of uncertainty for an uncertain future, how do you gameplan? It is not easy and states certainly do not want to box themselves in on any of the nomination proceedings (delegate count, voice at the convention, etc.) through rules they themselves have made.

From an institutional standpoint, there really is some value in having rules in place early. The Democratic National Committee, by contrast, requires the submission of delegate selection plans for review in May the year before a presidential election year. Those states are then locked into their plans after approval in the summer (unless matters outside of the state party's control change. i.e.: a state legislature changing the date of a primary election). There are drawbacks to that too -- limitations on what can actually be changed late -- but there is something to having in place and sticking with a set a rules.

It creates some certainty in a process where that can often be lacking.

Come 2016, all of this may not matter in the slightest. However, it is something to bear in mind as the remaining state parties are finalizing the rules that will govern their delegate selection processes over the next month (before that October 1 deadline). Their collective perceptions of where this race is going or might go, in Colorado and elsewhere, will have an impact on the resulting rules.

1 Of note is that Wadhams oversaw the addition of the preference vote to the delegate selection process as chair during the lead up to the 2008 presidential nomination process. It is noteworthy both because Wadhams seemingly has a dog in this fight, but also because the caucuses to that point in time did not include a preference vote. To be quite clear here, Colorado returned to the caucus format for 2004 after three consecutive cycles of having a state-funded presidential primary election. Of course, preference only counts when there is a competitive nomination race. Before 1992 -- when the primary system began -- there were only three instances in which there was true competition for the Republican nomination: 1976, 1980 and 1988. In the post-reform era, then, Colorado Republicans have held some form of a caucus/convention system without a preference vote four times (out of 11 total post-reform cycles, seven competitive Republican nomination cycles).

2 The short version of this that has gained some steam in some Republican circles is that because Rule 40 requires a candidate to have a majority of delegates from at least eight states to have his or her name placed in nomination, a large field of candidates and few truly winner-take-all contests makes a messy convention an almost certainty. That is one interpretation. FHQ has held off on commenting about this, but will get to it at some point. In the context of an already long post is not that point.

3 Some states have already completed this rules-making process (see Nevada), but quite a few others, including Colorado, have not.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Nevada Republicans Set Caucuses for February 23

The Nevada Republican Party has been targeting this date for much of the year, but in a Saturday, August 29 meeting, the party formalized the date of its 2016 caucuses (and other rules).

The Tuesday, February 23 date will fall just three days after the Saturday, February 20 Republican primary in South Carolina as well as the Democratic caucuses in Nevada.

NOTE: The party also voted to retain its proportional delegate allocation rules. FHQ will dig into and discuss those separately.

Tip of the cap to Jon Ralston for sharing this information with FHQ.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Trump in the Blank

There is a positive relationship between the length of Donald Trump's time atop the Republican presidential primary polls and the breadth of coverage he receives from the news media. As one increases, the other increases as well. But then again, that is how this process tends to work. In the Sides and Vavreck parlance, it's discovery, scrutiny and decline.

The temptation is perhaps to address why, given ample fodder, scrutiny has not yet yielded to decline in Mr. Trump's case. In fact, that discussion -- why hasn't that decline happened? -- has claimed a sizable chunk of the scrutiny phase to this point. Yet, there have been several extended, in-depth discussions of Mr. Trump's policy positions on a number of issues, too.

Mark this last full week of August 2015 down as the week that Mr. Trump's continued polling success intersected with how that might translate into primary success next year. Another way of looking at this is that folks have run out of things to write about Mr. Trump and have finally gotten to the delegate selection rules. If a polling boomlet lasts long enough, people will get bored enough to start talking about the rules.1

The problem with the rules portion of the scrutiny phase (if it comes at all) is that it can often seem haphazardly thrown together and ultimately misguided. That description might be a bit overboard, but it roughly fits the scenario(s) that Josh Marshall and David Fishback have woven together concerning Trump and the the Republican delegate selection rules in place for next year.

That scenario goes something like this:
  1. Trump has the support of a quarter to a third of the Republican primary electorate.2
  2. Trump wins and/or wins a good amount of delegates from the carve-out states and those primaries and caucuses that follow during the proportionality window (March 1-14).
  3. Trump wraps things up once the proportionality window closes and states can allocate delegates in a winner-take-all fashion.3
  4. Trump is the Republican nominee.
Look at that sequence again. With or without the proportionality window, this is roughly the sequence in which any Republican presidential candidate is nominated. All that Marshall and Fishback have done is add Trump's name to the formula; the "frontrunner's" path to the Republican nomination. It is the 50-75 Rule FHQ discussed at Crystal Ball earlier this year. Some candidate wins some delegates early, creates a small lead (around the point at which 50% of the total number of delegates are allocated) and then widens it (around the time that 75% of the total number of delegates are allocated). That established lead is usually either enough to clinch the nomination or put it well enough out of reach for other candidates to force their withdrawals.

Other than the much sexier, but less likely brokered deadlocked convention scenario, this is the other most widely talked about path by which someone gets to the nomination. Marshall and Fishback have filled in the blank with Trump.

So what? It is a storyless doomsday story that is typical of the summer period before a presidential election year.

See, I told you the scrutiny phase scrapes the bottom of the barrel when it gets to the rules.

1 Hey, some of us are bored/boring enough to write about those rules almost exclusively.

2 This glosses over deeper questions about whether the support Trump now enjoys will actually translate to votes once Iowa kicks things off next year.

3 To be clear, not all states on or after March 15 are winner-take-all. If 2012 is a baseline and North Carolina and Ohio are added to the mix, that is still only eight winner-take-all states. Granted, most of those are huddled around March 15 or in the last half of March. But not all of the states are winner-take-all once the proportionality window closes at the end of March 14.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

DC GOP Laying Groundwork for March Convention in 2016

The details will be ironed out during September meetings, but the Washington, DC Republican Party is preparing to hold a convention during the second half of March to allocate and bind its delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next year.

That March Republican convention will replace the June 14 primary scheduled in the district.  The change from a primary to convention was actually necessary. June 14 falls outside of the window in which the Republican National Committee (and the Rules of the Republican Party) allows states and territories to conduct delegate selection events. With the window due to close on the second Saturday in June, Republicans in the district had to begin a search for a back up plan.

By positioning the convention during the second half of March, Republicans in the District of Columbia will be able to continue allocating their delegates in a winner-take-all if the party chooses to follow its past practice. But again, those details along with matters of ballot access will be determined at the September meeting.

DC Democrats will still hold a primary on June 14.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

North Carolina Still Doesn't Have a Presidential Primary Date

Just over five weeks ago now, the North Carolina Senate passed legislation scheduling the 2016 presidential primary in the Tar Heel state for March 15. That positioning was purported to have been a deal cut between both the House and Senate to move the North Carolina primary more clearly into compliance with national party rules.1

What seemed like a done deal five weeks ago does not necessarily appear to be such a slam dunk at the moment. Part of this has to do with the current state of play in the North Carolina General Assembly. Due to have adjourned in July, the legislature has been embroiled in an inter-chamber dispute over the budget for the coming fiscal year. Several times since July, the body has had to pass continuing resolutions to fund the state government and buy itself some time to pass a true budget for next year.

But the amended HB 373 -- the bill setting the presidential primary date for March 15 -- passed the state Senate at a time in late July in which non-controversial bills (particularly those not germane to the budget situation) were regularly moving through the chambers. And it appeared that HB 373 was heading toward a similar conclusion. Since it passed the House previously in a different form, the Senate committee substitute to HB 373 with the presidential primary language only required a quick concurrence on the House side. And it looked as if that concurrence would in fact be quick as the bill was added to the House calendar a day after it was received from the Senate. Then, however, the bill was pulled from the calendar and re-referred to the House Committee on Rules where it has been bottled up ever since.

There it sits. Is HB 373 a casualty of the current budget fight? Is it being held in the House as a means of attempting to extract concessions out of the Senate in the budget negotiations?2 The answer is that we don't know. But what we do know is that the North Carolina presidential primary is still tethered to the February South Carolina primary and that carries with it some ramifications for the state parties in the Tar Heel state as 2016 approaches.

1 As it stands now, the North Carolina presidential primary is scheduled for the Tuesday after the South Carolina primary. And with carve-out state South Carolina likely to end up in February, the result for North Carolina -- given the current state law -- would be a non-compliant primary that would subject the state Republican Party to the so-called super penalty (reduction to 12 delegates) and potentially open the Democratic Party in the state to more severe penalties as well.

2 The budget impasse as mentioned above is an inter-chamber affair pitting majority Senate Republicans against Republicans controlling the House.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Colorado Republicans Opt to Forgo Presidential Preference Vote at 2016 Caucuses

The Executive Committee of the Colorado Republican Party unanimously voted late last week to skip  the presidential preference vote at its precinct caucuses in 2016.

On the surface this is an interesting if not strange decision. As the Associated Press reported, it is a move to diminish the role of the state in the Republican presidential nomination process. Perhaps, but FHQ is not of the opinion that that tells the full story here.

For practical purposes, all this means is that Colorado Republicans will caucus on either February 2 (the day after the presumed February 1 Iowa caucuses) or March 1 (the day of the so-called SEC primary). The process will likely look the exact same as it did four years ago when the party conducted caucuses on the first Tuesday in February. The only difference is in 2016, that exercise will not have a presidential preference vote as part of the proceedings.

And bear in mind that the vote at the 2012 Colorado Republican caucuses did not bind delegates to the national convention. It was one of the non-binding caucuses. The very same sort of affair that the Republican National Committee sought to change at the 2012 convention in Tampa and in rules changes in the time since. At least part of the intent in that move toward binding contests was not only to eliminate fantasy delegates, but to create a more orderly delegate count over the course of primary season and ultimately a less controversial (lead up to the) roll call vote for the nomination at the next national convention.

However, the RNC provided one out to states wanting to maintain a practice of sending unbound delegates to the national convention. Basically, it gave the handful of caucus states that have in the past held non-binding caucuses the ability to opt out of a presidential preference vote altogether. Now, there is nothing in Rule 16(a)(1) that invites states to do this, but there is also nothing there -- no penalty -- to prevent states from not holding a presidential preference vote. The only penalty is that states taking that path are gambling with the attention they might receive in the nomination process.

And that brings this discussion back to the contention from the AP above; that Colorado Republicans, by making this decision, have counterintuitively shrunk their own role in the process. That all depends. Recall that the preference vote meant very little in 2012. It was a straw poll, a beauty contest. But that allowed us to say that Rick Santorum had "won" Colorado. We will not have the ability to as easily declare a winner in 2016 in the Centennial state.

Yet, that does not also prevent the candidates and their campaigns from spending time there. It just changes the incentives. The "winner" tag will be gone, but campaigns will still have decisions to make. Do you invest resources in a contest that pays no immediate dividends? Do you invest in the type of organization that gets candidate-aligned delegates elected to move from the precinct caucuses to county assemblies and from there to district conventions and from there to the state convention and beyond to Cleveland?

Perhaps Colorado Republicans did not just diminish their role so much as narrow the field of candidates who are willing to gamble; willing to expend those resources there. The party has condensed the field to three main categories: 1) those with grassroots support, 2) those who have the money and resources to organize or 3) those who have both. The rest won't bother and probably because they cannot afford to.

And if the Republican Party in Colorado opts for a February 2 date for its caucuses, it increases the likelihood that candidates would be willing to make that gamble. Remember also that with no binding presidential preference vote, Colorado would not be penalized any delegates under the RNC rules.

One more thing that has not come out in the reporting here is that this -- the executive committee vote -- may only be step one in this decision-making process. When FHQ spoke with the party last month, party chief of staff, Tyler Hart, informed us that ultimately the state central committee will have to sign off on any changes coming out of the executive committee meeting during its own meeting next month. Given that the executive committee vote was unanimous, though, the direction of that vote seems quite clear.

They have a date decision to make as well.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Is the SEC Primary Working?

Southern politicians keep saying and the press keeps reporting that the "SEC primary is working".

That statement tends to oversimplify the dynamics at play in this instance though. Is the SEC primary working? Well, it depends on how you define "working". Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R)(and others, mind you) seem to be defining it as presidential candidates being drawn into the states participating in the effort to cluster southern presidential primaries on March 1.

But are those states drawing in more candidates/visits than was the case four years ago (or if they maintained the same positions on the calendar they had four years ago)? FHQ has touched on this before, but it bears repeating given that this same line keeps coming back up regarding the regional primary scheduled for next March. The simple answer is yes. Southern states are witnessing more candidate stops than was the case four years ago.

However, there are several explanations to the more interesting "why" question that are too readily being glossed over by the "SEC primary is working" crowd.1

1) The importance of being early.
All things held equal, any state would rather be on March 1 than June 1. Holding an earlier primary or caucus may not have a direct impact on the course of the two presidential nomination races, but one would rather weigh in before the field has been winnowed too drastically or a nominee has been identified. It was this sort of thinking that prompted the frontloading of presidential primaries and caucuses in the first place.

But if you look at the group of states participating in the SEC primary at this time only Arkansas and Texas are scheduled more than a week earlier in 2016 than they were in 2012. There may be more visits that have been paid to southern states during the 2016 cycle, but it is not solely because any member of the collective or the group of them is much earlier than in 2012.

2) One for all and all for one.
Well, perhaps it is the forming of the coalition that provides the largest impetus for increased candidate attention. Again, though, on this mark, things are not all that divergent from the 2012 baseline. Texas reverting to the first Tuesday in March date that state law there calls for is a big factor.2 But the clustering does not seem to be having a direct impact on visits.

Instead, the SEC primary grouping may have succeeded most in claiming that spot on the calendar and warding off any would-be copycats from duplicating the strategy also on March 1. The impact of any cluster of states -- or any individual state for that matter -- is contingent upon the competition it has on that date. In 1988, southern states were similarly able to crowd onto an early March date without any competition or at least any competition that offered a similar cache of delegates.

Like 1988, southern primaries have no real threat to their position on March 1, 2016. Sure, there are other states with contests on March 1, but they are neither as regional cohesive nor do they offer the number of delegates that the SEC primary does.

It should be said that the South serving as the heart of the Republican Party does not hurt the effort. A northeastern primary on March 1 would not, for example, be able to compete with a southern regional primary effectively. There might be some draw there, but most would still visit the South.

3) Calendar certainty.
At this point four years ago, Florida had yet to set a date for its presidential primary. Arizona had just threatened to move into January. With those and other states unsettled, the candidates had no idea where exactly Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina would end up.

...only that they would be first. States that followed the rules on timing and otherwise would have been on the heels of the carve-out state contests paid the price for actions outside of their borders.

Campaigns behaved accordingly. If one knows the carve-out states will be first and that the snow globe that is the next step is still being shaken, then one -- the campaigns in this case -- will focus on what they know versus what they don't. That uncertainty likely meant fewer candidate visits to states that ultimately fell into position on the calendar (but only after Florida, Arizona and others did).

The 2016 calendar is much more settled now. Campaigns have an ability during this cycle to plan ahead -- visit states deeper into the calendar -- than they did not and could not possess four years ago. And they have the luxury of doing so much earlier in the process. States as far down the calendar as March 15 have reaped the benefits, but the states in the SEC primary coalition have been big winners because of the calendar certainty. The early cluster helped too.

4) It's the field, stupid.
Finally, it should not go without saying that the size of the field of candidates should be factored into this as well. After all, more candidates yield more visits. That is a big reason why there are more visits to the South by those vying for the presidential nominations next year.

Is the SEC primary working? If the measure of that is visits to the states in the coalition, then yes. But why that is happening may be a more interesting question.

1 It should be noted that these folks have every reason to give off the impression that the regional primary is working. They have an incentive to say that more candidates are coming. It tends to bring others in.

2 An unresolved redistricting process led to the courts forcing a later (May) Texas primary in 2012.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Kentucky Republicans Shift to March 5 Caucuses

The state central committee of the Republican Party of Kentucky voted on Saturday, August 22 to adopt March 5 caucuses for the 2016 presidential nomination process. The 111-36 vote cleared the two-thirds threshold the party needed to make the change, contingent upon Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) transferring $250,000 to RPK by September 18.

The switch from a primary to caucuses has a number of impacts. First, by dropping the government-funding presidential primary in mid-May -- May 17 -- the state party (with Paul's help) will pick up the tab, but also have an earlier contest. Second, the shift allows Paul to not only run for the Republican presidential nomination, but to seek renomination to the US Senate in the May primary election; circumventing Kentucky statutes barring anyone from running for more than one office on one ballot.

The Kentucky Republican caucuses will coincide with the Louisiana primary and the Republican caucuses in Kansas on March 5 in the Republican nomination process.

Kentucky Democrats previously decided to stick with the May 17 primary as their means of determining presidential candidate preference and allocating delegates to the national convention in Philadelphia.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Washington Presidential Primary Will Remain in May

A bipartisan committee made up of Washington state party members, state legislators and the secretary of state convened Tuesday, August 11 in Seattle and voted to keep the presidential primary in the Evergreen state in May.

Partisan differences and the procedures behind the voting process signaled the outcome ahead of time. First, there were five Republican members and four Democratic members of the group, and the two parties were differently motivated. The Republicans, led by Secretary of State Kim Wyman (R), initially proposed a March 8 primary date, a proposal that would have moved the election up from the fourth Tuesday in May as called for in state law.1 That earlier calendar position would have done more to guarantee Republican voters in the state the opportunity to cast their ballots in a competitive nomination at a point in which the nominee had yet to be (definitively) determined. The fact that the primary election will determine the allocation of approximately half of the Washington delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland was another impetus for Republican action.

Washington Democrats, however, have less of a stake in the primary and its scheduling. The state party has already committed to conducting caucuses as a means of allocating its delegates in 2016. Unlike their Republican counterparts, national Democratic Party delegate selection rules prohibit the allocation of delegates across two contests. The possibility of double voting -- voting in both a primary and a caucus -- was concern enough for the DNC to eliminate the practice in all states but Texas years ago. Already locked into March 26 caucuses, then, Evergreen state Democrats had no real incentive to move the date of an election that was nothing more than a beauty contest to the party.

Needing two-thirds of the group -- six of nine members -- to sign off on a change of the primary date and facing a 5-4 split on the committee, the writing was already on the wall. That vote held for the initial proposal to move the primary to March 8 and for a second proposal to shift the contest to March 22.2

That keeps the Washington presidential primary on May 24. But both parties will have caucuses as well. The Democrats has set to hold March 26 caucus meetings while the Republican Party in the state has yet to settle on a date for its precinct meetings.

1 The law also allows the secretary of state and a bipartisan committee the ability to change the date if the legislature does not.

2 Both dates would have aligned the Washington presidential primary with similar contests in other western states. Neighboring Idaho will hold a March 8 presidential primary and Arizona and Utah will have delegate selection events on March 22.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Massachusetts Presidential Primary Scheduled for March 1

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin (D), in a surprise to literally no one, announced on Thursday, August 6 that the 2016 presidential primary in the Bay state would be held on March 1.

The general statutes in the commonwealth call for the presidential primary to be held on the first Tuesday of March in every presidential election year. Though there is legislation in the Massachusetts General Court to consolidate the presidential primary with those for other offices in June, similar legislation has failed in the past. And the current bill has been stalled in committee since its introduction in January.

The only threat to that date was what has become a quadrennial squabble over the level of funding allocated to the election. But that too came and went with no real problem posed for the presidential primary. The Democratic-controlled legislature raised the presidential primary allocation from the governor's proposed budget. That revised total was later confirmed and finalized with the conclusion of the budget process on July 30.

That was the last remaining hurdle, and with it cleared, Massachusetts is set to hold a March 1 presidential primary concurrent with similar contest across the South and in neighboring Vermont among others.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.