Monday, December 14, 2015

Throwing Out Convention Votes?

The genre can be a bit of a burr under the saddle to FHQ at times, but Philip Bump at least had a nice and pretty thorough brokered contested convention explainer up at The Fix over the weekend.1 I'll resist the urge to dig in too deeply at this point. However, there was one glaring inaccuracy in the write up that should be corrected.

It involves the small blurb about the impact of Rule 16 at the convention. Here is Bump's interpretation:
Rule 16: If delegates vote for someone besides the candidate to whom they are bound, those votes are thrown out.
This is wrong. These votes -- those cast against the delegate bind -- are absolutely not thrown out. If one reads the rule in full it ends up sounding that way by the end of the paragraph. Yet, the key is at the very beginning.

Let's look at the text of Rule 16(a)(2):
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.
[Emphasis added by FHQ]

Bump is picking up on that vote recognition part at the end. But not recognizing a delegate's vote is different than throwing out that vote. In fact, it is impossible to discard a vote that has already been "announce[d] and record[ed]" in "accordance with the delegate's obligation". The order of this is of the utmost importance here. It sets up a sequence: record the bind and ignore the violation of it.

That is at least part of the reason why the RNC amended the language of the rule as it existed coming out of Tampa at the spring RNC meeting in Los Angeles in April 2013 without really changing the intent of the rule itself. Here is the version of Rule 16(a)(2) that was adopted in Tampa and amended eight months later:
For any manner of binding or allocating delegates under these rules, if a delegate (i) casts a vote for a presidential candidate at the national convention inconsistent with the delegate’s obligation under state law or state party rule, (ii) nominates or demonstrates support under Rule No. 40 for a presidential candidate other than the one to whom the delegate is bound or allocated under state law or state party rule, or (iii) fails in some other way to carry out the delegate’s affirmative duty under state law or state party rule to cast a vote at the national convention for a particular presidential candidate, the delegate shall be deemed to have concurrently resigned as a delegate and the delegate’s improper vote or nomination shall be null and void. Thereafter the secretary of the convention shall record the delegate’s vote or nomination in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under state law or state party rule. This subsection does not apply to delegates who are bound to a candidate who has withdrawn his or her candidacy, suspended or terminated his or her campaign, or publicly released his or her delegates.
[Emphasis added by FHQ]

This is the kitchen sink version of the same rule discussed above; the current rule. But notice that even under this rule, the vote is not thrown out, the delegate is. Then the vote is counted as if the delegate had cast it properly and in accordance with the instruction of the binding. Note also that the actions of the rule are flipped. In the early version of the rule the secretary of the convention awaits some violation before correctly recording the vote. The altered, current version completely removes the ability and motivation of a delegate to vote in violation of the binding by reversing the order. But the changed rule to eliminate the resignation of a delegate.

But the bottom line here is that in neither case would the vote have been thrown out. That would make an already messy situation -- a contested convention -- even messier.

1 It is not that FHQ does not like the convention discussion. It usually entails a headlong dive into the rules, and I am rarely averse to that. However, we have all been through this before. We are entering into brokered contested convention chatter season, but it ends up being a quadrennial exercise in putting the cart before the horse. There are delegate allocation rules that are going to matter a lot more in the near term than trying to calculate the conditional odds that they -- the rules -- are going produce an inconclusive outcome in June.

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