Friday, March 25, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: NEW YORK

This is part thirty-seven of a series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation rules by state. The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2016 -- especially relative to 2012 -- in order to gauge the potential impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. For this cycle the RNC recalibrated its rules, cutting the proportionality window in half (March 1-14), but tightening its definition of proportionality as well. While those alterations will trigger subtle changes in reaction at the state level, other rules changes -- particularly the new binding requirement placed on state parties -- will be more noticeable. 


Election type: primary
Date: April 19 
Number of delegates: 95 [11 at-large, 81 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional (but with majority winner-take-all trigger statewide and at the congressional district level)
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 20%
2012: proportional primary

Changes since 2012
There are three main differences between the delegate allocation/selection plan the New York Republican Party used in 2012 and how the process will operate in 2016. Two of those are more visible changes than the third alteration.

The easiest of the 2016 changes to spot is the positioning of the New York primary on the 2016 presidential primary calendar. As compared to 2012, the primary for 2016 in the Empire state is one week earlier. But the route to that one week change took a winding path. First, the 2011 law setting the primary for April 24 expired at the end of 2012. That caused the election law to reset and the primary date to revert to the first Tuesday in February, a date not compliant with national party rules. By summer 2015, it looked as if the New York primary would once again end up among a group of contiguous mid-Atlantic and northeastern states at the end of April. But that April 26 date fell right in the middle of Passover week and forced the state legislature to consider a date one week earlier, April 19. That bill ultimately passed the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Cuomo.

While the primary date was changed in that legislation, so too, was the method of delegate allocation and selection. As was the case with Arizona, New York is a state where the line is somewhat blurred between which entity -- state government or state party -- determines the method of delegate allocation and selection. In the grand scheme of things, the state party tends have the final say in the matter. If state law called for one thing and the state party wanted another, then the RNC rules (not to mention the courts when these sort of conflicts arise and end up in that arena) give precedence to the state party rule.

But there is no conflict between state law and state party rules in New York. In fact, the changes the New York Republican Party made to its rules for allocation and selection made their way into the aforementioned legislation moving the primary date and became law when the bill was signed.

From an allocation angle, the changes are minimal. New York was "2012 proportional" four years ago despite the fact that its presidential primary fell outside of the proportionality window. All that entailed was a proportional allocation of the statewide/at-large delegates coupled with a winner-take-all component at the congressional district level. That was "proportional" under the 2012 RNC delegate rules.

Yet, in 2016, despite again being outside of the early March proportionality window, New York Republicans have opted for a "2016 proportional" plan. The same rules apply to the at-large delegates awarded based on the statewide results, but now the congressional district delegates are not allocated in a strictly winner-take-all manner. Instead, under certain conditions, the allocation of the three delegates in each congressional district are allocated proportionally and under others, winner-take-all. [More on that below.] For now, it is sufficient to say that the New York congressional district delegates are more likely to be divvied up between candidates in 2016 than was true in 2012.

On the subject of congressional district delegates, one related item that has changed since 2012, is that New York Republicans will be operating under a more standard procedure than was the case four years ago. During the last cycle, New York was apportioned delegates by the RNC as if it had 27 congressional districts. However, due to redistricting-triggered uncertainty over the map of those districts, New York Republicans were forced to use the old, pre-census 29 district map. This resulted in a two delegate per district apportionment under the old map rather than a three delegate per district plan under a new 27 district map. That, in turn, had the effect of shifting more delegates into the at-large pool to be allocated based on the statewide results.

Absent the 2012 redistricting issues, New York is back to the standard alignment between the delegates apportioned the state by the RNC and how those delegates are allocated.

While all those changes are clear, the one change operating under the surface concerns the delegate selection process. In previous cycles, New York Republicans had candidates file slates of delegates and then based on the results of the primary, fill allocated slots from those slates. That is not the case in 2016 (based on an intra-party dispute over the 2012 delegate selection process). The state party will have a greater say in this than the candidates and their campaigns. Instead of having the campaigns file slates of delegate candidates, the New York Republican Party state committee will select delegates. The full state committee will elect the at-large delegates and just state committee members from a congressional district will elect delegates to fill the three slots from each respective district.

There are several layers to this, but keeping it simple, the New York Republican process has a couple of main thresholds that apply both statewide and at the congressional district level.

On the one hand, there is a qualifying threshold. If a candidate wins more than 20 percent of the vote, then that candidate becomes eligible for either statewide or congressional district delegates. That is a more manageable proposition at the statewide level with 14 (at-large and automatic) delegates than at the congressional district level with just three. As FHQ has said numerous times, there are only so many ways three delegates can be proportionally allocated. [More on this below in the allocation sections.]

On the other, there are winner-take-all thresholds at play in New York as well. If a candidate wins a majority of the vote either statewide or in a congressional district, then all the delegates either statewide (at-large and automatic) or in a district are allocated to the majority winner. That winner-take-all trigger, if tripped, renders the 20% qualifying threshold unnecessary.

Delegate allocation (at-large and automatic delegates)
Should some candidate win a majority, this process becomes a lot easier. Anyone over 50 percent is allocated all 14 at-large and automatic delegates.

However, the delegates end up being split in most scenarios where no one wins a majority of the vote statewide. Assuming that two more more candidates finish above the 20 percent qualifying threshold, the allocation becomes proportional. A candidate's share of the vote would be divided by the total number of votes of just those candidates over the 20 percent threshold. Any remaining fractional delegates are rounded to the nearest whole number. If that results in an under-allocation, then any under-allocated delegate is given to the top votegetter statewide. In the event that rounding leads to an overallocation, any superfluous delegate(s) is/are removed from the total of the qualifying candidate with the least statewide votes.

Note that there is a split of the delegates in only most scenarios in which a candidate fails to reach 50 percent statewide. There is no provision in the law either permitting or prohibiting a backdoor winner-take-all scenario; one in which only one candidate is above the statewide qualifying threshold.  Yet, since only candidates over 20 percent of the statewide vote can qualify for at-large and automatic delegates, then in the situation in which only one candidate clears 20 percent, said candidate would be allocated a pro-rata portion of the available delegates. That share would be 100 percent of the total qualifying vote and thus translate to an allocation of all of the at-large and automatic delegates.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
There are a number of contingencies to account for with respect to the allocation of the congressional district delegates.

In a situation where a candidate wins a majority of the vote, then under the New York rules, all three congressional district delegates are awarded to the winner.

If two or more candidates clear the 20 percent hurdle in a congressional district, then the top finisher would receive two delegates and the runner up one. But in the scenario where only one candidate is above 20 percent in a congressional district, then that one candidate is awarded all three delegates.

Additionally, if no candidate receives more than 20 percent of the vote, then the "delegate positions from such district shall be deemed vacant and filled pursuant to the rules of the national Republican party". This is an interesting provision. The RNC rules defer to the states on these sorts of matters. With the state law/state party rules giving deference to the national party rules, this would seemingly provide the state party with the ability to allocate and fill those slots in a manner that it deems appropriate. And that could be anything: all delegates going to the top votegetter or two going to the top votegetter and one to the runner up (regardless of the threshold), etc.

The party would appear to get to decide on that; to fill in the blanks. Of course, that decision could also be challenged at the national convention by any aggrieved candidate. Given the winnowed field of candidates likely to be around for a mid-April contest, it seems less likely that no candidate will get to 20 percent.

In the past, when delegates were chosen from slates filed with the state party by the candidates, the New York Republican Party rules kept those delegates bound through the first ballot at the national convention. However, for the 2016 cycle, the slate filing has been removed and replaced by the New York Republican Party state committee selecting those delegates. The full committee will elect the at-large delegates and the members of the subset of state committee members from each district will elect the congressional district delegates. This has the effect of tipping the selection of delegates away from the campaigns and toward the state party. The choices that each may make may not necessarily be in concert with each other. When and if they do not, the campaigns have lost some measure of control over the process and thus who their delegates are.

New York delegates to the Republican National Convention will be bound to candidates based on the results in the April 19 primary. That bond holds until a delegate is released by the candidate or through the first roll call ballot.

State allocation rules are archived here.

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