Saturday, October 19, 2019

About that South Carolina Republican Party Defense of Canceling Its 2020 Presidential Primary

On Friday, October 18, the challenge to the cancelation of the 2020 presidential primary by the South Carolina Republican Party had its day in court.

While those who brought the suit leaned on the facts that the South Carolina Republican Party executive committee canceled the primary rather than the state convention and that that break with party rules is against state law calling on political parties to follow their own rules, the SCGOP came forth with a different set of arguments in favor of the change.

Part of that defense was built around the bipartisan precedents from previous cycles when incumbents  have sought renomination. The Republican primary was canceled in 1984 and 2004 and Palmetto state Democrats backed out of their primaries in 1996 and 2012 when Clinton and Obama were running for second terms. But the defense of the cancelation took a turn when it was argued that South Carolina Republicans would have more not less power outside of a primary election. Under a caucus/convention system, national convention delegates would be unbound and able to be lobbied to support a candidate of South Carolina Republicans' collective wishes.

In a primary, those delegates would be bound to the winner of the primary (statewide and in each of the seven congressional districts).

Much of that belies the fact that there are rules that apply here; both national party rules and state party rules.

On the state party level, South Carolina delegates allocated to candidates under Rule 11.b.(5-6) based on the results of the primary are only bound under certain circumstances. If the winner either statewide or within a congressional district is no longer in the race, the the delegates are bound to the second place finisher. If that candidate is no longer in the race, then the delegates shift to the third place candidate.

But here is the key factor and where the national party rules come into play. If none of the top three candidates are placed in nomination under Rule 40(b), then the delegates from South Carolina head to the national convention unbound.

Now, the odds at this point in time point toward President Trump likely sweeping the 50 delegates from the Palmetto state as he did in 2016. Yes, that would mean those delegates would be bound to Trump (should his name be placed in nomination at the convention in Charlotte). Technically, that would mean delegates could not be lobbied by rank-and-file South Carolina Republicans as the state party's lawyers argued on Friday. However, if Trump's name is the only one placed in nomination, then that lobbying power is pretty hollow any way.

There will likely be a decision in the South Carolina circuit court later this month, but an appeal from the losing side to the South Carolina supreme court is probable.

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

North Dakota Republicans to Hold State Convention and Select Delegates in Late March

It looks like business as usual for North Dakota Republicans in 2020.

The delegate allocation formula that Peace Garden state Republicans will use mirrors what the party did in 2016. District conventions will be held between January 1 and March 1 to select delegates to the state convention. Those delegates to the March 27-29 state convention in Bismarck will then select delegates to represent the state at the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte.

The elected national convention delegation then has the option of binding itself on the first ballot at the national convention in whole in or part to a particular candidate or candidates. Binding to an incumbent president would have a higher likelihood than not in 2020. But even if the delegation opts to bind itself to a candidate or candidates, the binding is completely voluntary and delegates remain able to vote their conscience if another candidate is more appealing (and has made the convention roll call nomination ballot via Rule 40).

So while it is likely that the 2020 delegation from North Dakota will be just as unbound as it was at the Cleveland convention in 2016, there is at least some chance that a group of Trump-aligned delegates are chosen and will vote for the president at the convention in Charlotte.

The dates of the North Dakota Republican state convention have been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Appropriations Bill Sets Up Early Voting in 2020 Massachusetts Presidential Primary

The Massachusetts House on Tuesday, October 15 moved quickly on an appropriations bill -- H 4127 -- that funds and establishes early voting in the commonwealth's presidential primary next year. 2020 would be the first time that Massachusetts presidential primary voters would have access to early voting.

The bill calls for a five day period to be set aside for early voting during the work week prior to the Super Tuesday presidential primary in the Bay state. It would run from Monday, February 24 through Friday, February 28, the day before the South Carolina Democratic primary. Sites have to be set up two weeks in advance of the commencement of early voting and those locations have to be made public under the provisions of the bill at least seven days in advance of the early voting window.

While this adds to the strategic complexities of Super Tuesday and the Massachusetts presidential primary, the early voting window stretches neither on for as long (only five days) or as far into February as is the case in other Super Tuesday primary states.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

An Update on 2020 Colorado Republican Delegate Allocation

Last week, FHQ pointed out in a post that, under its at-the-time rules, the Colorado Republican Party had a 2020 delegate allocation problem. The party in March adopted at its state convention a set of delegate allocation rules that eliminated a proportional option and substituted a winner-take-all allocation option for it. The latter would not be compliant with national party rules because of the Super Tuesday date of the Colorado presidential primary. It falls too early for a party to conduct a winner-take-all allocation.

As a result, Colorado Republicans would be vulnerable to the 50 percent delegation reduction penalty for conducting a winner-take-all primary too early (prior to March 15).

In other words, something had to give if Colorado Republicans wanted a full delegation to attend the Republican National Convention in Charlotte next year. And something did happen late in the window to make rules changes before the October 1 deadline for state parties to finalize delegate selection plans for 2020. The Colorado Republican Party state central committee met on September 21 and passed a series of amendments affecting the delegate selection process.

Article XIII had the non-compliant winner-take-all option removed and replaced with a couple of contingencies. If the primary is late enough or a candidate receives enough support in the primary, then that candidate is eligible for all of the delegates from the Centennial state. The former accounts for timing of the primary, but also establishes a minimum threshold for triggering a winner-take-all allocation (regardless of timing). Under the new rules, if a candidate receives 50 percent or more of the vote, then the winner-take-all trigger is tripped.

That rule stands regardless: a majority winner in the Colorado presidential primary gets all of the delegates regardless of timing. However, if no candidate reaches that winner-take-all threshold (and the primary is early), then a proportional means of allocation is instituted. To qualify for delegates under this contingency, the new rules call for candidates to have received 20 percent or more of the vote; the highest qualifying threshold allowed under RNC rules.

Both the addition of the winner-take-all contingency and the new qualifying threshold under the proportional option bring the Colorado Republican Party back into compliance with RNC rules. And both are set to points that nearly guarantee that Trump will win all of the delegates from the state. Both changes also bring Colorado in line with the delegate allocation rules in most other states on Super Tuesday.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

DC Council Advances June 2 Presidential Primary Bill

The DC Council on Tuesday, October 8 voted unanimously in favor of a consent agenda package including a bill -- B23-0212 -- that would shift the date of the presidential primary in the nation's capital from the third Tuesday in June to the first Tuesday in June.

This final reading consideration and passage now move the bill to the mayoral review stage of the process. So far, the bill has been uncontroversial and the expectation is that it will get the thumbs up from Mayor Bowser and head out for congressional review. The move is necessary because the third Tuesday in June date on which the primary is currently scheduled is not compliant with either national parties rules for the timing of primaries and caucuses.

A June 2 primary would align the Washington, DC primary with contests in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota a the tail end of the 2020 presidential primary calendar.

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Monday, October 7, 2019

For 2020, Colorado Republican Delegate Allocation Rules Seemingly at Odds with RNC Rules

Back in the lead up to the 2012 presidential primary season, the Republican National Committee (RNC) instituted a new set of rules governing the presidential nomination process. The changes for that cycle put in place a later start time to primary season (reserving February for the four carve-out state contests), but also added a new wrinkle to how state parties could allocate delegates based on the results a primary or caucus.

The latter of those national party-level restrictions on the activities of state parties required that states with primaries and caucuses in or before March allocate delegates in a proportional manner. Now, in the time since that point, the RNC has redefined what proportional means and decreased the size of the window of the calendar in which winner-take-all rules are prohibited. But that proportionality window still exists. State parties with contests before March 15 have to set in place rules that proportionally allocate national convention delegates.

Yes, that is a more restrictive national party mandate than has historically been the case in the Republican process. However, state parties are not without some latitude. They have some discretion. For one, state parties can add a delegate qualifying threshold of up to 20 percent which can greatly restrict the number of candidates who receive delegates (especially in a cycle in which an incumbent president is seeking renomination).

State parties also have the option of splitting up the allocation of different types of delegates. At-large delegate allocation can be tethered to statewide result while congressional district delegates can be awarded to candidates based on their performance in those subunits within a given state.

Finally, even in the proportionality window that opens the presidential primary calendar under the RNC rules, state parties have the option of adding a winner-take-all trigger for candidates who win a majority or more of the vote statewide. Massachusetts Republicans, for example, added a winner-take-all trigger to their delegate selection rules for their Super Tuesday primary in 2020. And that is not uncommon for states with contests in the proportionality window. Most, in fact, have winner-take-all triggers in their plans.

In other words, state parties have options to tilt the allocation in a winner-take-all direction on the early calendar and still remain in compliance with RNC rules.

Perhaps that is an overwrought preface, but it is laid out in advance of a possible rules violation by one state party ahead of the 2020 cycle. Last week -- on or before October 1 -- state Republican parties were to have finalized and submitted to the RNC their delegate selection plans for 2020. And the bylaws of the Colorado Republican Party appear to violate the proportionality mandate from the RNC for the party's 2020 presidential primary (newly reestablished for the 2020 cycle).

Much of this potential conflict can be traced to the late March 2019 state central committee meeting of the Colorado Republican Party. The state party chair election dominated the headlines coming out of that meeting, but that was not the only piece of business on the committee's agenda that weekend. They also considered changes to the 2020 delegate selection rules.

In light of the new presidential primary in the Centennial state, a proposal came before the committee to streamline the delegate selection process. And it should be noted that Colorado Republicans are constrained not only by national party rules but state law as well. RNC rules require that delegate allocation be based on the earliest statewide contest and the new Colorado law concerning the presidential primary purposefully schedule caucuses in the state for after the primary (the Saturday after). The caucuses (and any attendant presidential preference vote) would follow the vote in the primary. The Colorado Republican Party, then, is basically stuck using the primary for allocating delegates.

Part of the rules changes on delegate allocation at the state central committee meeting in March addressed that. Struck from the rules at the time was a contingency for allocation depending upon whether there was a primary or caucus. Now that section of the bylaws simply refers to the results of the Colorado Presidential Primary.

Also struck from the old rules, however, was guidance on who -- which candidates -- would qualify for delegates in the event that Colorado held a presidential primary. The old rules, and this other section that was struck from them, allocated delegates to candidates who received 15 percent or more of the vote in the presidential primary. Again, that is consistent with RNC proportionality requirements for states with primaries or caucuses before March 15 and was part of the 2016 rules Colorado Republicans used (but there was no presidential primary).

But that guidance is now gone, and in its place is this language on delegate allocation and binding:
a. On the first nominating ballot for President, in accordance with State statute all members of the State’s delegation shall be bound to vote for the Presidential candidate who received the highest number of votes in the Colorado Presidential Primary, and the CRC Chairman acting as chair of the delegation, or his designee, shall announce that the entire vote of the State’s delegation is for that candidate. If that Presidential candidate releases his delegates through public declaration or written notification, the candidate's name is not placed in nomination, or the candidate does not otherwise qualify for nomination under the rules of the Republican National Convention, the individual National Delegates and National Alternate Delegates previously pledged are released to cast their ballots as each may choose. b. On any succeeding ballot for President and on all ballots for other purposes the individual delegates are released to cast their ballots as each may choose.
[Emphasis added by FHQ]

That appears to be a violation of RNC rules restricting delegate allocation in early calendar contests.

However, there are a couple of caveats.

First, the next rule in the sequence after those listed above does give the state central committee the ability create rules governing the selection of delegates that are consistent with both the bylaws and RNC rules on or before October 1 in the year prior to a presidential election. The above winner-take-all provision, then, is just a baseline. But one that conflicts with national party rules given the position of the Colorado primary on the calendar.

In addition, the process by which delegates are selected requires them to align (or remain unpledged) with a candidate. The RNC legal counsel interpretation of the RNC rules in 2016 was that that alignment -- pledging to a candidate upon filing to be a delegate candidate -- bound that delegate candidate to their presidential preference. And that Colorado selection procedure is still in rules for 2020. Whether the RNC legal counsel still interprets the RNC rules the same in 2020 as was the case in 2016 remains to be seen.

Regardless, any delegates selected at the state convention or in congressional district conventions aligned with candidates other than the winner of the presidential primary in Colorado would likely be bound to those candidates at the national convention. But that would only be the case if that candidate was still in the race and had his or her name placed in nomination at the convention. That, too, seems a stretch in a year in which an incumbent Republican president (still popular within the party) is up for renomination. But any such delegates would become free agents and could support another candidate.

Finally, the secretary of state in Colorado also has the option of canceling the presidential primary if there is no competition. That has to be done by January 3, 2020. But the bar for ballot access to the Colorado primary is quite low for prospective candidates: $500 fee or 500 signatures.

Colorado, then, will likely have a Republican presidential primary on March 3, and because of those caveats above, likely will not allocate delegates in a winner-take-all manner.

...unless the party has added a winner-take-all trigger as other states have done.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

Rhode Island GOP Inserts Winner-Take-All Trigger into 2020 Delegate Allocation

Late last month as the RNC deadline for state Republican parties to finalize delegate selection procedures for the 2020 cycle, Rhode Island Republicans made some adjustments.

Four years ago, the party allocated its 19 delegates in a proportional manner to candidates who received more than 10 percent of the vote either statewide or in the two Ocean state congressional districts. Little of that has made its way into the process the party has set up for 2020.

First of all, RIGOP has pooled all of its delegates -- at-large, congressional district and automatic -- instead of allocating them as separate categories. Additionally, there is now (as of a September 20 meeting of the state central committee) a winner-take-all trigger included. Should a candidate win a majority of the vote statewide, then that candidate would receive all 19 delegates in the Rhode Island delegation to the Republican National Convention. It is clear that the latter was added during that September meeting, but it is not as clear that the decision to pool all of the delegates occurred at that time as well.

There are at least some hints that some changes were made to the Rhode Island Republican Party delegate selection process before September. For example, the Providence Journal article outlining the new winner-take-all trigger also mentioned that the qualifying threshold to receive any delegates was set at 20 percent. That, too, is new for 2020. Again, the threshold for 2016 was just 10 percent. It has doubled to the RNC's maximum-allowed threshold and applies collectively to all 19 Rhode Island delegates.

No, 19 delegates is not likely to fundamentally affect the race for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination, but Rhode Island Republicans have made some changes to streamline their process and potentially maximize their influence (to the extent that can be done in the context of a regional primary with five other, often more delegate-rich, states). It also represents another datapoint in the narrative of how these state-level rules have come together on the Republican side ahead of 2020. State parties have moved in subtle and dramatic ways to increase the usage of winner-take-all rules or make other changes to potentially advantage the president's path to renomination.

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Saturday, October 5, 2019

Iowa GOP Carries Over 2016 Delegate Allocation Rules to 2020

Unlike a couple of other carve-out states -- Nevada and South Carolina -- Iowa Republicans have long maintained that they will, in fact, hold a presidential preference vote during their 2020 caucuses next February and not cancel the contest.

But that does leave at least somewhat unanswered just what the party may do with its delegate selection process in 2020. In truth, there is little for Iowa Republicans to do. In 2016, the party ostensibly felt compelled to follow the letter of the law (or rule anyway) from Republican National Committee with respect to delegate allocation in an effort to protect the Hawkeye state's first-in-the-nation position. The Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) adopted in 2015 a straight proportional plan with no qualifying threshold (other than the percentage of the vote necessary to round up to one delegate).

And that plan has carried over to the 2020 cycle. The language of Article VIII of the rules of the Republican Party of Iowa remains the exact same for 2020 as it was in 2016.1 And that means that delegates will be allocated proportionally to the candidates who make the caucus list based on the statewide results of the caucuses. There again is no official qualifying threshold.

However, the key carry over component from 2016 is one related to the conduct of Iowa delegates at the national convention. Should only one candidate reach the requirements of Rule 40(b) of the RNC rules to be placed in nomination at the convention, then the entire Iowa delegation is to vote for that candidate. That is part of the reason why Iowa delegates ended up casting their votes for Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention despite Ted Cruz having carried the caucuses.

That, too, carries over to 2020. The big difference this cycle is that the dynamics of the caucuses are far different with a much smaller field of candidates, one of whom -- the president -- has only token opposition. But the allocation rules look the same in Iowa.

1 Article VIII of the RPI bylaws:

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Friday, October 4, 2019

For Maine Republicans, 2020 Will Feature a Primary Instead of a Caucus

The Maine state legislature this summer passed legislation that was later signed into law that reestablished a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state for the first time since the 2000 cycle. One of the facets of that effort was a division along party lines. Democratic legislators in the majority supported the primary while legislative Republicans opposed it, favoring the pre-existent caucus/convention system.

That raised some questions once the bill became law. Maine Democrats were eager to support the new primary election -- especially given new rules-based encouragement from the Democratic National Committee to increase participation -- but it was an open question about whether Republicans in the Pine Tree state would opt into the new presidential primary or choose to instead stick with the caucus/convention system the party had used through much of the 21st century.

But as the Republican National Committee deadline for state parties to finalize delegate selection processes for the 2020 cycle approached and passed on October 1, it became clear that Maine Republicans would follow the lead of Democrats in the state and opt into the presidential primary election.

This was noteworthy because Maine was among the states in 2004 -- the last Republican presidential nomination process featuring an incumbent Republican president -- canceled its presidential preference vote at the caucuses that year. That presumably would have been an option for Maine Republicans for 2020 as well. The party certainly would not have been alone in forgoing a preference vote for the purposes of allocating delegates. At least six other states have already canceled primaries or caucuses. Maine Republicans, however, have taken a different tack in deciding to use the newly reestablished presidential primary.

Finally, the Bangor Daily News reports that at least some of the 2016 allocation rules will carry over to the 2020 process for Maine Republicans. There will, for instance, still be a winner-take-all trigger layered into the rules to reward a candidate with all of the state's delegates if that candidate wins a majority of the vote statewide. That trigger stands a much greater chance of being tripped in 2020 with a popular (within the Republican primary electorate) president seeking renomination against only token opposition.

How much of the remainder of the 2016 allocation rules in Maine's Republican process remains a bit of a mystery. FHQ's attempts to reach out to the Maine Republican Party for clarification have so far gone unanswered. Should that change, there will be an update on the overarching delegate allocation rules in the state in this space.

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Thursday, October 3, 2019

Georgia Republicans Nudge Delegate Allocation in a Winner-Take-All Direction

Back in May 2019, the Georgia Republican Party gathered in Savannah for its state convention. Coming out of the weekend, the biggest of headlines was the election of David Shafer as state party chair, but that was not all Republican delegates to the state convention considered.

No, there were also changes considered and made to the rules of the Georgia Republican Party, including some tinkering with the party's process for selecting and allocating delegates to the Republican National Convention. The main change on that front was the insertion of a new section into Rule 7.3 of the Georgia Republican Party rules. That new section plus a new preface to the original section defining delegate allocation in the state created a contingency based on when the presidential primary is scheduled.
B) If the Presidential Preference Primary shall occur on March 15 or thereafter in the year in which a Republican National Convention is held, the Republican Presidential candidate receiving the highest number of votes in the Presidential Preference Primary in each Congressional District shall receive all votes of such Congressional District Delegates and seated Alternates to the Republican National Convention. The Republican Presidential candidate receiving the highest number of votes in the Primary statewide shall receive all statewide (State at Large) Delegate and seated Alternate votes to the Republican National Convention, and such Delegates and Alternates shall file a qualification oath as required by O.C.G.A. $ 21-2-196.
Given the national party rules restricting the usage of winner-take-all allocation methods prior to March 15, the Georgia Republican Party basically created an allocation method for primaries scheduled on either side of that line of demarcation in the Republican presidential primary calendar.

The rules in the event of a pre-March 15 primary are the same as they were in Georgia in 2016: proportional under the broader Republican National Committee definition of the term with a 20 percent qualifying threshold (statewide and in each the congressional districts) and a winner-take-all trigger if a candidate wins a majority in each unit (statewide and in each the congressional districts). None of that has changed.

However, the new section B to Rule 7.3 accounts for a March 15 or later presidential primary. And it shifts Georgia Republican delegate allocation back to a method the party reliably used before 2012: a winner-take-most/winner-take-all by congressional district method. A candidate who wins a plurality statewide would win all of the statewide/at-large delegates. Any candidate who wins a plurality in any of the 14 congressional districts would win the three delegates from that district.

And that will be the method Peach state Republicans use in 2020. A month after the Savannah state convention, Secretary of State Raffensperger (R) set the Georgia presidential primary date for March 24. Georgia, then, will have a more winner-take-all flavored allocation method for 2020 than it has in any cycle since 2008.

While this may be treated by some as some advantage for President Trump, it should be noted that there were already winner-take-all triggers both statewide and at the congressional district level in the plan Georgia Republicans used in 2016. An incumbent president, popular within his own party, very likely would have/will hit those majority thresholds that would have tripped the winner-take-all triggers.

In any event, Georgia will be more winner-take-all in 2020 than it has been in recent cycles.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Florida GOP Eschews Presidential Primary Cancelation, but...

While a handful of other Republican state parties have made decisions throughout the summer months of 2019 to cancel 2020 primaries and caucuses, the Florida Republican Party has chosen not to join the club.

Republican Party of Florida chair, Joe Gruters said, "If people think that they want to challenge the president, by all means, go ahead, they’re going to get annihilated," according to The Palm Beach Post.

But while spinning the likely landslide primary win as a bonus for the president is one thing, that may not be the end of the story on the fate of the Republican presidential primary the Sunshine state in 2020. Florida, as it turns out, has a law on the books that cancels the primary if only one candidate makes the primary ballot. This canceled the Republican primary in the state in 2004 when George W. Bush was up for renomination. And the Florida primary was again canceled in 2012 when Barack Obama saw no competition for the Democratic presidential nomination.

That could again happen in Florida for 2020 depending on ballot access. But here's the rub: the bar for ballot access to the presidential primary in the Sunshine state is quite low. There are no petitions and no filing fees as hoops through which the various campaigns have to jump. Instead, the process is initiated by the state party itself. A state party submits to the Florida secretary of state a list of candidates to be included on the primary ballot by November 30, 2019. The secretary of state, then, publishes the list within the week by December 3. That becomes the official list unless one or more of the candidates wants his or her name removed from the ballot.

There is still a chance, then, that the Florida primary will be canceled, but it hinges on the list that the Republican Party of Florida will, itself, submit to the secretary of state. Chair Gruters' comments above seem to imply that the three challengers are more than welcome to a spot on the primary ballot.

But whether the party actually submits their names by November 30 remains to be seen. That is the key question moving forward.

The Florida primary is set for March 17 and would retain the winner-take-all allocation formula the party has utilized in recent cycles (according to the party rules adopted in 2017).

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Canceled No More? South Carolina GOP Decision to Cancel Presidential Primary Challenged in Court

A lawsuit has been brought against the South Carolina Republican Party over its decision to cancel its 2020 presidential primary the Charleston Post and Courier reports. The issue is less directly about the decision itself than how the decision was made.

Under the rules of the South Carolina Republican Party, the party has the option of canceling a presidential primary as it has done a number of times in the past in uncompetitive Republican presidential nomination cycles involving an incumbent. It happened in 1992 and again in 2004. But the mechanism in place to cancel the primary follows a certain protocol, a protocol laid out in party rules and not seemingly followed during the decision-making process for 2020.

The prime actor charged with initiating the cancelation under the rules is the state convention. And in March of 2019, the South Carolina Republican state convention did not take up the issue of the presidential primary. Instead, it was the party's executive committee that made the move. Now, the executive committee is not without some power in the cancelation process, but is limited and actually runs in the opposite direction. As Rule 11 details, the cancelation decision is the domain of the state convention. But if the executive committee later decides that there is value in holding a presidential primary and not canceling, then the committee can reverse the decision by January 15 of a presidential election year.

The executive committee, then, has the power to reverse a cancelation, but not cancel the primary by itself. But that is exactly what the SCGOP executive committee did on September 7. And there is nothing in the rules covering that decision, nor one to reinstitute a primary once it has been canceled. The committee can only reverse the state convention system.

It was this conflict that drew the lawsuit from former South Carolina congressman, Bob Inglis and one other complainant. Whether the action reverses the SCGOP decision remains to be seen, but it is one that clearly strays from the process described in the state party rules, which also conflicts with state law prohibiting state parties from doing so.

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Utah Republicans Will Hold a 2020 Presidential Primary

UtahPolicy is reporting that the Utah Republican Party is planning to stick with its presidential primary for the 2020 cycle. Unlike the handful of Republican state parties that have opted out of primaries and caucuses during the summer months of 2019, Beehive state Republicans are carrying over their 2016 process and actually upgrading to a state-run presidential primary for 2020.

But everything else will remain the same. That means that Republican candidates will face the same thresholds for delegate allocation in 2020 that were in place for 2016. If a candidate wins a majority of support statewide, then the allocation is winner-take-all. Otherwise, the allocation is proportional to candidates clearing a 15 percent qualifying threshold. However, should no candidate win a majority and fewer than three candidates break 15 percent, then the threshold disappears and the allocation if truly proportional. It seems likely at this time that President Trump will clear that majority threshold in 2020 and trigger the winner-take-all allocation.

The one thing that is different in Utah for 2020 is the date of the primary. It will fall on Super Tuesday, three weeks earlier than would have been the case under the primary law under with the 2016 presidential primary operated.

But the bottom line in Utah is that there was no mechanism in state law or state party bylaw to allow the state party to opt out of the presidential primary. That drove the decision.

NOTE: Counter to what the Utah GOP chair, Derek Brown, said in the UtahPolicy article, this is not the first time Utah's primary has fallen on Super Tuesday. The Utah primary was part of the massive Super Tuesday logjam on February 5 in 2008.

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Monday, September 30, 2019

At the End of the Calendar, a Tweak to 2020 Montana Republican Delegate Selection

On the surface, there is not much that separates the delegate selection plan Montana Republican used in 2016 and what the party will carry forward into 2020.

Yes, the primary in Treasure state will fall at the end of the Republican presidential primary calendar, and yes, the allocation will remain winner-take-all for the second consecutive cycle. Those toplines are exactly as they were for the last cycle.

However, the overall process is not without some differences relative to 2016. And those changes do not occur in the delegate allocation portion, but on the delegate selection front. The plurality winner in the June 2 presidential primary will receive all of the delegates to the national convention from the state of Montana. But how those delegate slots are filled and by whom is a bit different for 2020.

In 2016, the power to elect/select delegates to the national convention was within the roles and responsibilities of the Montana state convention without any formal input from the candidate and campaign of the primary winner. That will differ from what will occur in 2020.

Under the rules adopted by the Montana Republican Party adopted in June, the convention will retain the role of ratifying who the national convention delegates from the state are, but will defer to the campaign of the presidential primary-winning candidate on identifying a slate of delegates. Instead of holding both roles -- identifying/selecting delegates and ratifying that -- the state convention will now only hold the latter role. The winning candidate's campaign chooses the slate of delegates and then the state convention ratifies that by majority vote. Should that slate fail to receive that ratification from the state convention, then the candidate submits a new slate (or slates) until that majority threshold is met.

Functionally, this would likely cede in 2020 the selection role to the Trump reelection effort, and that slate would be highly likely to pass muster with the delegates to the Montana Republican state convention. This is another example of a subtle shift in state-level rules that could be interpreted as incumbent-friendly.

It is also a rules change that seemingly has a sunset provision in the rules. Section B.III.F.3 of the Montana Republican Party rules is specific to the 2020 cycle. There is no expiration included in the rule, but a change will have to be made to apply this to 2024 or tweak it for that cycle.

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Connecticut Republicans Add Subtle but Specific Change to 2020 Delegate Rules

Connecticut Republicans have planned to stick pretty close to the delegate selection plan the party utilized in 2016. The allocation looks just the same.

At-large delegates are all awarded to any majority winner. Absent a majority winner, the delegates are allocated proportionally to candidates with at least 20 percent of the vote statewide. On the congressional district level, it remains a winner-take-all scheme. A candidate who wins a congressional district with any plurality wins all three delegates from that district.

Nothing is different there.

However, there was one subtle change the party added to its formula in 2018 and it concerns any uncommitted delegate slots allocated because of votes for "uncommitted" on the primary ballot. Here's the new rule (Section 17(h)):
In the event that any delegates are awarded to the uncommitted spot on the Presidential Preference Primary Ballot, said delegate positions shall be filled by the state party chairman, and submitted in the same manner as prescribed in subsection (d).
Theoretically, this rule cedes to the state party chairman the ability to name uncommitted delegates, delegates that could be picked to hypothetically align with an incumbent president seeking renomination. But this is a very narrowly applicable rule. Connecticut is a state that automatically cancels primaries if only one candidate appears on the ballot. Should none of President Trump's three challengers make the ballot, then there would not be a primary and thus no need for an uncommitted line on said ballot.

This rule would only apply in a scenario where 1) one of more of those Republican challengers make the presidential preference primary ballot, 2) enough Republican primary voters (more than 20 percent) flock instead to uncommitted as a protest to Trump and qualify uncommitted for delegates, and 3) Trump fails to get more than a majority of the vote statewide.

In that unusual scenario, and that scenario alone, would the state party chair choose those uncommitted delegates (and likely be inclined to choose delegates closely aligned with the incumbent).

Yes, this is a very subtle change to the Connecticut Republican delegate selection process. But it is one that, at least under these specific conditions, would stand to benefit the president.

It is also a rules change that one could file under the leave no [rules] stone unturned category.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Earlier Primary in Place, California Republicans Make Delegate Allocation Changes

Earlier this month when the California Republican Party converged on Indian Wells for the party's 2019 state convention it was a rules-based change in reaction to a new Golden state law prohibiting ballot access to presidential candidates for not disclosing their tax returns that grabbed the headlines.

And that change is not without import. If a nationally recognized candidate is denied access to the ballot, then under the new rule, the CAGOP state central committee or executive committee would meet after March 15, 2020 -- more than a week after the Super Tuesday primary in California -- to determine which candidate would select a slate of delegates to represent them at the national convention in Charlotte.1

There is an important assumption in that rule. Only one candidate would receive delegates from California. More than anything, that is a nod to the other allocation-based changes the party adopted at the convention. In recent cycles, the California Republican Party has used a winner-take-most/winner-take-all by congressional district delegate allocation scheme. A candidate who wins statewide is awarded all of the at-large delegates and winners within each of the Golden state's 53 districts would receive three delegates from a won district.

However, given the 2017 presidential primary date change in California, that method of allocation was no longer compliant under Republican National Committee rules. The primary, set for Super Tuesday, is early enough on the primary calendar to fit within the proportionality window the party established for the 2012 cycle, requiring early states to have a proportional allocation plan in place. California Republicans had to make a change.

And that is something the California Republicans at the state convention addressed. Proposal 10 highlights the changes in language within the rule from 2016 to 2020. Gone are the winner-take-all elements, at least as the default. In their place is a proportional scheme consistent with RNC rules. Candidates who receive more than 20 percent of the vote either statewide or in congressional districts will qualify for a proportional share of the delegates within those units. And that is where the aforementioned assumption comes into the picture. Again, the ballot access workaround notes that the committee will determine which candidate -- not candidates -- who would name and slate delegates from the state. CAGOP seemingly is of the opinion that that 20 percent bar -- the highest allowed by the RNC -- is sufficient enough to keep other candidates from qualifying (and thus allow President Trump and his campaign the ability to name a slate of delegates from California).

That is one change instituted, but was not the only one. In addition to the new high qualification threshold, the party also adopted a winner-take-all threshold. That, too, factors into the assumptions the party is making in the newly adopted ballot access rule. Should a candidate win a majority of the vote statewide, then that candidate would win all of the delegates from the state. That is another threshold that President Trump could likely easily hit in the primary should his name appear on the ballot.

But in the end, it is clear that these rules were adopted with the idea of the president winning and naming all of the delegates to the national convention from the state in mind. And the sunset provision is a pretty clear indication the changes were made to ease Trump's path to the nomination. Add California to the list of states, then, that have upped their thresholds for this cycle.

1 This provision, while adopted by the state convention, is only in effect for the 2020 cycle. It expires on January 1, 2021.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Idaho Republicans Face Deadline on 2020 Presidential Primary

As the October 1 RNC deadline for state parties to finalize plans for 2020 delegate selection approaches, Idaho Republicans face a decision.

Under the rules of the Idaho Republican Party, the state party chairman has until the final Monday in September to opt into or out of the state government-run presidential primary. That last Monday in September falls on Monday, September 30, the day before the RNC deadline. And Chairman Raúl Labrador could follow the raft of other Republican state parties that have chosen already to cancel their delegate selection events or presidential preference votes ahead of a cycle in which the party is likely to renominate President Trump.

But it should be noted that in past instances in which Republican presidents have run for renomination, Idaho Republicans have no recent history of canceling primaries or caucuses. That did not happen in 1992 nor did it happen in 2004. That said, in a season in which an increasing number of state Republican parties are opting out of primaries and caucuses, Idaho could join the group in an effort to smooth the president's path to renomination.

Finally, the Idaho Republican Party when it adopted changes to its rules in April 2019 made no significant changes to the delegate allocation rules for 2020. There remains a 20 percent threshold to qualify for delegates, a level that may be high enough to keep the president's opponents away from qualification. And Idaho is a backdoor winner-take-all state. If only one candidate surpasses 20 percent, then that candidate receives all of the delegates from the Gem state. And that is in addition to the winner-take-all threshold the party has in place, a 50 percent threshold that, if triggered, would also award all of the delegates to the majority winner. This is all consistent with how the party operated its delegate allocation in 2016.

Regardless, for those watching state party-level maneuvering, Idaho bears some attention as the week progresses and the calendar eases into the weekend.

The Idaho Republican Party state central committee also passed a resolution at its June meeting supporting President Trump. That move may or may not serve as some evidence that the party will move to ease Trump's road to the nomination through a primary cancelation.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Alabama Republicans Nix Changes to 2020 Delegate Selection Process

In the lead up to last month's meeting of the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee, the party's Bylaws Committee unanimously passed a resolution to rework the way in which national convention delegates are selected.

Traditionally, Alabama delegate candidates -- for both at-large and congressional district positions -- have appeared on the ballot and have been directly elected by Republican presidential primary voters. Like the changes recently made in West Virginia, the proposed change in the selection process would have removed delegate candidates from the primary ballot and shifted the responsibility for selection to the 467 member Executive Committee. While this is certainly a way to streamline and shorten the March primary ballot, it would also give the state party more control over the selection process and likely serve as a boon to President Trump's chances of identifying delegates more closely aligned with him.

However, although the resolution passed the Bylaws Committee with no dissent, there was some pushback from within the party. Opponents of the change balked at the anti-democratic shift in the rules, seeing the change as potentially ceding too much power to the few in the state party.

But at the August 24 meeting of the Executive Committee in Auburn, the party rejected the resolution that emerged from the Bylaws Committee. It was a vote that kept the basic structure under which Alabama Republicans have selected delegates the same.

Now, the lack of change is no real significant loss for President Trump. Yes, there will be less party control over the delegate selection process. Yet, Trump and the campaign apparatus behind him will be maximally positioned compared to his challengers to identify delegate candidates and assist them, individually or as a slate, in filing for ballot access. That will serve as a large enough advantage for the president.

This delegate slate filing issue was highlighted in 2015 when the Jeb Bush campaign had some trouble in filing a full slate of delegate candidates in Alabama, foreshadowing perhaps the difficulties Bush would have later in the 2016 race. Trump likely will not have that problem in 2019 when candidates -- presidential and delegate -- have to file between October 8 and November 8, 2019.

No changes were proposed or made by the party to the delegate allocation process. The 2020 method, then, should look much as it did in 2016.

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Alaska Republicans Scrap Presidential Preference Vote at 2020 Caucuses

James Brooks at the Anchorage Daily News is reporting that the Alaska Republican Party state central committee has voted at a meeting this weekend to skip the presidential preference poll during next year's caucuses.1 Instead, that caucus process will focus on selecting delegates rather than allocating them, and the selection will be of delegate candidates closely aligned with the sitting Republican president.

As has happened elsewhere -- in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina and Virginia -- state Republican parties have made the decisions to forgo delegate selection events in the face of an internally popular president seeking renomination. And given where President Trump currently stands in public opinion polling among Republicans in 2020 primary horse race surveys -- and especially given where is announced opponents are -- these decisions make some sense. In most, the thresholds to qualify for delegates is set high enough that neither Weld nor Sanford nor Walsh will qualify anyway, making the process of holding preference votes and allocating delegates largely moot.

Alaska, for example, has a 13 percent threshold that candidates have to hit in order to qualify for delegates. None of the president's three opponents are anywhere close to approaching that number in public opinion polling. Nonetheless, add Alaska to the growing number of Republican state parties that have made moves to insulate the president on his march to renomination next year.

1 Don't let the headline at that link fool you. Alaska Republicans have never had a presidential primary in the post-reform era. They have consistently conducted caucuses to which the party has often in competitive cycles tethered a presidential preference vote. But those are still caucuses conducted by the party and not the state government as is the case in the vast majority of states with primaries. The mode of Alaska Republican delegate selection over the years is cataloged in the calendars linked on the left column of this page.

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Wyoming Republicans Flirt with Changes to Delegate Selection Process But Hold Pat

Over the summer Wyoming Republicans have been mired in something of an ideological struggle within the state party. A more conservative faction within the party is pushing a more aggressive use of the state party's Governance Review and Feedback Committee, created to eye how well Equality state legislators and legislation align with the party platform.

In other words, it is potentially being used as a litmus test on more moderate Republicans in the Wyoming legislature.

But that has drawn the ire of the two most populous counties in the state where more moderates find their home, but also stretches into the national convention delegate selection process the state party uses. Natrona County Republicans, for example, in August passed three informal resolutions including one against the litmus tests, but also against possible changes to the delegate selection process that would shift the balance of power away from those population centers and empower the more rural counties in the state. Yes, that is an urban versus rural divide but is also one that features the ideological divide within the party. It is also something that is being sold as advantageous to President Trump, shifting the balance of power toward more Trump-friendly rural areas.

Under the traditional delegate selection system Wyoming Republicans have used, like the one in 2016, only one county is guaranteed to have a delegate every presidential election cycle: Laramie County, the most populous county in the state. All other counties are paired off and trade off which one gets national convention representation every cycle. Those counties only get national convention representation every other cycle.

This back and forth between the state party and the county parties occurred over the summer in the lead up to the Wyoming Republican Party state central committee meeting on August 23-24. Instead of a showdown at that meeting, however, there was an open dialog about the ideological rift and the proposed state party resolutions. In particular, the delegate selection changes were shelved and will be dealt with at state convention next May. Any changes made then would fall after the 2020 caucus/convention process and thus be implemented in 2024.

Despite the rise in ideological tensions over the summer over these proposed delegate selection plan changes (among other things), the party held steady with the system it has utilized with the caucuses in recent cycles.

The question moving forward out of Wyoming is whether the state party will opt to hold a presidential preference vote in the first stage of the caucuses next year or whether they will follow the lead of other states in endorsing the president and skipping the preference vote.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

New Iowa Delegate Selection Plan Passes Muster with DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee

The Iowa Democratic Party on Thursday, September 19 released the top lines of a revised delegate selection plan. A day later the plan was before the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) for the panel's consideration via conference call.

The reason for the delayed consideration -- most state parties' plans have already been found in conditional compliance by the RBC over the summer -- was that the committee's initial consideration of the original Iowa delegate selection plan found fault with the innovative virtual caucuses system the state party proposed back in February. Hacking concerns over the tele-caucusing proposal loomed over the plan and led to its rejection by the committee.

But under the revised plan, Iowa Democrats will allow for a petition process whereby any Iowa Democrat can file to set up a satellite caucus to be conducted on the same day as the traditional caucuses as close to the same 7pm start time as possible. Those petitions will by November 18, 2019 go before a review committee comprised of members of the Iowa Democratic Party state central committee not aligned with any presidential campaign. Petitions would be approved or rejected by December 16 and made public by December 18.

Functionally, the satellite caucuses within a congressional district will be collectively counted as an additional county in a given congressional district. Delegates and state delegate equivalents will then by apportioned based on that. What remains unanswered pending the full draft delegate selection plan approved by the RBC, is just how much those satellite caucuses will count. There were four satellite caucuses approved in 2016 in Iowa but that only ended up adding an additional three delegates to the state convention totals. That is far less than the nine percent addition to the total the originally proposed virtual caucuses would have added in 2020 would those tele-caucuses been approved.

The question, then, is whether the expectation is that the satellite caucuses will be low turnout affairs aim a particular groups most affected by the traditional caucus process or if there is a higher cap placed on them similar to the virtual caucus model. It could end up somewhere in between or could be figured on the fly on caucus night. The latter would add not only a bit of mystery but some uncertainty to caucus night not only for the candidates and their campaigns in terms of how they direct their supporters but for caucus administrators not to mention the media reporting the caucus results.

Expectations were set on this front in the 2016 delegate selection plan in Iowa. The three satellite caucus state convention delegates were determined in the plan. Absent the current plan approved today, there is no definitive answer to that question.

But in the meantime, the plan, including the satellite caucuses proposal, was deemed conditionally compliant by the RBC.

Here is more from the Iowa Democratic Party about how the satellite caucuses would work:

  • The 2020 satellite caucus proposal will allow for additional caucus locations on February 3 to expand participation for people who cannot attend their in-person precinct caucus. 
  • The IDP will expand the constituency engagement team to ensure the party is reaching communities across the state, as well as accessibility staff to make sure the caucus system works for all Iowans. 
  • Iowa Democrats can apply to hold a satellite site at places like factories, group homes, or community gathering places, to better accommodate people who cannot attend their in-person caucus. This option will be especially useful for shift workers, Iowans with disabilities, Iowans serving overseas, and students. 
  • The IDP will create a special satellite caucus review committee that will review applications and determine approval. The committee members will be appointed by the IDP Chair, and it will be comprised of SCC members who have pledged neutrality in the presidential race. 
  • Just like precinct caucuses, each satellite location will have a trained captain who is charged with overseeing the room, managing volunteers, and reporting the results on caucus night. 
  • The results will be reported using the same method as precinct caucus locations. The satellite caucuses will create one additional county in each Congressional District.

Stay tuned for more when the full delegate selection plan is made public by the Iowa Democratic Party.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

June 2 Presidential Primary Bill Crawls Forward in Washington, DC

Earlier this week, the Washington, DC Council reconvened following a lengthy recess. Among the first items the body considered on the consent agenda on Tuesday, September 17 was the effort to shift the presidential primary (and those for other offices) from the third Tuesday in June to the first Tuesday in June, B23-0212.

Previously the council had passed both emergency and temporary legislation to ease along the legislative process but neither has a window of implementation that stretches far enough into 2020 to include the June 2 date the body is targeting. Permanent legislation, then, is needed, and that is what the above bill is intended to accomplish.

In the meeting earlier this week, the council adopted the consent agenda -- including B23-0212 -- on a unanimous 13-0 vote with no discussion. That represents passage on a first reading. The bill will require one more final reading and vote before passage.

The DC council next meets on October 8.

The move, should it be approved, signed and passed off on by congressional review, would align the DC primary with presidential primaries in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota on what would be the next to last date on the 2020 presidential primary calendar with a contest.

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West Virginia Republicans Adopt Winner-Take-All Allocation Scheme, Alter Delegate Selection Process for 2020

West Virginia Republicans at a recent Executive Committee meeting made changes to the way in which the party will select and allocate delegates to the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte. Gone is the loophole primary the state party has traditionally used, where voters would not only vote on presidential preference, but directly elect both at-large and congressional district delegates on the primary ballot.

Such a system puts the onus on campaigns to gain ballot access for their candidate but to also round up and file for delegate candidates supportive of the candidate. The former is easier than the latter as is evidenced by Rick Santorum's troubles in the Mountain state in 2012.

That system has been scrapped by the WVGOP for 2020 in favor of a more streamlined process. By a 92-12 vote, the West Virginia Republican Party executive committee opted to share the delegate selection process with the Trump campaign and shift to a winner-take-all method of allocation.

Under the new plan, Republican primary voters in West Virginia will only have one presidential choice before them, the presidential preference vote. Whichever candidate wins that vote would be awarded all of the delegates at stake in the West Virginia primary on May 12. On the selection side, delegate candidates would no longer be included on the primary ballot. Instead, prospective delegate candidates would apply and interview with the WVGOP executive committee and the Trump for President Committee to determine what that individual has done for the party/Trump and how loyal they are. Obviously, that would give much more discretion to the state party and the Trump campaign to identify and select delegates than under the loophole system.

This option was one of three being considered by the executive committee. The other two were 1) to keep the loophole (direct election of delegates) system the same or 2) to adopt a convention system similar to what the West Virginia Republican Party used in 2008. The latter was quickly dismissed and the alternative winner-take-all system was deemed preferable by the executive committee in its vote in late August.

One important coda to this maneuvering is that the change will sunset after 2020, reverting to the old loophole system for subsequent cycles (unless there is state party action to make other changes).

Yes, this change clearly gives the Trump campaign a great deal of discretion over the delegates chosen for the national convention from West Virginia. But bear in mind that Democratic National Committee rules allow candidates to reject delegates selected to fill delegate slots allocated them and then represent them at the convention. However, that right of refusal happens after the delegate selection process. The West Virginia Republican Party plan cedes a great deal of control to the Trump reelection effort before and/or during primary season, likely ahead of the West Virginia primary in May. That is an important distinction between how Democrats conduct the process and how West Virginia Republicans are handling theirs.

This also adds another data point to the growing list of states making a variety of changes to their delegate selection rules to help insulate the president from intra-party challenges and hypothetically keep divisiveness down within the party-in-the-electorate before the transition into the general election phase.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Virginia Republicans Will Hold 2020 Presidential Preference Vote at State Convention

Much ink has been spilled of late about the number of Republican state parties considering or deciding to forgo primaries or caucuses during the 2020 presidential nomination cycle. There was a rash of these decisions during the first weekend of September when Republican parties in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina opted out of their respective delegate selection events for next year.

But those states are not alone, nor were they the first to opt for a more closed system of selecting and allocating delegates to the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte.

In fact, during their late June state central committee meeting, Virginia Republicans entertained a motion to hold a presidential preference vote at the party's state convention and the Republican Senate nomination vote in a (June) primary. That motion was split into two questions and dealt with separately. While the state central committee voted in a narrow 40-35 roll call vote to conduct a Senate primary in June 2020, the party opted via an uncontroversial voice vote to skip the presidential primary in favor of a presidential preference vote at the party's state convention next year.

Like many of the states above, Virginia Republicans also have a history of selecting and allocating delegates through means other than a primary. Actually Virginia's use of a primary is more of a 21st century phenomenon. Other than 1988, both parties conducted delegate selection through caucus/convention systems or held firehouse primaries (Democratic state party-run contests) through the early years of the post-reform era. That included 1992, the only time in that late 20th century window when a Republican incumbent (George H.W. Bush) was up for renomination.

This was also the case in 2004 when George W. Bush was again seeking the Republican nomination. Virginia Republicans skipped the primary then as well.

Now, history will repeat itself in 2020 as Virginia Republicans will handle the preference vote, national convention delegate selection and delegate allocation at the state convention. Like in the other states, this is likely to benefit President Trump in his effort win, if not all of the delegates from Virginia, then certainly the lion share of them.

While this often gets described as maneuvering to insulate the president from a challenge, it has a history in a number of states -- particularly on the Republican side -- over time. Virginia is yet another data point for that in the 2020 cycle.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Michigan Republicans Make Small Change to 2020 Delegate Allocation Rules

Over the weekend it was reported that the Michigan Republican Party had made some changes to their delegate selection rules for the 2020 cycle.

But this is a story that unsurprisingly, since it deals with rules changes, deserves some context. There are a number of changes that are happening on the Republican side this cycle. Primaries and caucuses are being cancelled in states like Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina. And delegate allocation rules are being altered in still other states, among them Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Ohio.1

All of those are examples of changes that can be viewed as either Trump- or incumbent-friendly. And the Michigan change can be too as has been widely reported. However, as compared to the formula Michigan Republicans used in 2016, this recent alteration of the rules in the Great Lakes state is far more modest when compared to rules the changes in other states thus far.

Massachusetts is a good point of comparison. Republicans in the Bay state made the decision to increase their delegate qualification threshold from 5 percent in 2016 to 20 percent for 2020. Candidates have to receive, in other words, 20 percent of the vote to be allocated a proportional share of any delegates Additionally, the Massachusetts GOP added a winner-take-all threshold. Should a candidate win a majority or more of the vote, then that candidate is eligible for all of the delegates.

Those are both significant changes: a 15 point increase in the qualification threshold and the addition of a winner-take-all threshold. Bill Weld surpassing five percent may or may not be likely, but the former Massachusetts governor getting up to 20 percent in that primary seems a stretch. That is certainly true of Trump not clearing 50 percent in that primary as well.

The Massachusetts change, then, is clearly Trump- or incumbent-friendly.

But Michigan?

Again, the changes the Michigan Republican Party has instituted for the 2020 cycle are much more modest. In 2016, Michigan Republicans employed the same proportional allocation formula with triggers they will in 2020. The party also had a winner-take-all threshold in place last cycle. Both carry over to 2020.

The change?

What the party altered was the qualification threshold, raising it from 15 percent to 20 percent. Just how Trump- or incumbent-friendly that change is depends on just how likely one perceives Bill Weld's or Mark Sanford's or Joe Walsh's chances of clearing 15 percent of the vote in Michigan, much less the new 20 percent threshold (the maximum allowed under RNC rules). What is most likely at this point in time is that Trump, embattled though he may or may not be, clears the majority threshold and claims all of the delegates from Michigan.

But that is not a new addition. That winner-take-all threshold was in place in 2016, and is the most likely benefit Trump will exploit in 2020. Overall, this Michigan change is a modest change in Trump's direction, but it is way down the scale from Trump- or incumbent-friendly changes being made elsewhere by Republican state parties ahead of primaries and caucuses next year.

1 The change in Ohio was to the date of the primary in order for the state Republican Party to retain a winner-take-all delegate allocation formula for 2020.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

New York Presidential Primary Shifts to April 28

One day prior to the bill becoming law without his signature, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed SB 6374 into law. The measure schedules the separate presidential primary in the Empire state for April 28, aligning the contest with presidential primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island on that date.

The contiguous six state cluster -- the Acela Primary -- will allow New York Democrats and those in the other five states to take advantage of DNC delegate incentives. That 15 percent bonus will be added to the base New York delegation on top of the 10 percent bonus state Democrats will receive for scheduling an April primary. The additional 49 bonus delegates bring the already large New York delegation up to a total of 273 pledged delegates, second behind only California's delegation.

In his signing memo, Cuomo cited his desire for an earlier primary, something the governor flirted with temporarily in recent weeks after the bill was finally transmitted to him in early September. But  after some push back from the Democratic National Committee, Cuomo later quickly rejected the idea. And the reasoning behind that is twofold. First, the legislature was not receptive to the idea, and second, under DNC rules, the state party would have gone from bonus delegates for an April primary to losing half the delegation during primary season for a non-compliant February contest.

One thing Governor Cuomo did note in the memo was that he continues to see value in a consolidated primary -- presidential primary plus those for other local and federal offices -- that would fall on April 28. However, he will not call a special session for the New York legislature to move on that. Rather, he urged the legislature to act in January when they reconvene for the 2020 session. But such a move would have an impact on those filing to run for those other offices that would fall on the same April date as the presidential primary. That, too, may be too quick a turnaround, threatening the viability of that sort of change.

But the New York presidential primary is now locked in on April 28. That change is now reflected on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

6/18/19:  New York Assembly Passes April Presidential Primary Bill

6/9/19:  New York April Presidential Primary Bills Outline 2020 Delegate Selection in the Empire State

4/25/19:  New York Democrats Signal an April Presidential Primary

2/14/19:  Small Signal Points Toward an Earlier 2020 New York Presidential Primary

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