Tuesday, February 5, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Ranked Choice Voting in the New Hampshire Primary?

Thoughts on some aspect of the invisible primary and links to the movements during the days that recently were...

Last week's AP story on the bill that would bring ranked choice voting to the presidential primary in New Hampshire had made its way around enough that by the weekend several folks reached out to ask FHQ how well the plan, if adopted, would jibe with the longstanding proportionality mandate layered into the DNC delegate selection rules.

And my answer at the time was that it depends.

It depends on how the system is set up in the legislation. The classic conception of ranked choice voting is of the system determining one winner. It does this by reallocating votes from the least preferred candidates until one most preferred candidate emerges. This is how the system under its maiden voyage in Maine worked during the 2018 midterm elections.

But the goal is different under the Democratic presidential nomination rules. Reallocating votes until one winner is determined would be a system set up to allocate all of the delegates to the winner in a hypothetical New Hampshire primary run like Maine's elections were last fall. Clearly that would not fly under the provisions of the Democratic proportionality mandate.

And the New Hampshire bill is crafted with this in mind. Instead of reallocating votes until one winner is determined, the proposed New Hampshire system would cut the reallocation off at 15 percent. The votes of candidates with less than 15 percent of the vote -- statewide and in the congressional districts -- would be shifted to candidates above that threshold based on the ranked preferences of voters.

That would not only seemingly be consistent with the DNC rules requiring a proportional allocation of delegates but would allow all voters to weigh in on the ultimate delegate allocation. Under the current system of delegate allocation at the state level, only votes for the candidates above the 15 percent qualifying threshold count toward the allocation of delegates.

It is not clear that this bill will either gain traction in New Hampshire or pass muster with the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. The idea of ranked choice voting never really came up in any meaningful way during the Unity Reform Commission deliberations on the 2020 rules during 2017 or when the baton was passed to the Rules and Bylaws Committee in 2018. It was, however, raised at the DNC meeting in Chicago in August 2018 that ultimately adopted the 2020 delegate selection rules. The motion to include ranked choice voting at the primary stage and at convention voting was dismissed, but not necessarily because there was no appetite for it. Rather, it late in the game to add something to the rules without the sort of consideration the rules that were changed received over a two year process.

This bill passing and being signed into law would force the RBC to weigh in on the matter, but that remains a ways and many steps in the legislative process in the Granite state away.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Big donors may still largely be on the sidelines, but Harris is finding some fundraising success in her own backyard. Brown is going to have to play catch up in the #MoneyPrimary. And Hickenlooper is going to have to expand his fundraising base beyond Colorado.

2. The #StaffPrimary has picked up steam over the last week. Gillibrand has made some Iowa hires. Harris tapped a couple of big names in Iowa to be a part of her campaign in the Hawkeye state. Inslee's PAC is advertising positions that sound like they may ultimately be a part of a presidential campaign. Brown has a campaign manager-in-waiting. Delaney has added staff in New Hampshire. And Booker has lined up an experienced crew across Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

3. Booker is officially in.

4. Harris' rollout has coincided with a couple of Californians bowing out of the 2020 race. LA mayor, Eric Garcetti, has done more of the typical things that prospective presidential candidates do. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has not other than going to New Hampshire and not quelling the discussions of him running. Both have now ended the discussion, and Harris is the only Golden state candidate still officially running. Swalwell may change that in the near future. #CaliforniaWinnowing

5. The #StaffPrimary is not the only component of the #InvisiblePrimary that is heating up. The first trickle of endorsements in the #EndorsementPrimary are starting to emerge. Harris has claimed a trio of House endorsements from members of the California delegation, most recently from Rep. Katie Hill and Rep. Nanette Barragan. Fresh off of his announcement, Cory Booker picked up a couple of Garden state endorsements from Senator Menendez and Governor Murphy. Meanwhile in Iowa, John Delaney has the support of a handful of rural county party chairs in the Hawkeye state. The early trend is inaction on the part of superdelegates, but the ones who are endorsing early are from the home states of the candidates who have announced. One exception is Harry Reid. His support of Warren is an endorsement without an endorsement. The only way to really test that is if Reid ends up helping some other candidate or candidates. Otherwise, he has endorsed Warren.

6. Is it Iowa or bust for Sherrod Brown?

7. Schultz passed on the Democratic nomination, but is heading to where the 2020 attention is.

8. Moulton remains mum on 2020 in New Hampshire.

9. Draft Beto hits New Hampshire as it awaits an announcement by the end of the month.

10. If the 2020 Democrats are strategically looking beyond the first few states on the primary calendar, it is not showing it in their travel itineraries. Warren is trekking to a series of states that have March 3 or earlier primary dates after her planned February 9 announcement. Gillibrand spent the last weekend in New Hampshire, and Brown was in Iowa. Harris, too, is hitting all four February states. And Booker is initially going to get to three of those four. And overall, candidates, announced or not, are visiting the Hawkeye state, and there is more to come in February.

11. Is Bill Weld going to challenge President Trump in the Republican primaries?

12. Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is looking to clamp down on the Republican nomination process in 2020 to ward off challengers.

13. Amy Klobuchar is going to Iowa and is maybe up to something else this coming weekend.

14. Finally, Biden is seemingly in campaign-in-waiting mode.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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