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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