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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