Wednesday, February 17, 2021

A Glance at Where the 2024 Republican Delegate Selection Rules Stand

Much was made last summer during convention season when the Republican National Convention carried over the party's 2016 platform and adopted it with no changes at the scaled down 2020 convention in Charlotte. It was an atypical move.

And while it left questions about why the party would leave a party document unamended in the face four years of changes, it also raised issues about the process in other areas. Always keen to be on top of any potential delegate selection rules changes for the next cycle, FHQ watched with bated breath but ultimately to no avail. Reporting was light on the subject -- it is never really heavy -- and the convention came and went with no fanfare about 2024 rules. 

So did that mean that the Republican convention did with the party rules what it did with the platform, leaving them largely unchanged? Or were changes quietly pushed through that would shape and reshape how the process would work in this next cycle, forcing (prospective) candidates to adjust their and their campaigns' behavior along the way? 

The answer upon looking at the 2020 Rules of the Republican Party -- those that will govern the 2024 Republican presidential nomination process -- lean heavily, but not completely toward the former. 

Changes to the relevant sections of the rules coming out of the 2020 convention were minimal. 

Now, that does not mean that the process is locked in and codified for the 2024 cycle. For much of the post-reform era the Republican Party set its rules at the convention and that was that. Those were the rules that would provide guidance for the next cycle despite any need for changes that might arise in the intervening period. This differed from a Democratic Party that routinely reexamined and tinkered with its rules between cycles. 

But that protocol changed after 2008. Coming out of the St. Paul convention, Republicans charged a committee -- the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee -- with considering changes to certain aspects of the 2012 GOP presidential nomination process (the then-Rule 15 on the election, selection, allocation and binding of delegates). And from that effort the RNC adopted changes codifying the positions of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina at the beginning of the calendar and required (for the 2012 cycle) that states with contests before April 1 provide for a proportional allocation of their national convention delegates. [Although it did not formally end up in the rules, the RNC in 2011 added definitions for what constituted proportional allocation.]

That same basic operating procedure extended to the 2016 cycle, but it was formalized with the addition of Rule 12 that allowed the party to make changes to the rules governing the Republican National Committee and those that affect the convening of the next convention. Rule 12 gave the RNC Rules Committee the ability to make changes on a majority vote that then had to be approved by a three-quarters supermajority of the full RNC. Under the new rule, the RNC formally inserted the proportional allocation guidance (with some modification) from 2011 into the rules for the 2016 cycle and specified penalties for both allocation violations and timing violations

Rule 12 survived the 2016 convention in Cleveland, but the convention also adopted rules creating a specific Temporary Committee on the Presidential Nominating Process. Its only accomplishment ahead of the largely uncontested 2020 Republican presidential nomination process was eliminating a primary debates sanctioning committee.

History lessons aside, what does all of this mean for the rules package that emerged from the 2020 Republican National Convention? Again, the changes were minimal, but the main consideration here is whether Rule 12 survived intact to see another cycle. And the answer there is yes. The amendment rule carried over into the rules that will govern the 2024 process largely unchanged. And that was only a technical change, removing a date in 2018 and replacing with language that will work without amendment moving forward. [Instead of having the rules finalized before September 30, 2018, the party now has to make any changes on or before "September 30 two years prior to the year in which the next national convention is to be held."]

And that is really it. 

...for now.

There were no changes to Rule 16 (on the selection and allocation of delegates) or Rule 17 (on penalties for any Rule 16 violations). And in perhaps a mark of how hastily the 2020 convention rules were assembled, Rule 10(a)(10) remains as well. That is the rule creating the Temporary Committee on the Presidential Nominating Process, including how it should be empaneled in 2017 and complete its work by 2018. 

What we are all left with, then, is a baseline set of rules from which the RNC Rules Committee will operate under Rule 12 with 2024 in mind. With that rule still in place, there will very likely be changes made. But the question at this point is the extent to which the rules of the Republican Party will be changed from version 1.0. Will the process from 2020 largely carry over to 2024 with only technical changes to clean up items like the Rule 10(a)(10) issue above? Or will the committee and ultimately the party dig into Rules 16 and 17 and reconfigure the delegate allocation rules and their penalties? 

Again, they are working with a baseline set of rules and a considerable amount of room for some changes. 

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