Saturday, May 13, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] About the California Republican Party Delegate Rules for 2024

The following is a cross-posted excerpt from FHQ Plus, FHQ's new subscription service. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to unlock the full site and support our work. 


Seema Mehta at the LA Times had a nice piece up today on Republican delegate allocation in California for 2024. The premise was that the winner-take-all by congressional district rules would grant greater voice to the small number of Republican voters in large urban areas compared to the more conservative areas of the state.

And sure, under the Republican National Committee (RNC) delegate apportionment scheme every congressional district — red, blue or purple — counts the same: three delegates each. As Mehta put it:

It doesn’t matter if it’s former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco-based district, home to 29,150 registered Republicans, … or current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s district centered in Bakersfield, where 205,738 GOP voters live.

Mathematically speaking, it makes some strategic sense for campaigns to chase the districts with the smaller number of partisans. Very simply, the return on investment is greater. And there was some evidence of this in the 2016 race as FHQ noted in Invisible Primary: Visible earlier this year

But here is the thing: California will have a Super Tuesday primary next year. And that March 5 date is prior to March 15 when the winner-take-all prohibition under RNC rules ends. As a result, California Republicans utilizing a winner-take-all by congressional district delegate allocation method before March 15 would be in violation of those national party rules and cost the party half of their 169 delegates under Rule 17(a). 

How did it come to this? Is the California Republican Party deliberately flaunting RNC rules? It does not really look that way. 

To start, the baseline set of national convention delegate allocation rules is a winner-take-all by congressional district method. That has not changed in recent years. What did change in 2019 was that the party adopted a set of allocation rules that were more proportional for 2020 and complied with RNC rules for that cycle. But they sunset in 2021.1 That means that the baseline winner-take-all by congressional district rules are the rules for 2024. 

…for now.

But that will likely change and FHQ bases that on a couple of factors. First, nothing dealing with national convention delegates was even on the March state convention agenda with respect to bylaws changes. Of course, nothing had to be. There is a baseline set of allocation rules in place already that snapped back into action once the 2020 rules expired. 

Second, however, this is setting up just like 2019 when California Republicans faced the same dilemma heading into September ahead of their fall state convention that year. Staring down the prospect of RNC penalties if the party did not change the winner-take-most rules, California Republicans at the late September 2019 state convention adopted the proportional allocation scheme that sunset in 2021, a more proportional set of rules

And California Republicans have a September 2023 state convention lined up right before the RNC deadline to submit rules for the 2024 cycle to the national party on or before October 1. 

The question that emerges from this is why did the 2020 California allocation rules have to expire at all? It makes sense from the state party’s perspective to sunset the proportional rules if there is even an outside shot that the RNC would change its requirement for proportional rules during the early part of the calendar. But the RNC held steady and mostly carried over the same 2020 rules to the 2024 cycle when it finalized the rules package in April 2022. There is no evidence that the national party has subsequently made any additional changes (and could not after September 30, 2022 anyway under the restrictions on further rule amendments in Rule 12).

Look, San Francisco Republicans may dream of a bigger voice in 2024, but they are unlikely to get it if the state party wants to have its full voice at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee in summer 2024.


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