Showing posts with label loophole primary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label loophole primary. Show all posts

Thursday, September 19, 2019

West Virginia Republicans Adopt Winner-Take-All Allocation Scheme, Alter Delegate Selection Process for 2020

West Virginia Republicans at a recent Executive Committee meeting made changes to the way in which the party will select and allocate delegates to the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte. Gone is the loophole primary the state party has traditionally used, where voters would not only vote on presidential preference, but directly elect both at-large and congressional district delegates on the primary ballot.

Such a system puts the onus on campaigns to gain ballot access for their candidate but to also round up and file for delegate candidates supportive of the candidate. The former is easier than the latter as is evidenced by Rick Santorum's troubles in the Mountain state in 2012.

That system has been scrapped by the WVGOP for 2020 in favor of a more streamlined process. By a 92-12 vote, the West Virginia Republican Party executive committee opted to share the delegate selection process with the Trump campaign and shift to a winner-take-all method of allocation.

Under the new plan, Republican primary voters in West Virginia will only have one presidential choice before them, the presidential preference vote. Whichever candidate wins that vote would be awarded all of the delegates at stake in the West Virginia primary on May 12. On the selection side, delegate candidates would no longer be included on the primary ballot. Instead, prospective delegate candidates would apply and interview with the WVGOP executive committee and the Trump for President Committee to determine what that individual has done for the party/Trump and how loyal they are. Obviously, that would give much more discretion to the state party and the Trump campaign to identify and select delegates than under the loophole system.

This option was one of three being considered by the executive committee. The other two were 1) to keep the loophole (direct election of delegates) system the same or 2) to adopt a convention system similar to what the West Virginia Republican Party used in 2008. The latter was quickly dismissed and the alternative winner-take-all system was deemed preferable by the executive committee in its vote in late August.

One important coda to this maneuvering is that the change will sunset after 2020, reverting to the old loophole system for subsequent cycles (unless there is state party action to make other changes).

Yes, this change clearly gives the Trump campaign a great deal of discretion over the delegates chosen for the national convention from West Virginia. But bear in mind that Democratic National Committee rules allow candidates to reject delegates selected to fill delegate slots allocated them and then represent them at the convention. However, that right of refusal happens after the delegate selection process. The West Virginia Republican Party plan cedes a great deal of control to the Trump reelection effort before and/or during primary season, likely ahead of the West Virginia primary in May. That is an important distinction between how Democrats conduct the process and how West Virginia Republicans are handling theirs.

This also adds another data point to the growing list of states making a variety of changes to their delegate selection rules to help insulate the president from intra-party challenges and hypothetically keep divisiveness down within the party-in-the-electorate before the transition into the general election phase.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: WEST VIRGINIA

This is part forty-six of a series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation rules by state. The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2016 -- especially relative to 2012 -- in order to gauge the potential impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. For this cycle the RNC recalibrated its rules, cutting the proportionality window in half (March 1-14), but tightening its definition of proportionality as well. While those alterations will trigger subtle changes in reaction at the state level, other rules changes -- particularly the new binding requirement placed on state parties -- will be more noticeable. 


Election type: primary
Date: May 10
Number of delegates: 34 [22 at-large, 9 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: loophole primary/winner-take-all
Threshold to qualify for delegates: n/a
2012: loophole primary

Changes since 2012
The basic structure of the West Virginia Republican method of allocating, selecting and binding delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention is the same as it was in 2012. The real election is still for the delegate candidates -- both at-large and in each of the three congressional districts -- directly elected on the primary ballot. In that way, the Mountain state is like Illinois (congressional district) before it. Delegate candidates file (or are filed by one of the presidential campaigns) to run for one of the 31 vacant delegate slots. Like Illinois, those delegate candidates are listed on the ballot with the presidential candidate's name (or uncommitted) next to theirs, and if elected are bound to that candidate at the convention.

Unlike the system out west in the Land of Lincoln, though, West Virginia Republicans elect both congressional district delegates and delegates at-large. The full allotment of at-large and congressional district delegates, then, is selected through direct election and bound based on any candidate affiliation made when the delegate candidates filed to run.

One other difference the West Virginia delegate selection process has with the one Illinois Republicans use is based on a rules change the WVGOP instituted for the 2016 cycle. The crux of the change is that the at-large delegates are not all that at-large anymore; at least not in the way that they have been in the past. For the 2016 cycle, those at-large delegates have been districtized or rather more appropriately countyized.

Let me explain. At-large delegates are delegates that are intended to be the top however many votegetters statewide in any selection process, whether primary or caucus/convention. Every voter votes on those positions. In a truly at-large system, that can result in an overly homogenized outcome. And that homogeneity tends to benefit some majority faction. In turn, that means that some geographic/regional, racial or political minority is disadvantaged in the process. Those groups end up not being represented in the government positions or delegate slots being filled.

Having a mixed system with both an at-large component and a congressional district element, as West Virginia Republicans have traditionally had, can overcome that problem. Can being the operative word. Those district delegates are supposed to ensure that there is at least some representation on the national convention delegation from all corners of the state. However, in West Virginia, there are only a handful of congressional district delegates -- nine across three districts -- and that does not always serve as a counterweight to the more than twice as many at-large delegates.

If, for instance, there are nine delegates from across the state and then 22 others elected statewide but predominantly from one populous area of the state, then the ultimate delegation is potentially lacking in diversity.1 This seems to have been the case with West Virginia delegations to past Republican National Conventions. More populous areas were simply overly represented on the delegation. In some respects, that is supposed to be the case, but the needle was pushed more toward a delegation predominantly made up of delegates from only a few concentrated areas.

By adding a new rule for 2016, the West Virginia Republican Party has attempted to better calibrate the representativeness of its delegation. New for this cycle, then, are restrictions on the selection of at-large delegates. There will be a fuller discussion of the exact nature of the effect of these changes below, but suffice it to say, those restrictions are intended to bring about a more regionally balanced West Virginia delegation.

As the delegates are directly elected in West Virginia, there are no thresholds that a candidate must reach in order to qualify for delegates. For the presidential candidates, banking bound delegates is entirely dependent upon whether delegate candidates affiliated with them are elected.

Delegate allocation (at-large delegates)
Contrary to how the process has worked in the past, the selection/election and allocation of at-large delegates in West Virginia for 2016 is not truly at-large. There are a couple of restrictions the WVGOP has newly placed on the selection of at-large delegates:
  1. After the top finisher -- the delegate candidate with the most votes statewide -- the top seven at-large finishers from each of the three congressional districts will win slots to the national convention.
  2. Additionally, there can be no more than two at-large delegates from any one county with the exception, again, of the top at-large delegate candidate votegetter statewide.  
This has several implications. First, each congressional district will have at least seven delegates; ten if one counts the three congressional district delegates that are also being . One of the three will have eight (or 11) delegates as a bonus for having the top, unrestricted votegetter statewide hail from there. This ends up being far less "at-large" and a lot more districted. It is a move that is somewhat reminiscent of Missouri Republicans shifting a couple of at-large delegates to each of the eight congressional districts in the Show-Me state allocation process. Yet, the West Virginia maneuver more overly districtizes their plan relative to Missouri.

There are also campaign strategic ramifications from this change. Rather than having the freedom to quickly go into a state and assemble an unrestricted slate of delegates as campaigns have done in the past, 2016 campaigns have to be an order of magnitude more savvy about the process. There are additional hoops to jump through in terms of cobbling together a slate of delegate candidates who reside in areas more uniformly distributed across districts and without too many from one county. Without wide support across a state, then, a campaign has to rely on a deeper level of connection and organization within the state of West Virginia in order to put together a winning and ultimately eligible delegation.

Those campaigns that do not pay attention to detail run the risk of having delegate candidates win more votes than other candidates, but losing out to popular losers because of potential regional clustering. The slate is too concentrated in one area, in other words, and thus does not qualify even if individual candidates from it receive more votes. If one presidential candidate has nine delegate candidates from one county, for example, then only two (or three if one of them is the top statewide finisher) would be able to sit in the final delegation.2

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
Unlike the selection and allocation of the at-large delegates, the choosing of the congressional district delegates is more simplistic. There are no restrictions placed on the selection of those delegates. The top three finishers in each district -- among the congressional district delegate candidates3 -- are the three delegates who will represent the district at the national convention.

Delegate allocation (automatic delegates)
Finally, as opposed to past years, the West Virginia presidential preference vote in the primary will actually mean something. However, the upgrade is a minor one at best. As has been the case in a number of other states, the historical pattern has been to leave the three automatic delegates each state has unbound. A change in the binding rules and a further interpretation of them by the RNC general counsel's office has required states will ambiguous rules (with respect to the allocation of those party delegates) to allocate and bind them based on the statewide results. In most cases, that means treating those automatic delegates as if they are at-large delegates.

In West Virginia's case, though, that is impossible. The at-large delegates are directly elected on the primary ballot. Those automatic delegates are not. In such a scenario -- and it is a unique on to West Virginia -- those delegates are to be allocated to the statewide winner.

The winner of the preference vote -- typically a beauty contest vote -- will be allocated all three party delegates to add on to however many other aligned delegates have been elected.

There is some dispute over this between the RNC and the WVGOP, but the delegates are bound to the winning candidate (automatic delegates) or to the presidential candidate with whom they affiliated when filing to run as a delegate candidate. That bond, according to the RNC holds until the delegate is released. This is not a new interpretation on the part of the RNC. West Virginia delegates were similarly treated in 2012 as well: bound until released. The state party may be trying to toe the line in terms of talking up their unbound delegation, but the RNC will be treating them as bound at the Cleveland convention (unless the rules, particularly Rule 16, are changed).

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 Lacking and diversity are, of course, in the eye of the beholder in this case. One person's perception of diversity is another's conception of unfairness.

2 Most of these problems have been rectified by the Trump campaign dipping into some uncommitted delegate reserves aligned with the campaign.

3 Bear in mind that there are still distinct pools of delegate candidates here. There remain at-large and congressional district delegate candidates despite the restrictions placed on the election of the at-large delegates.

Recent Posts:
2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: NEBRASKA

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: INDIANA

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: PENNSYLVANIA

This is part forty-two of a series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation rules by state. The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2016 -- especially relative to 2012 -- in order to gauge the potential impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. For this cycle the RNC recalibrated its rules, cutting the proportionality window in half (March 1-14), but tightening its definition of proportionality as well. While those alterations will trigger subtle changes in reaction at the state level, other rules changes -- particularly the new binding requirement placed on state parties -- will be more noticeable. 


Election type: primary
Date: April 26 
Number of delegates: 71 [14 at-large, 54 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: winner-take-all (at-large/automatic), directly elected (congressional district)
Threshold to qualify for delegates: n/a
2012: loophole primary

Changes since 2012
Looking back over the post-reform era, Pennsylvania is the model of consistency. On the calendar, the Keystone state has rarely packed it up and moved away from its traditional fourth Tuesday in April primary position. And even then, the only break in the pattern was a shift to just the first Tuesday in April for the 2000 cycle. For delegate allocation/selection, Pennsylvania Republicans have always used some variation of the loophole primary method that allows delegates to be directly elected.

However, it is on that front -- delegate allocation/selection -- where Pennsylvania Republicans have made some changes since 2012. The primary date is still the same, and the bigger question was how many states would join Pennsylvania, rather than whether and where the primary in the commonwealth would be moved.1 Yet, due to changes in the Republican National Committee delegate selection rules, Republican Party of Pennsylvania had to change business as usual for 2016.

The RNC -- or rather the delegates at the 2012 convention -- closed off many of the unbound delegate loopholes: eliminating non-binding caucuses and primaries. However, the national party allowed those states -- whether parties and/or governments -- to continue directly electing delegates and exempted any delegates that filed and ran as uncommitted delegates. If a delegate candidate in Illinois or West Virginia filed to run as a delegate aligned with Cruz or Kasich or Trump, then that delegate candidate from either of those states is bound to that candidate.

But Pennsylvania is different. The delegate candidates do not align with a campaign when filing and are uncommitted on the ballot. Directly elected congressional district delegates, then, are unbound. That is the same as it has always been in Pennsylvania, and the RNC change did not alter that.

What changed is the treatment of the similarly traditionally unbound at-large and automatic delegates. In the past, the at-large Pennsylvania delegates were selected by the PAGOP state central committee, but without regard for the vote in the primary election.2 Furthermore, those delegates were to remain unbound as if the primary had only been advisory at best or a beauty contest at worst.

Of course, that practice was and is not consistent with the changes to the national Republican delegate rules 2016. The Republican Party of Pennsylvania could leave well enough alone with the congressional district delegates, but had to tether the selection and allocation of the at-large and automatic delegates to the results of the statewide primary. Instead of being unbound as in 2012 (and before), those 17 delegates will be allocated to the winner of the Pennsylvania primary in 2016.

One other small change is that there were a handful of two and four delegate congressional districts in 2012 to go along with mostly three delegate districts. There is complete uniformity across districts in 2016. All 18 will have three delegate slots at stake.

As the congressional district delegates are directly elected and the at-large and automatic delegates are allocated to the winner of the primary statewide, there are no thresholds at play in the Pennsylvania primary.

Delegate allocation (at-large and automatic delegates)
The 71 delegates are not pooled in Pennsylvania, and as such, different delegates are allocated/treated differently. Pennsylvania, like Illinois, South Carolina, Wisconsin and others both separately allocates at-large and automatic delegates and awards them all to the statewide winner.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
While the Pennsylvania process has a winner-take-all element to it, the plan also contains a wholly unique method of selecting -- not allocating -- congressional district delegates. Unlike other loophole primary states, Pennsylvania delegate candidates have no official affiliation with a particular presidential candidate or their campaign. That is official in that there is no pledge process associated with filing to run as a delegate candidate. As the delegate candidates are running as uncommitted -- unofficially pledged to a candidate or not -- they are treated as unbound by the RNC as a result. The 54 unbound delegates on the line in the primary in the Keystone state represents the largest cache of unbound delegates in any state. In light of the very close chase for 1237 delegates, that means that the election of these delegates takes on an added level of importance.

It is important to note that, though delegate candidates can pledge to a presidential candidate, that in no way binds them to that candidate. And while they can change their minds if/once elected, those delegates tend to be loyal to the candidate to whom they have pledged (if they have pledged).

It is clear, then, that the majority of delegates -- nearly three-quarters of them -- are unbound coming out of the Pennsylvania primary. Those congressional district delegates would be free to shift alliances with candidates before the convention and before the first ballot vote at the convention. However, the remaining 17 delegates will be locked in and bound to the winner of the statewide primary for the first ballot at the convention according to Rule 8.3 of the Rules and Bylaws of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. Should the first ballot prove inconclusive -- no candidate gets to the 1237 delegates needed -- then those 17 delegates would become unbound and join the remainder of the Pennsylvania delegation in that distinction.

The at-large delegates will be selected by the Pennsylvania Republican state central committee at a previously scheduled May 21 meeting.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 There was an effort to move the Pennsylvania primary from April to March that had the support of some Republicans in the state legislature, but that proposal faced opposition from both state parties and was basically dead on arrival in Harrisburg.

2 That is not a fair characterization of the process really. Typically, the selection of the at-large delegates has been done after the point at which a presumptive nominee had emerged. That places less emphasis on ensuring that delegate candidates are either proportionally is disproportionately selected from various competing campaigns when the end result is that everyone will head to the national convention to vote for the eventual nominee. In truth, the Pennsylvania primary has tended to be on or after the point at which a presumptive nominee has emerged. That, in turn, increases the likelihood that the Pennsylvania winner is the presumptive nominee and takes the bulk of the delegate to the national convention anyway.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: ILLINOIS

This is part thirty of a series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation rules by state. The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2016 -- especially relative to 2012 -- in order to gauge the potential impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. For this cycle the RNC recalibrated its rules, cutting the proportionality window in half (March 1-14), but tightening its definition of proportionality as well. While those alterations will trigger subtle changes in reaction at the state level, other rules changes -- particularly the new binding requirement placed on state parties -- will be more noticeable. 


Election type: primary
Date: March 15 
Number of delegates: 69 [12 at-large, 54 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: winner-take-all (at-large/automatic), directly elected (congressional district)
Threshold to qualify for delegates: n/a
2012: loophole primary

Changes since 2012
The basic infrastructure of the Illinois Republican Party delegate allocation/selection process is the same in 2016 as it was in 2012. It is still a loophole primary, that primary is still on the third Tuesday in March, there are still 69 delegates at stake, and congressional district delegates are still elected directly on the presidential primary ballot.1

However, there are a few subtle and not-so-subtle differences. There are a couple of things that fall into that latter, not-so-subtle category. First, the at-large and automatic delegates -- 15 delegates total -- are allocated to the statewide winner of the primary. Those delegates were all unbound in 2012. Second, while the congressional district delegates continue to be directly elected, they are being considered bound to the candidate they aligned with when filing (or being filed) to run as a delegate candidate. In 2012, those delegates were considered unbound. And if a delegate has filed to run as an uncommitted delegate, then those delegates, if elected, would also be unbound at the 2016 convention. The affiliation with a candidate upon filing is the key.

One subtle difference between the 2012 and 2016 processes in Illinois is that for 2016 there are three delegates being elected in each of the 18 congressional districts across the Land of Lincoln. Four years ago, there were a handful of districts that elected just two congressional delegates and other, more populous districts that balanced that out by electing four congressional district delegates.2 The majority of districts still elected just three delegates in 2012, but that has been standardized for this current cycle.

The other small difference is an echo of the winner-take-all allocation of the at-large delegates discussed above. As the Illinois Republican Party suggests...

No, that is not some nod to the vote early, vote often maxim that was the hallmark of the bygone days of Chicago machine politics (though FHQ did chuckle at that segment upon reading it for that very reason). Instead, that statement is a function of how the process works in Illinois. Voters have traditionally voted for a presidential candidate and also congressional district delegates to go to the national convention on the presidential primary ballot. Two types of votes.

However, in the past, that presidential preference vote was largely meaningless. It has never really had a direct bearing on how the delegates would be selected at the state convention.3 This time it does. The allocation of delegate slots to candidates is a direct reflection of who has won the statewide vote in the primary. The results are binding.

Delegate allocation (at-large and automatic delegates)
At-large delegates will continue to be selected at the May state convention, but will be bound based on the statewide vote in the presidential primary. And those 15 delegates will be bound to the winner on top of that.

Nine at-large delegates and nine at-large alternates will be chosen at the Illinois state convention. Additionally, the national committeeman and national committeewoman will be elected at that convention. Participants in that state convention, then, will select 11 delegates and 9 alternates to fill the slots allocated to the statewide winner in the March 15 primary.

The state party chair position is not elected at the state convention, so the current chair will ultimately serve as an automatic delegate to the national convention. That is the only delegate not elected as part of the 2016 process. All three of the automatic delegates -- the state party chair, the national committeeman and the national committeewoman -- all serve as delegates with no alternates.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
The nature of the loophole primary -- the direct election of congressional district delegates -- as FHQ described in the context of the 2012 Illinois primary, is that the statewide winner usually ends up with a disproportionate share of the delegates. In other words, the loophole primary historically has been neither truly proportional nor truly winner-take-all. The allocation tends to end up somewhere in between with the winner taking a greater share of delegates than their share of the statewide vote.

That pattern may or may not hold in a more competitive, multi-candidate race. Trump supporters would theoretically vote for Trump and Trump delegates. All of the other voters in the Not Trump category may find it difficult to choose which other candidates delegates to support. Barring any clear direction there, the vote for Not Trump congressional district delegates will tend to be diluted as compared to Trump's. For example, Cruz supporters may not have as clear an indication that they need to support Kasich or Rubio delegates in a district where Cruz may be at a disadvantage. That is a long way of saying that there is an organization hurdle that the Not Trumps have to overcome in Illinois with which the Trump campaign is not faced.

The Illinois Republican Party rules bind the different types of delegates in a different manner. Since the congressional district delegates are directly elected (and bound to a candidate with whom they have aligned if they have aligned), those elected delegates are bound until released by the candidates. However, the at-large and automatic delegates are bound to the statewide winner through the first ballot at the national convention. If a candidate formally withdraws before the convention and has any at-large or automatic delegates, then those delegates would be released at the point of withdrawal.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 These delegate candidates will continue to appear on the ballot with the name of the candidate to whom they have committed list alongside. Voters know that they are voting for a Trump delegate candidate or a Cruz delegate candidate, etc.

2 Look for the red check marks for an indication of the two and four delegate districts at that AP link.

3 It has helped in most past cycles that the race was decided by the time it got to Illinois or the winner of the primary went on to win the nomination.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: West Virginia

This is the thirty-sixth in a multipart series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation by state.1 The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2012 -- especially relative to 2008 -- in order to gauge the impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. As FHQ has argued in the past, this has often been cast as a black and white change. That the RNC has winner-take-all rules and the Democrats have proportional rules. Beyond that, the changes have been wrongly interpreted in a great many cases as having made a 180ยบ change from straight winner-take-all to straight proportional rules in all pre-April 1 primary and caucus states. That is not the case. 

The new requirement has been adopted in a number of different ways across the states. Some have moved to a conditional system where winner-take-all allocation is dependent upon one candidate receiving 50% or more of the vote and others have responded by making just the usually small sliver of a state's delegate apportionment from the national party -- at-large delegates -- proportional as mandated by the party. Those are just two examples. There are other variations in between that also allow state parties to comply with the rules. FHQ has long argued that the effect of this change would be to lengthen the process. However, the extent of the changes from four years ago is not as great as has been interpreted and points to the spacing of the 2012 primary calendar -- and how that interacts with the ongoing campaign -- being a much larger factor in the accumulation of delegates (Again, especially relative to the 2008 calendar).

For links to the other states' plans see the Republican Delegate Selection Plans by State section in the left sidebar under the calendar.


The story with West Virginia Republican delegate allocation is simple: see Illinois. Well, as FHQ hopes our readers will understand, it is never really as simple as that. Yes, in terms the allocation of congressional district delegates in the Mountain state, the plan is exactly like the method used in Illinois: a loophole primary. Primary voters cast ballots for congressional district delegates directly. And as was the case in Illinois -- unlike Pennsylvania -- those delegates' candidate affiliations are listed with the delegate candidates on the ballot. The twist in West Virginia is that, unlike Illinois, at-large delegates are also directly elected on the primary ballot.2 With the exception of the automatic delegates, then, all of the delegates who will attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa will be selected in the primary election.

West Virginia delegate breakdown:
  • 31 total delegates
  • 19 at-large delegates
  • 9 congressional district delegates 
  • 3 automatic delegates
As FHQ has described in the past, loophole primaries -- even in instances when the delegates' candidate affiliations are listed on the ballot -- tend to favor the front-running and/or establishment candidate. That candidate is typically the one who is the most successful in enlisting the help of known political quantities in a state as delegates. And while that may be true in 2012 as well, this cycle and the candidate filings in West Virginia offer an interesting mathematical possibility. Now, to be sure, Mitt Romney did quite well in Pennsylvania by virtue of having locked in Pennsylvania Republican Party activists to delegate slots. As I said before Pennsylvania, Romney voters did not necessarily have cues other than name recognition that online-organized Paul voters had: a list of Paul-aligned delegates. That offered an interesting test case of name recognition versus organization and name recognition won over a small faction of organized Paul voters.

Similarly, there is an open door to Paul voters in Pennsylvania neighbor, West Virginia, as well. Romney will very likely have name recognition on his side in the Mountain state primary -- His name will be listed next to his delegates. -- but will more and potentially less disciplined Romney voters lose out mathematically to fewer Paul voters. Let me explain. The Romney campaign overfiled delegates in West Virginia. Instead of 19 at-large delegates, the Romney campaign filed 24. Instead of three delegates in each of the congressional districts, the Romney campaign filed at least seven. By contrast, the Paul campaign filed the bare minimum number of delegates in the state: three in each of the three congressional districts and 19 at-large delegates. All told, that means that Romney's likely greater number of total votes statewide and in each of the congressional districts will be split among a greater number of delegate slots. Voters are selecting delegates individually, not as candidate slates. That means that Romney voters may split their vote because the Romney campaign overfiled.

Paul voters, on the other hand, will not be diluting their voting power. If Ron Paul voters are voting for all of Paul's delegates and not for some of the uncommitted slots, then all of those Paul votes will go to all of Paul's delegates. They won't be split like the Romney vote.

The big question watching the West Virginia returns is whether there is enough of a split among Romney votes to allow Paul delegates to make up the likely differential between the two candidates statewide? We shall see.

[Hat tip to the anonymous commenters who asked about delegate vote dilution in the Question Time comments.]

1 FHQ would say 50 part, but that doesn't count the territories and Washington, DC.

2 The at-large delegate slots in Illinois are chosen at the state convention.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

There's a reason the Santorum campaign didn't mention West Virginia in its delegate conference call last week

If you listened in on or followed the parallel twitter conversation around the Santorum campaign conference call last week on the delegate math, you heard that...
  1. ...the April contests were hardly mentioned and/or...
  2. ...the campaign views May as much friendlier -- delegate-wise -- territory.
To expand on the second point, the Santorum campaign revealed that it is looking ahead/emphasizing contests like North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas. All of those are southern/border states where the Santorum candidacy can or could conceivably resonate with voters. Given the geography/demography of where/who the former Pennsylvania senator has done will in/with, this makes sense.

But do you know which state is missing from the list? West Virginia.


The Mountain state is obviously a state where one could see if not Santorum doing well, then Romney not faring so well (...with Santorum or another candidate doing well by default). [See, for example, below the national average statistics for income and education.] If that happens to be the case, then why is the Santorum campaign not targeting West Virginia. The argument could be made that West Virginia does not represent that big of a delegate haul and with only 28 contested delegates at stake, that's fair. It is not as delegate-rich as any of the above target states.

The main factor hurting Santorum, however, is the same problem his campaign has had elsewhere: ballot access. That is, ballot access not so much for him, but for him both statewide and in each of the congressional districts or with getting delegates on the ballot. In West Virginia, the problem is a combination of the two. Santorum is on the ballot, but like Illinois, that vote is meaningless. Primary voters in West Virginia on May 8 will also directly elect delegates -- both at-large and by congressional district. There are 19 at-large delegate slots in West Virginia. Romney has filed 24 delegates, Gingrich 23 and Paul 19. Santorum has three delegates who his campaign has filed or have both filed and are committed to his candidacy.

Additionally, there are three delegate slots per each of the three West Virginia congressional districts. Romney has filed at least seven delegates in each of the districts, Gingrich has filed at least three delegates in each district (with double that number in one district and over triple the minimum in another), and Paul has filed the minimum full slate of three in each district. Santorum? Well, the former senator filed two delegates in the first congressional district and that is it. He will not have Santorum delegates on the ballot for the congressional district spots in either the second or third congressional district.

Now, to be fair that isn't all she wrote. There are other options at the disposal of Santorum/not Romney supporters. Again, both Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have full slates of delegates filed. But there are also a host of uncommitted delegates who have filed as well. There are 42 uncommitted at-large delegates filed statewide and there are seven, 10 and 11 uncommitted delegates filed in the first, second and third congressional districts, respectively. Voters also have the option of writing in names on the West Virginia ballot. The catch with coordinating either uncommitted slate voting and/or a write-in campaign is that that will take campaign organization and discipline to pull off.1

That may be organization/discipline that is more efficiently expended elsewhere -- in more delegate-rich states, for instance -- than in West Virginia. That said, the Mountain state is another one of those potential missed opportunities for Santorum; a place where he could do well, but may have to hope for Gingrich or Paul to exceed expectations to prevent Romney from getting any or many of the delegates from that loophole primary because he -- Santorum -- is not on the ballot. Once again, in an overall sense, this speaks to the difficulty in running an ad hoc campaign organization against a well-organized, well-funded frontrunner; even if it is a nominal frontrunner.

It is tough to play catch up on the fly.

1 Of course, to the extent that uncommitted delegates emerge from these elections, those are free agents that any of the campaigns, Santorum included, can go after.

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Race to 1144: Louisiana Primary

The Myth of Proportionality's Impact is Dead

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Louisiana

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Illinois Republicans Stick with Loophole Primary, Voting Down Resolution

The Illinois Republican State Central Committee voted down a resolution tonight to change the allocation of party's 2012 presidential delegates. By a vote of 11-6, the committee voted to maintain the party's traditional loophole primary in the March 20, 2012 presidential primary in the Land of Lincoln. What this means is that Illinois Republicans will continue to vote for delegates directly -- along with a poll of presidential preference -- on the primary ballot as opposed to voting for the candidates and having candidate campaign-selected delegates make up the Illinois delegation to the Republican National Convention.

For more, please see FHQ's earlier post on the draft resolution by the Illinois Republican Party.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Draft Resolution Changes to 2012 Illinois Republican Delegate Selection Rules

There has been some discussion over the last few days about the potential impact of a series of proposed changes to the traditional delegate selection rules employed by the Illinois Republican Party. Is it a proxy war between the Romney and Perry camps? Is it a fundamental departure from the loophole primary rules? Does it represent a switch to proportional allocation of Illinois Republican delegates? Without the actual rules changes before us, though, it is difficult to assess just how much impact the proposed changes would have.

But now we have access to the draft resolutions seeking to change the Republican delegate selection rules in Illinois. The picture painted indicates some interesting changes to the rules. For starters, there continues to be a tremendous problem throwing around the terms winner-take-all and proportionality without much consideration of the lines gradation between them. FHQ will continue to urge those following these changes -- in Illinois or elsewhere -- to look closely at the rules or proposed rules changes.

Let's breakdown the proposal and attempt to assess the changes.

  • First of all, the allocation of the bulk of the Illinois Republican delegates -- those apportioned to the state based on population (three delegates per each of the state's 18 congressional districts) -- is now being done proportionally. That is a fairly significant change. In other words, for 54 of the state's 69 delegates, the allocation method has changed from directly electing delegates who express a candidate preference to allocating delegates based on the percentage of the vote a candidate has received. The interesting thing is that the proposed changes constantly cite the rules  put in place by the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee, but does not utilize the full measure of leeway built into those rules. Illinois Republicans could simply have changed the formula for the allocation of at-large delegates and left it at that. That the switch to proportionality extends to the congressional district delegates is indicative of a broader change;  changes being spearheaded by someone in the Romney camp.
  • For those 54 delegates plus 12 of the remaining 15 delegates (3 are automatic delegates -- party officials -- who are not bound by the primary results), the rules change proposals call for a couple of triggers. The trigger receiving the most discussion is the 50% threshold. If one candidate surpasses the 50% of the statewide vote barrier, that candidate receives all of the at-large delegates. Winner-take-all. That also applies to the votes within congressional districts. If a candidate clears the 50% mark in the congressional district, that candidate nets all of the delegates in that district. Again, winner-take-all. 
  • The second trigger is a floor trigger (as opposed to the ceiling trigger above). Candidates must clear a certain vote percentage in order to lay claim to any delegates. In the past Illinois has had no minimum threshold.1 The maximum threshold allowed by the 2012 Republican rules is 20% The draft resolutions being considered in Illinois, however, propose dropping that threshold to 10%. Candidates winning 10% or more of the vote in the March 20 Illinois primary will receive a proportional portion of the 54 congressional district delegates and also the 12 at-large delegates if no candidate wins a majority of the vote either statewide or in the congressional district.

If these rules are instituted their impact will largely depend on the dynamics of the race as it approaches March 20. If the race is down to just two candidates, the chances that one of the candidates receives 50% of the vote statewide or on the congressional district level increases. If however, someone like Ron Paul sticks around as he did in 2008, that could affect Romney's or Perry's or Bachmann's ability to reach 50% and claim all of the delegates, whether at-large or in the congressional district. Those are some pretty big ifs though. IF there are more than two active candidates in the race. More importantly, IF these rules changes are passed by the Illinois Republican Party State Central Committee. Of course, it also depends on the race hinging on delegate count instead of one candidate overwhelming the race early -- something that seems somewhat remote, at least from our September 2011 vantage point. March 2012 is still a ways off.

1 Please note that an earlier version of this post said that Illinois in previous years had a 20% minimum threshold. That is not the case. The state party has not had a minimum threshold prior to this -- assuming the rules change. FHQ is stuck in a "reading primary bills" mindset where strikethroughs in bills mean that is a portion of the bill that is being replaced. Again, that is not the case with this draft resolution. The 20% figure was from a previous draft of the resolution. Thanks to Steven Daglas of the Illinois Republican Party for pointing that out.

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