Showing posts with label state parties. Show all posts
Showing posts with label state parties. Show all posts

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Sunday Series: About that Unique Michigan Republican Primary-Caucus Plan (Part One)

News broke Friday that Michigan Republicans had come to a consensus and were prepared to vote on whether the party would go the primary or caucus route in the presidential nomination process for 2024. 

Rather than automatically utilize the state-run primary as the state party had done every competitive Republican presidential nomination cycle following 1988, the Michigan GOP was backed into a corner on its 2024 plans based on four main factors:
  1. Democrats in the state took unified control of state government in the Great Lakes state after the November 2022 midterm elections. 
  2. At least partially (if not completely) because of that flip in control of the state legislature and Democrats retaining the governor's office, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted to add the Michigan presidential primary to early window lineup of states on the 2024 presidential primary calendar. Michigan Democrats seized on the opportunity to have an earlier, if not greater, voice in the nomination process and moved to comply with the new DNC calendar rules for 2024.
  3. However, the new February 27 date for the state-run Michigan presidential primary would violate Republican National Committee (RNC) rules prohibiting states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina from holding primaries or caucuses before March 1. Opting into the primary, would open Michigan Republicans up to the super penalty associated with a violation of those timing rules, which would strip the state party of all but 12 delegates (nine delegates plus the three automatic/party delegates) to the national convention. 
  4. Regardless of the potential for penalties from a rogue primary, Michigan Republicans, under new leadership as of early 2023, were already leery of a state-run presidential primary process that would be open not only to Republicans and independents (who want to affiliate with the party in the primary) but Democrats as well. 
Given those factors, the Michigan GOP in consultation with the RNC did not look on the primary or caucus question for 2024 as either/or but rather as one and the other. In a revised resolution of intent adopted on Saturday, June 10, Michigan Republicans chose to split 2024 delegate allocation across both the February 27 primary and congressional district caucuses to be held on Saturday, March 2. In a statement following the vote the Michigan Republican Party said the following1:
In a move that threatens electoral representation and undermines the voices of Republican voters in Michigan, the Michigan’s Democrat controlled legislature advanced the Michigan presidential primary to February 27th. This would automatically cause an RNC penalty reducing Michigan Republican delegates at the RNC convention in Milwaukee from 55 to 12!  
This resolution complies with RNC rules and avoids the penalty. 
The Democrats thought they held the keys to whether Michigan Republicans have a voice regarding who is our nominee for president. 
They set the stage to make our process dependent upon when the Democrats end the Michigan’s legislative session. Today that control was destroyed. 

Cutting through the spin
Okay, revisit those four factors FHQ laid out above because they are important in pushing past the spin in all of this and getting to the crux of the matter. 

First, it is highly unlikely that either Michigan Democrats or Democrats in the national party were ever rubbing their hands together, saying "We've got Michigan Republicans now!" The timeline on the Democratic primary calendar decision suggests otherwise. The national party waited until after the midterms -- after it was clear which party was going to be in control of a variety of state governments -- before it settled on a lineup for the 2024 early window. Michigan, already an attractive option to the members of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, became even more attractive once it was clear after the November elections that the state would be under Democratic control. 

The national party decision on the calendar and any subsequent moves made in Lansing were made to affect the Democratic primary. There was little regard for the Republican process. And perhaps that is problematic. However, national Democrats have been rebuffed by the RNC over the last two cycles in their efforts to even informally coordinate the calendar. And on the state level in Michigan, it was Republicans in the state legislature who were driving a legislative push to an even earlier February primary date just a few months ago in late 2022. 

But shunt all of that to side for a moment. Democrats in Lansing and elsewhere were never really in control of anything other than moving the state-run primary anyway. Michigan Republicans always had paths out of trouble. But they were going to need a waiver from the RNC no matter what they chose to do. The point is that Michigan Republicans potentially had a national party waiver at their disposal if they successfully made that case before the RNC. Ultimately, it was state Democrats who had made the change and shifted the primary to a point on the calendar that violated RNC rules. And those rules have outs for just these types of possibilities.

Yet, choosing to go the caucus route would have potentially required a waiver from the RNC too. Michigan Republicans could not just choose to conduct caucuses. Those caucuses would have had to follow the February 27 primary to remain compliant with the RNC rules on timing. But merely opting to hold caucuses would not have ended the primary. Under state law that primary would have gone on as a beauty contest. And under RNC Rule 16 (a)(1), any statewide vote "must be used to allocate and bind the state's delegation to the national convention..." [Put a pin in section of the RNC rules. It is important for Part Two.] To hold caucuses after a statewide vote like that is counter to the intent of the rule, the language of which was added to prevent a double vote and/or non-binding scenario like those that proliferated in the 2012 cycle.

An RNC waiver would have provided a way to circumvent that conflict. But so, too, would have legal action on first amendment, freedom of association grounds (if the national party was for some reason not receptive to issuing a waiver). Political parties have a right to determine how they associate and who associates with the organization. Nominations fall under that banner, or precedent holds that they do anyway. 

The bottom line is this: If Michigan Republicans want to say that Democrats made the primary change without consulting them, then that is fine. That is a fair criticism. If the state party additionally wants to argue it prefers a caucus/convention system closed to all but registered Republicans to an open primary that allows non-Republicans to participate, then that is fine too. That is also legitimate. But exaggerating the control state Democrats have over the process is just that: an exaggeration. That is even more true in light of the fact that Michigan Republicans had recourse. They had ways around Democratic "control." One need not pretend otherwise.

1 The full statement from the Michigan Republican Party after the vote on the resolution:
The Michigan Republican Party Protects the Voice of Michigan Republican Voters 
Grand Rapids, MI – June 10th, 2023 – In a move that threatens electoral representation and undermines the voices of Republican voters in Michigan, the Michigan’s Democrat controlled legislature advanced the Michigan presidential primary to February 27th. This would automatically cause an RNC penalty reducing Michigan Republican delegates at the RNC convention in Milwaukee from 55 to 12!  
This resolution complies with RNC rules and avoids the penalty. 
The Democrats thought they held the keys to whether Michigan Republicans have a voice regarding who is our nominee for president. 
They set the stage to make our process dependent upon when the Democrats end the Michigan’s legislative session. Today that control was destroyed.  
The Michigan Republican Party would have been derelict in duty, and grossly irresponsible to leave the decision of full delegate representation of Michigan Republicans in the hands of the Democrats.  
Republican voters are tired of the party seeking to cut deals with Democrats instead of protecting the voice and interest of Republican voters.  
This drastic reduction in representation at the Republican National Convention would have marginalized millions of voters and stifled our ability to have a meaningful say in the selection of the 2024 Republican presidential nominee. The Resolution of Intent passed by the Michigan Republican Party State Committee protects the voice of millions of Republican voters across Michigan by ensuring the will of those voting in the primary will be heard.  
This resolution simultaneously prevents the RNC penalty.  
Recognizing the urgency and gravity of this situation, the Michigan Republican Party State Committee took decisive action today. The Michigan Republican Party has taken a crucial step towards ensuring fair representation for their constituents. 
"The Michigan Republican Party stands firmly against any attempts to diminish representation of Michigan Republicans," said Kristina Karamo, Chair of the Michigan Republican Party.  
"We are committed to preserving the integrity of the electoral process and guaranteeing that all Michigan voters, regardless of their political affiliation, have an equal opportunity to participate in the primary process." 
For those in the party who do not trust the election system run by the Secretary of State due to election integrity concerns, they now have a representative voice for some of the delegates from Michigan.  
By asserting their commitment to protecting the rights of Republican voters in the state, the Michigan Republican Party has demonstrated their dedication to preserving a fair and inclusive electoral system. 
The Michigan Republican Party encourages all Michigan voters to stay informed and engaged in the political process. By participating in the upcoming primary elections, voters can make their voices heard and contribute to shaping the future of our great state. 


Monday, February 1, 2021

Iowa Will Not Go Gentle into That Good Night for 2024

Another Monday and another Iowa and 2024 story that lingered over the weekend. This time, John McCormick at the Wall Street Journal has more from on the ground in the Hawkeye state about the efforts to save the caucuses one more time.

One thing that FHQ touched on last week was that if a change was to be made to the early part of the presidential primary calendar in 2024, then it would be in the national parties' interests to come to some formal or informal agreement about what that might look like. Things are much more likely to stick long term that way. And that stability -- certainty, as FHQ tends to call it -- is something that not only both major parties typically like in these nominations processes, but those playing the game -- the candidates and their campaigns -- do too. 

Lack of agreement at the national party level is something that could be potentially exploited by state political parties, especially those attempting to protect the status quo. If national Democrats opt to drop the Iowa caucuses and the Republican National Committee decides to stick it out one more cycle (or even indefinitely), then the two state parties in the Hawkeye state can use that "disagreement" to their advantage by sticking together. 

And that is exactly what the two Iowa parties are going to do. It is what McCormick describes in his reporting and what Iowa state parties have done with consistency in the efforts to save their position when threatened throughout the post-reform era. 

What is more, that sort of cohesion exists not only in Iowa but across the four carve-out states. As Republican Party of Iowa chair, Jeff Kaufmann said to McCormick:

"...the four early states -- sometimes referred to as carve-out states because of their special status on the party calendars -- are unified in their commitment to maintaining the status quo, at least on the Republican side."

Whether that extends to the Democratic deliberations for 2024 remains to be seen. But newly elected DNC  chair, Jaime Harrison does hail from South Carolina. That could mean an effort to strip out contests that were not representative to the broader party (like the three states that preceded South Carolina on the 2020 Democratic primary calendar). But it could also translate to a maintenance of the status quo if the delegations from each carve-out state's party to the DNC sees benefit in coalescing. 

That the state parties are on the same page in Iowa is typical. That the four carve-out states have begun to seek some strength in numbers is a more recent development. But both are meaningful to the discussions that will decide what the 2024 presidential primary calendar ultimately looks like. 

Follow FHQ on TwitterInstagram and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

North Carolina Republicans Have Tweaked Their Delegate Allocation Formula, but...

North Carolina Republicans had a bit of a roller coaster ride in 2015 with respect to how the party's plans for delegate selection came together.

First, North Carolina law at the time tethered the presidential primary in the Tar Heel state to the primary in South Carolina. That was a position -- prior to March 1 -- out of compliance with the national party rules.

Then, in an effort to remedy the calendar issue, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation (which was subsequently signed into law) that not only shifted the primary election date back into compliance but called for a winner-take-allocation of delegates. The latter of those changes was then ignored by the North Carolina Republican Party when the party opted for a straight proportional allocation of national convention delegates.1

But most of that law expired after the 2016 primaries. The primary date reverted to its position tethered to the South Carolina primary and the allocation method called for in state law again defaulted to proportional.

However, the tinkering has continued on both fronts -- within the state party and in the state legislature -- during the 2020 cycle. But the actions from both in that span have conflicted with one another and again threatens the compliance of the NCGOP delegate selection process. At the same time that legislation was active in 2017 in the General Assembly to schedule the North Carolina presidential primary for Super Tuesday (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March), North Carolina Republicans were voting to make the method of allocation more winner-take-all. That legislation became law in 2018, pushing the presidential primary in the Tar Heel state into the proportionality window (where winner-take-all rules are conditionally prohibited).

Now, while that combination of primary date and allocation rules is non-compliant under 2020 RNC delegate selection rules, it is not a problem, per se. And FHQ will explain why in a moment. But first, let us step through the changes that have been made to the allocation rules to this point.

For the 2016 cycle, North Carolina Republicans pooled all of their delegates (at-large, congressional district and automatic) and proportionally allocated them based on the statewide primary results. Additionally, there was no defined qualifying threshold. In other words, 1) the 2016 NCGOP allocation method was a close to mathematical proportionality as it gets and 2) that allowed for candidates receiving a very marginal share of the statewide primary vote to win delegates. Ben Carson, for example, only won roughly one percent of the vote in the 2016 North Carolina primary, but that was good enough to round him up to one delegate of the state's 72.

Few other states had a bar set so low for a candidate to be allocated any delegates. North Carolina, then, was inconsistent in its method of allocation compared with its peer states, much less the entire pool of states and territories. That gave the NCGOP room for some maneuvering during the 2020 cycle. And tinker they did in 2017.

In assembling a new plan in 2017, North Carolina Republicans shifted away from low bar proportionality and added several new layers that are similar to neighboring states.
  • From the Tennessee Republican method, the NCGOP borrowed a fairly high, two-thirds winner-take-all threshold for the allocation of congressional district delegates. Of the states that have winner-take-all thresholds in the Republican nomination process, the vast majority set it at its lowest point, a bare majority. If a candidate wins a majority of the vote, then that candidate wins all of the delegates either statewide or within a given congressional district. A two-thirds winner-take-all trigger is obviously a more difficult bar to hit (especially potentially in a crowded field of candidates).
  • From the Georgia Republican allocation method, the NCGOP mimicked the unique proportional allocation scheme for congressional district delegates. If no candidate reaches the two-thirds threshold, then the allocation system awards two delegates to the top vote-getter and the other congressional district delegate to the second highest candidate, but only if both candidates are above the 20 percent qualifying threshold. If only the top candidate clears that barrier in a given congressional district, then all three delegates go to that candidate. That is the backdoor winner-take-all scenario (but confined to just the congressional district level).
  • From the South Carolina Republican allocation method, the NCGOP took its new method for allocating at-large delegates. Under the South Carolina system -- and now the North Carolina Republican system -- the plurality winner of the statewide vote wins all of the at-large delegates from the state. 
The elements borrowed from Tennessee and Georgia are both consistent with RNC rules. Yes, the combination contains winner-take-all elements, but those thresholds are rules-compliant. So, too, is the unique proportional allocation. No, that sort of top two allocation method is not exactly mathematically proportional, but there are only so many ways that three congressional district delegates can be allocated proportionally. This is one of them.

But the winner-take-all element that is akin to the South Carolina delegate selection process is not rules-compliant for a primary that is scheduled before March 15. And it is that segment of the NCGOP plan of organization that will have to change to come back into compliance.

That is a problem, right?

Technically, yes. But North Carolina Republicans are on top of it. A change to the at-large delegate allocation is on the agenda for the June 6-9 North Carolina Republican Party state convention in Concord. If adopted -- and the party has a persuasive case built on compliance issues to take to state convention delegates -- the allocation of at-large delegates would become more conditionally proportional. Under the proposal, the allocation of at-large delegates would...
  1. Remain winner-take-all in the event that such a scheme is consistent with national party rules. While it is not, the insertion of this element is crafted with future cycles in mind. Should the RNC rescind the proportionality window in the future, then the NCGOP already has language included to allow for a winner-take-all allocation of at-large delegates. Even without a change on that front from the RNC, the NCGOP would have the foundation in place for a winner-take-all allocation of delegates should the North Carolina primary be scheduled for a later date, outside the proportionality window. 
  2. Be proportional to all candidates with more than 20 percent of the vote statewide in the primary.
Those changes would bring the North Carolina Republican Party delegate selection process back into compliance with RNC rules. However, what is noteworthy is what is missing in this latest round of proposed changes. There is, for example, no equivalent two-thirds threshold to conditionally award all at-large delegates to a candidate in a way similar to the allocation of congressional district delegates.

In other words, this plan is not quite as helpful to an incumbent president as it could be. And that breaks to some degree from the narrative that the RNC in concert with state parties is working to engineer a delegate selection system that is maximally advantageous to President Trump. Like Massachusetts Republicans, the NCGOP plan moves in the direction of assisting the president, but unlike those Bay state changes, the North Carolina move does not turn the knob as far in the president's favor as it could have.

1 "Ignored" may not be the best way of describing that. State parties ultimately have the discretion to set their own rules for delegate allocation. And the North Carolina Republican Party certainly used that discretion in the midst of the consideration the 2015 bill cited above. That said, the bill-turned-law set the method of allocation for winner-take-all, but allowed state parties an opt-out if that baseline was inconsistent with national party rules. But for Tar Heel state Republicans, a March 15 presidential primary was outside the proportionality window, and thus the winner-take-all scheme was compliant with national party rules. Nonetheless, North Carolina Republicans chose a proportional method of allocation with no qualifying threshold.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Massachusetts GOP Rules Change Adds an Element of Winner-Take-All to 2020 Delegate Allocation

The Massachusetts Republican Party has adopted changes to its method of allocating national convention delegates for the 2020 cycle according to Stephanie Murray at Politico. New in 2020 will be a winner-take-all trigger that will award all of the Republican delegates in the Bay state to any candidate who receives a majority of the vote in the Super Tuesday Massachusetts primary.

While that addition is not without import, one should take a step back before ramming it into the "change the rules to help Trump" narrative. On the surface, adding a winner-take-all trigger would theoretically benefit a popular (within party) incumbent president. And that is more true in light of the facts (at this time) that President Trump is likely to face only token opposition and from a very limited number of candidates. The closer the number of challengers is to one, the greater the chances are that Trump hits the winner-take-all trigger.

That sounds like advantage Trump, right?

Yes, but as is often the case with respect to rules changes, there is a bit of context that is missing from the Politico piece.

First, Murray overstates the extent of the change via a misleading description attributed to Dean Cavaretta, Trump's 2016 Massachusetts state director. The rules change does not "eliminate" the traditional proportional allocation of delegates in Massachusetts. Instead, it makes the overall allocation conditional on the results. If no candidate receives a majority, then the allocation is proportional among all qualifying candidates. However, if one candidate clears the majority threshold then a winner-take-all allocation is triggered.

And that reality neatly dovetails with another issue in the Politico story: the replication of these winner-take-all triggers in other states. But here is the thing: Massachusetts is actually joining other early calendar states on the Republican side in using a conditional trigger in the allocation process. FHQ says "early" because under the rules of the Republican party for 2020, states with delegate selection events prior to March 15 have to meet the RNC definition of proportional in the state-level allocation rules. But while states have to maintain some measure of proportional allocation, winner-take-all triggers are allowed and can be set as low as 50 percent. This is what Massachusetts has done with its rules change for 2020. The party has added a trigger.

But again, that addition brings the Massachusetts Republican delegate allocation process in line with other early states. Of the eleven Super Tuesday states with defined allocation rules in 2016, Massachusetts was one of just three to lack a winner-take-all trigger. And six of the remaining eight states set a winner-take-all trigger of 50 percent. [The other two had much higher winner-take-all thresholds.]

The question, then, is not really whether other states will replicate the Massachusetts Republican strategy, but rather, whether the small number of states without those triggers will add them and join the majority of states that had them as part of their rules before Trump even came down the escalator in June 2015.

The trigger addition won the headlines, but the real essence of this change is geared toward the delegate selection process. It is on that front that the Massachusetts Republican Party has had some issues over at least the last two presidential nomination cycles, issues this change in allocation method indirectly impacts.

The 2016 RNC Rules Committee meeting that preceded the national convention in Cleveland saw a showdown over the binding of delegates (based on the results of primaries and caucuses). During the 2016 nomination process a vocal minority of activists argued against binding based on the fact that delegates elected/selected may have other allegiances. In other words, the two processes -- allocation and selection -- could point in different directions. Trump could overwhelmingly win a Massachusetts primary and be allocated a set number of delegate slots, but Cruz candidates for delegates in the Bay state could be selected to fill some of those slots. As the argument went, those Cruz-sympathetic delegates could not, under the rules, be forced to vote for Trump at the convention.

However, that argument lost at the 2016 Republican National Convention. But it was spurred, in part, by things that had happened in Massachusetts in 2012 and 2016. In 2012, it was Ron Paul delegate candidates in Massachusetts who were selected to Romney-won slots from the Super Tuesday Massachusetts primary. They later were disqualified. And the Ted Cruz campaign attempted to follow the Paul plan in Massachusetts (and elsewhere) in 2016.

But those problems lie in the selection process, not the allocation process.

[UPDATED, 5/7/19 1:45pm]

And the Massachusetts Republican Party addressed that as well. In lieu of the problematic caucus/convention process, the party has shifted the delegate selection responsibility to other entities. Under the new plan, the state party chair would select one-third of the 27 congressional district delegates, the state committee would select another third of the congressional district delegates and the qualifying presidential candidates would select the remaining third of the congressional district delegates and the 11 at-large delegates.

This is the bigger change. This is the change that most benefits Trump and especially if the president clears the 50 percent winner-take-all threshold. There is far less room for the sorts of shenanigans that  hampered the party in its delegate selection process each of the last two cycles.

Thanks to Evan Lips, Communications Director at the Massachusetts Republican Party for passing along the plan adopted last week by the party's State Committee.

Quick glance at the delegate allocation process:

  • The plan confirms that the baseline allocation is proportional (as it has typically been in Massachusetts). 
  • To qualify for delegates, a candidate must win at least 20 percent of the vote. That is an increase over the 5 percent qualifying threshold the party used in 2016. It is also the maximum qualifying threshold allowed under RNC rules for 2020. That means that the protest vote would have to be quite large against an incumbent president running for renomination for any challenger to receive delegates under this plan. 
  • Again, as stated above, if a candidate receives a majority of more of the vote in the Massachusetts Republican presidential primary, then that candidate is allocated all of the state's delegates. 
  • There is no backdoor to a winner-take-all allocation. This can in some states happen if a candidate is the only candidate to clear the qualifying threshold but not the winner-take-all threshold. Hypothetically, for example, if Trump again received 49 percent of the vote in the Massachusetts primary (as he did in 2016), then under the 2020 Massachusetts Republican rules, at least the runner-up would receive some delegates even if that runner-up received less than 20 percent of the vote. Again, using the 2016 results but 2020 rules, Kasich would have received a share of the delegates (split with Trump) even though he only got 18 percent of the vote in the primary. Rubio, less than a thousand votes behind Kasich would be locked out of the allocation. 

Follow FHQ on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Washington State Democrats Opt for Presidential Primary Over Caucuses

It was decision time this past weekend as the Washington State Democratic Party convened in Pasco. Among the items on the agenda was delegate selection in 2020. Chiefly, the question before the Rules Committee on Saturday and the State Coordinating Committee on Sunday was whether the party would continue to use the caucus/convention system it has used to allocate and select delegates to the national convention throughout the post-reform era.

But a newly early and revamped semi-open presidential primary bill signed into law in March removed most of the conflicts the Democratic Party in the Evergreen state have historically had with the primary option available to Washington parties in the past. Moreover, the state party has been facing pressure from vocal Democrats in the state to make the process more democratic; something that was demonstrated by the over 93 percent support for the primary option in an unscientific poll open during the draft delegate selection plan public comment period. On top of that, the national party rules for the 2020 cycle urge state parties to increase participation and use state-run primaries where available.

In total, that was enough to nudge the Washington State Democratic Party to break with tradition. By a vote of 11-5 on Saturday, the Rules Committee recommended that the party shift to the primary option. That was followed on Sunday by 121-40 vote by the State Coordinating Committee in favor of a primary.

The decision officially moves Washington Democrats into a March 10 slot on the 2020 presidential primary calendar. That primary will coincide with contests in six other states including the primary in neighboring Idaho.

The Washington primary change is now reflected on the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.

1/16/19: Washington State Legislation Would Again Try to Move Presidential Primary to March

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Nevada Democrats Release Draft Delegate Selection Plan

Although some of the details came to light a couple of weeks ago, Nevada Democrats on Wednesday, March 20 released their draft delegate selection plan for the 2020 cycle, providing a fuller accounting of how the party will select and allocate delegates. The devil is always in the details:

The process
Before digging in, let's go over some basics. First of all, the is a draft. All Democratic state parties are tasked with devising a draft delegate selection plan that it then releases publicly and opens to public comment for at least 30 days. On or before May 3, those state parties then submit both the draft plans and any comments collected from the public to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) for review. The RBC then approves the plan or more often requests some changes that state parties typically work on over the summer.

What Nevada Democrats released today, then, is not a finished product. It may or may not -- in whole or in part -- pass muster with the RBC.

The delegate toplines
The draft plan confirms that Nevada Democrats will have a total of 48 delegates apportioned to the state for 2020. That is five delegates more than the 43 total delegates the party had in 2016. As in 2016, there will be 36 pledged delegates in 2020 in the Nevada delegation. That includes eight at-large delegates, 23 congressional district delegates and five party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates. Most of that is just the same as it was for 2016. The only difference comes from the addition of one at-large delegate. That means that the remaining gain in total delegates cycle over cycle came entirely from the superdelegates (one governor, one senator and two additional Democratic members of the US House).

Just as in 2016, there is only one congressional district in Nevada with an odd number of delegates for 2020. This is a marginal consideration, especially in a winnowing contest (as opposed to those later contests where the game changes to counting delegates), but it can present an opportunity to the district winners in the rounding to determine the allocation of whole, rather than fractional, delegates. [There is some additional insight on this here in the table footnotes.]

The changes that will grab attention

...and affect strategy
The easiest thing to do here is to use previously released draft delegate selection plans from other caucus states as touch points. As FHQ mentioned recently in discussing the North Dakota draft plan, there is a range of responses to the new DNC rules regarding expectations for caucus states with respect to increasing participation. This scale runs from basically a party-run primary (North Dakota) to more traditional caucuses with alternate means of participating (Iowa). As was hypothesized then, the earlier carve-out state caucuses are in a position of having to dance around state law in New Hampshire because both Iowa and Nevada bookend the primary in the Granite state and have some interest in maintaining the delicate balance with regard to calendar scheduling. Later caucus state, then, may feel more empowered -- if they have the resources -- to move in the direction of so-called "firehouse caucuses" than the two earlier caucus states that must in some way tiptoe around the "similar contest"distinction that the New Hampshire secretary of state is charged with assessing.

Nevada, we would then expect, is closer to Iowa than North Dakota. And it is.

Like Iowa, Nevada will add virtual caucuses in its attempt at expanding participation in the overarching caucus process. In the draft plan, Nevada Democrats will add a couple of no excuse online fora for Democrats to vote on either Sunday, February 16 or Monday, February 17.

Unlike Iowa, Nevada Democrats plan on allowing a window for early voting at locations yet to be determined as well. The four day early voting window stretches from Saturday, February 15 through Tuesday, February 18 and will provide an additional outlet for participation.

Another important difference between the Iowa and Nevada draft plans is that Nevada Democrats are not capping the input that the virtual caucuses or early voting will have on the process. Recall that draft plan in Iowa limits the impact of the virtual caucuses in the Hawkeye state by capping the number of delegates moving on to the next step in the Iowa process to just 10 percent. That may or may not hold up to RBC scrutiny and remains something of an unknown moving forward. But comparatively, whereas the Iowa draft plan makes some attempt at preserving the traditional caucuses (through the virtual caucuses cap), the Nevada Democratic Party does not.

Nevada Democrats, then, are theoretically opening up the floodgates on participation. This has implications for how candidates and their campaigns will approach both states. In Iowa, the onus is on the campaigns to identify those caucusgoers who would be best suited for that format. Attempting to run up the score in the virtual caucuses will not yield a good return on investment because of that cap. Candidates, then, still have incentives to play the traditional caucus game in Iowa. The system is engineered toward that end.

But the incentives are different in Nevada (or will be if this plan or some variation of it is accepted by the RBC). With no cap, campaigns have every reason, if they have the resources to do so, to push as many of their supporters to participate in the virtual caucuses and early vote. On caucus day in Nevada, campaigns real motivation is to insure that grassroots activists and other diehard supporters who want to be delegates make it to the precinct to participate and move on in the selection process. Of course, campaigns can also try to squeeze out any additional leftover casual support on caucus day to the traditional caucuses. But the intent here is clear: those campaigns with the means and wherewithal will make every attempt to run up the score as much as possible through the new early outlets with the allocation process (how many delegates a candidate wins) in mind and focus more on the selection process (who fills a candidate's the allocated slots) on caucus day.

This is an important difference across the two states. But it also raises an important question.

More strategy 
No, none of the results to the virtual caucuses or early voting will be released until caucus day, but what does Bill Gardner think?

The New Hampshire law empowers the secretary of state to move the Granite state primary to a position that is seven days before any other similar contest. While Nevada will caucus on Saturday, February 22 -- 11 days after New Hampshire primary voters go to the polls -- both the new virtual caucuses and early voting window in Nevada stretch into the seven day window after the New Hampshire primary. If Iowa's virtual caucuses avoid the "similar contest" designation from Gardner, then they likely will in Nevada as well. However, Nevada also has that proposed early voting window. Gardner will likely wait until the fall to set a date, but this all -- whether in Iowa or Nevada, much less early voting in other states -- will give the New Hampshire secretary of state some factors to think about before he sets the date of the primary.

Other considerations
Although it is less clear in the Nevada draft plan (than in the its Iowa counterpart), there is seemingly ranked choice voting involved in both the virtual caucuses and early voting. Caucusgoers will not only provide their top preference, but additional preferences as well. The system is described in less detail in Nevada than in Iowa. The bottom line difference between the two, however, remains the fact that if one assumes more participation in early and virtual caucuses, then viability at the caucuses on actual caucus day are likely to be determined in the earlier voting outlets. But that assumes that there is not only greater participation in those earlier fora, but much greater participation. But if that comes to pass, the earlier results may have a significant effect on the decision-making of those attending the traditional caucuses on February 22 when all the votes are rolled into one pot from precinct to precinct.

There is still a balance there. Well-resourced campaigns may have incentive to run up the score in the earlier contests, but they still have some motivation to play the game in the traditional caucuses with respect to the selection process.

The comparison between Iowa and Nevada is an interesting one, but one explained by their positions on the calendar (pending draft plans from the remaining caucus states).

Follow FHQ on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Washington Presidential Primary Shifts Up to March 10 After Inslee Adds Signature

Presidential candidate and Washington governor, Jay Inslee (D) signed SB 5273 into law on Thursday afternoon, March 14, moving the presidential primary in the Evergreen state from the fourth Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in March.

The shift gives the governor a glimmer of something positive after Super Tuesday should he make it that far in the currently wide open race.

That said, there is some question as to whether Washington Democrats will ultimately opt for the newly timed primary or for the caucus/convention format the party has used throughout the post-reform era. While the primary law changes the date of the primary, it also alters the operation of the mail-in vote contest. Primary voters will now have to check a box on the Democratic ballot publicly affirming they are Democrats in order to have their ballots counted toward the vote that will determine delegate allocation to the national convention. That was the price Washington had to pay to bring their process (in a state with no partisan registration) in line with the national party rules.

The Washington State Democratic Party will make that primary or caucus determination at its April 7 state central committee meeting. The primary would be on March 10 and the caucuses on March 21. The month of delegate allocation is known, then, but the exact date remains on hold until April.

Washington becomes the first state to have legislation pass and be signed into law moving its primary during the 2019 state legislative session, but follows states like California and North Carolina that moved prior to this year for the 2020 cycle.

The Washington primary change has been added to the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.

Washington State Legislation Would Again Try to Move Presidential Primary to March

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Washington Democrats Will Allocate Delegates in March, but How?

Last week the Washington State Democratic Party released and opened for public comment their draft delegate selection plan for 2020. Only, rather than just one plan, the party released two plans contingent on the mode of delegate allocation the party opts to use during its April 7 central committee meeting. In doing this, the party has made the primary or caucus question the one most likely to draw public comment in the next thirty days before the central committee votes.

And bear in mind that while those comments are not binding on the decision of the state central committee, they are submitted along with the draft delegate selection plan of choice to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee as part of the plan approval process. Under the hypothetical scenario, then, that the party chooses to continue with the caucus/convention system as the means by which delegates from the state will be allocated and selected even in the face of public support for the primary, the party would have some explaining to do before the RBC. And that is doubly true considering 1) the Democratic primary bill that has made its way through the Washington state legislature is more likely than not to be signed into law and 2) the RBC will be operating under the guidance of Rule 2.K in which "[state] parties are encouraged to use government-run primaries."

In that situation, the Washington State Democratic Party would have to make a very persuasive case to the RBC for why the party chose caucuses over the primary pushed through and passed by a Democratic-controlled state government. And the Democratic bill got the green light -- that it would be consistent with DNC rules -- from RBC member and WSDP parliamentarian, David McDonald during the committee hearings in each legislative chamber.

That is a tough sell.

It seems, then, that the best case to be made for retaining the caucuses is one in which there is a groundswell of support for it in this public comment stage followed by a state central committee vote in favor of the caucuses.

But assuming Governor Inslee (D) signs SB 5273, then it is quite likely the party opts for the primary.

Regardless of which option is chosen on April 7 in Washington, the two plans do clearly indicate a couple of important timing points. First, the date listed for the primary in the primary plan is March 10. It is clear then that the state party is assuming the primary bill heading to Inslee's desk -- the one moving the primary from May to March -- will be signed into law. Additionally, the alternate caucuses plan includes a Saturday, March 21 date for precinct caucuses should that plan be adopted and approved by the RBC. Should the party move in that direction, it would constitute a caucus/convention process that begins on the third Saturday in March rather than the fourth Saturday in March on which the precinct caucuses were held in 2016.

Washington State Legislation Would Again Try to Move Presidential Primary to March

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Nebraska Democrats Opt to Move Back to Presidential Primary for 2020

Nebraska Democrats voted on December 8 during their quarterly State Central Committee meeting to conduct the state party's 2020 national delegate allocation process through a presidential primary.

This is a reversion to the mode of delegate selection Cornhusker state Democrats used prior to 2008. For that cycle and the succeeding two cycles, the party held caucuses. And the primary motivation for the switch from primary to caucus ahead of 2008 was to move to an earlier date on the presidential primary calendar. That allowed for (Saturday after Super Tuesday) February caucuses as opposed to the traditional May primary.

But that move never got rid of the primary. By Nebraska law, caucus or not, a party's candidates appear on the presidential primary ballot. And in both of the competitive Democratic presidential cycles of 2008 and 2016 the later primary added two turnout data points for comparison to the caucuses. Despite the later date of the non-binding primary contests, the turnout was higher than in the caucuses.

That has remained a sticking point in discussions in and out of the state party in Nebraska and has been a primary incentive to move back to a primary election currently scheduled for May.

Nebraska now becomes the sixth state to make a switch from a 2016 caucus to a 2020 presidential primary; joining ColoradoIdahoMaineMinnesota, and Utah.

The Nebraska change has been added to the FHQ 2020 presidential primary calendar.

Related Posts: 
Caucus or Primary? Nebraska Democrats Have the Decision Before Them

Nebraska Democratic Party Platform Committee Passes Caucus-to-Primary Resolution

Nebraska Democrats Signal Caucus-to-Primary Switch for 2020

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Caucus or Primary? Nebraska Democrats Have the Decision Before Them

Nebraska Democrats will convene this weekend to conduct their quarterly State Central Committee meeting. And on the agenda is the caucus or primary question as the group continues to consider the state party's draft delegate selection plan for 2020.

Yet, the party is not newly coming into this discussion. In fact, at its 2018 state convention this past June, Democratic delegates considered the matter as well. The state convention platform committee at the time ultimately passed a resolution calling for a switch to a primary from the caucus system the party has used to select and allocate national convention delegates from the Cornhusker state for each of the last three cycles (since 2008).

But news of the inner workings within the party on the caucus-to-primary question went quiet after that point. The convention resolution on the matter did not (and does not now) appear among the listed resolutions that were passed on the floor of the convention at the time.

However, it was listed among the passed resolutions in late June. Here's the language:
Why it disappeared from the passed resolutions was a mystery; one that was not settled later when I tried to reach out to the Nebraska Democratic Party (NDP) about it in July once I returned from vacation. Nor were they answered to any greater degree by the resolution's sponsor, Angela Thomas when FHQ reached out to her once news of the December State Central Committee meeting was reported toward the end of November.

Ultimately, this really is neither here nor there, but it was odd.

Regardless, the resolution would have been non-binding on the party. Additionally, the progression of the idea -- switching from a caucus to a primary -- has followed if not taken an expedited path as laid out by NDP Chair Jane Kleeb at the time of the state convention:
The party’s State Central Committee most likely won’t make a final decision until March, after the national Democratic Party issues guidance to the states, said Chairwoman Jane Kleeb.
The party has seemingly moved the consideration of caucus-to-primary up a quarter from March 2019 to December 2018 in order to incorporate the decision on mode of delegate selection into the party's draft delegate selection plan to be submitted to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee by early May.

Heading into the decisive State Central Committee meeting December 7-8, it should be noted that the resolution to eliminate the caucuses drew cheers back at the state convention when it was introduced in the platform committee and as of late November the idea of a caucus-to-primary shift was said by party Chair Kleeb to have held a three to one advantage among the party's grassroots.

Take that as internal momentum to change the state Democrats' mode of delegate selection for 2020. And that parallels the external momentum to move from caucuses to primaries in Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, and Utah that has already produced change in 2016-18.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

More on Minnesota March 1 Caucuses Move

As FHQ detailed this past Sunday, the two parties in Minnesota jointly agreed last week to hold precinct caucuses -- starting the delegate selection process -- on March 1, 2016.

One thing that becomes clear in the letter from the two party chairmen -- Keith Downey (R) and Ken Martin (DFL) -- and their subsequent comments on the move is that the national party rules and their attendant penalties were a part of the decision-making calculus.

The letter specifies that the agreement was reached "to meet the requirements for the 2016 Presidential nominating process set forth by both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee."

Minnesota Republican Party chair, Keith Downey, added in interviews later:
"This new date respects the traditional early-primary states’ status, and positions Minnesota’s caucuses to be part of a potential newly emerging March 1st group of states. We hope it will increase Minnesota’s stature in the Presidential nominating process for both our parties next year, which all-around is good for Minnesota voters."
"The March 1st date allows us to meet the respective presidential nominating calendars of each party, and we believe it will make Minnesota more relevant in the process."
All told, compliance with the national party rules was a meaningful layer added to the decision, but that was balanced with a desire to make the caucuses relevant (on an early enough date). The problem is that if March 1 maintains and enhances its current southern flavor, then Minnesota could be hard-pressed to find any attention from candidates otherwise drawn to a geographically concentrated grouping of contests. But notice that Chairman Downey said "relevance" and did not mention that Minnesota was chasing the attention or financial benefits motivating potential moves in states like Vermont or New Mexico.

This is a balancing act being witness elsewhere across the country as well. The Michigan Senate has passed a bill that would move the primary in the Wolverine state back to March 15, but on the House side, some are wondering whether that will be too late for the Michigan primary to matter. That speaks to the fact that decisions are being made at the state-level on the dates of these nominating contests, but that that process takes place in an environment of uncertainty. One state does not know what another state or group of states will do necessarily. Michigan might gamble that March 15 will be a competitive date on the calendar (and not after the point at which one candidate has developed a healthy lead) that will bring candidates into the state, but Minnesota seems to be making the "safer" move. They may not get the attention of other March 1 contests, but that date is more likely to keep Minnesota caucusgoers in a position to vote while the nomination is or appears to be undecided.

Recent Posts:
Second Bill to Reestablish Presidential Primary Emerges in Idaho

Washington Legislation Would Move Presidential Primary to March

Minnesota Parties Jointly Agree on Compliant March 1 Caucuses

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Minnesota Parties Jointly Agree on Compliant March 1 Caucuses

With just two weeks left before a rather important deadline, the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the Minnesota Republican Party agreed to conduct caucuses on March 1, 2016.

Minnesota represents one of the few instances where there are both presidential caucuses and some state law guidance on the conduct of those elections.1 According to to the Minnesota statutes, the state parties must jointly agree on a date for the presidential-year caucuses on or before March 1 in the year prior to the presidential election. In the event that there is no agreement between the parties, the law automatically sets the date of the precinct caucuses for the first Tuesday in February.

That's a problem. No agreement means a February caucuses date out of compliance with the national parties' rules on delegate selection, and thus penalties from the national parties.

This very outcome is what transpired in 2011. February 28 came and went with no agreement between the DFL and Minnesota Republicans. That pushed the 2012 Minnesota caucuses up to February 7. Of course, the DFL devised a plan to hold the caucuses on February 7, but not reveal the results until March 6. That was enough of an action to get the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee to grant the DFL a waiver, avoiding penalties from the national party. It also helped the waiver process for the Minnesota DFL that the Democratic Party was renominating President Obama and that he faced nothing more than token opposition in the primaries and caucuses.2 In other words, that reality made the granting of a waiver much easier for the Rules and Bylaws Committee.

Republicans in Minnesota held non-binding caucuses which helped them skirt RNC sanctions barring nominating contests before the first Tuesday in March during the 2012 cycle. That did not stop candidates from campaigning there or the media from misinterpreting the results. It did, however, contribute to the RNC rules changes cutting off that non-binding loophole for 2016.

Needless to say, the dynamics changed for both parties in different ways, but that has prompted action among the parties in Minnesota where it was lacking four years ago. And there was no evidence of friction between the parties on this in 2011. None of the reporting indicated anything of that nature. Instead, it just appears to be an oversight on both sides that stemmed from the law change in 2010 that set the March 1 deadline in the first place.

Whereas clarity was lacking in 2011, it is not in 2015. The Minnesota caucuses are locked into March 1 for the 2016 cycle.3 And that removes Minnesota from the potential rogue state list.

Thanks to Mike Taphorn for sending news of this along to FHQ.

1 In most cases, caucuses and the rules governing them are the domain of the state parties. Their bylaws and other actions are the only things that affect the parameters of a given caucuses/convention process.

2 There was no opposition to the president in the 2012 Minnesota caucuses.

3 Well, the parties are locked in to that date so long as the state legislature does not create a presidential primary election that the parties opt into. That appears unlikely, though, the possibility has been discussed in the past.

Recent Posts:
New Mexico Republicans Chasing More Attention with Earlier Primary Attempt

Vermont Primary Bill Sponsor After a "Shot in the Arm"

Bernie Sanders and Vermont's Attempt at Challenging the New Hampshire Primary

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.