Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Arkansas Special Session May Include Measure to Move Presidential Primary to March

Though the official call has yet to go out, it appears as if the Arkansas state legislature will convene a special session starting on May 26.

As is the case in some other states (see Missouri), it is the governor's responsibility in Arkansas to not only call the special session of the legislature but also to define the issues/bills with which the session will deal. Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) on Monday, May 11 said that constitutional amendments and bonds issues dealing with the so-called "super project" industrial area would be on the agenda. But the timing of the 2016 presidential primary in the Natural state has also been discussed as a possible agenda item after failing to pass during the regular session.

It looks as if legislators may have the same options they had during the regular session also: Create and schedule a separate presidential primary (as Arkansas has done twice before -- 1988 and 2008) or move all of the primaries from May to March. Bills covering both possibilities were filed in the Arkansas state Senate by Senator Gary Stubblefield (R-6th, Branch) earlier this year. However, only the bill to create a separate presidential primary in March passed the Senate before getting bottled up in the state House.

Part of the reason that bill died was because of the $1.6 million price tag for the separate election. That issue may be resolved by moving a consolidated election from May to March, but that move would affect the renominations of state legislators themselves; a factor that has made legislators in Arkansas (and elsewhere) hesitant to support such measures.

The official call for the special session is due later this month according to the governor's office.

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Hogan Signature Sends Maryland Presidential Primary to April 26

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) is set to sign SB 204 among a host of other bills in a signing session today, May 12.

SB 204 shifts the presidential primary in Maryland from the first Tuesday in April to the fourth Tuesday in April. It was one of two identical bills that passed the legislature in the Old Line state during the 2015 legislative session. Originally, both bills sought to move the primary back just one week to the second week in April to accommodate an early vote period that would not conflict with spring religious holidays. The additional two weeks the primary will be moved back will align the Maryland presidential primary with presidential primary votes in neighboring Delaware and Pennsylvania as well. Connecticut and Rhode Island also have presidential primaries scheduled for that date on the presidential primary calendar.


The national party rules on delegate selection have changed for 2016 -- shrinking the Republican proportionality window to the first two weeks of March -- but Maryland Republicans, regardless of the change, will be able to maintain their traditional winner-take-most method of delegate allocation during this cycle.

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Hawaii Republicans Confirm March 8 Presidential Caucuses for 2016

The Hawaii Republican Party convened its 2015 state convention during the weekend of May 2. On the agenda for the delegates in attendance was a routine reexamination of the rules that govern the party and its procedures.

One item that was not seriously debated or at least altered in the rules was the date of the caucuses that will initiate the 2016 national delegate selection/allocation process for Republicans in the Aloha state. Set for the second Tuesday in March under the 2013 rules -- the 2011 rules as well -- that provision was carried over to 2015 rules.

That position will place the Hawaii Republican caucuses on the same date as the Idaho primary, Michigan primary and Mississippi primary on the 2016 presidential primary calendar. Alabama and Ohio are both looking to move away from that date. North Carolina has active legislation to shift into that date.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Kansas Democrats Set for March 5 Caucuses in 2016

According to the draft delegate selection plan made available earlier this month, Kansas Democrats will caucus on March 5, 2016.1

The March 5 caucuses only initiates a delegate selection process that will continue with district conventions on April 2 (to select congressional district delegates) and a state party selection of pledged and at-large delegates on April 30, 2016. But the allocation of those delegate slots to particular candidate will be based on the "first determining step" on March 5.

This move brings Kansas Democrats' caucuses in line with the Democratic caucuses in neighboring Nebraska. The two states also had concurrent caucuses in 2012, but in April alongside Wyoming Democrats. That made those three states eligible for the 15% clustering bonus then. That requires at least three neighboring states holding delegate selection events together, but after a point on the calendar in late March. Though Nebraska and Kansas will hold caucuses on the same date, they are but two states and are both scheduled too early to qualify for the bonus in 2016.

1 The above link is to the plan from the Kansas Democratic Party site. FHQ will also keep a version of the plan here.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Let's Talk About the Primary Calendar and the Republican Nomination Race

Maggie Haberman at First Draft this morning:
After the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee changed the voting calendar to try and avoid repeats of the brutal and long-lasting fight between Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. 
The previous calendar – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, followed by Florida — no longer exists. Instead, a slew of states moved up their votes to March 1, before Florida’s vote. Such compression, and so many candidates, could produce the opposite effect of what was intended, prolonging both the duration and the intensity of the process. 
That means that Florida, which is crucial to its former governor, Jeb Bush, and to a current senator, Marco Rubio, might not be the same firewall as in previous years. That raises the significance of South Carolina and the others states that vote before Florida’s contest on March 15.
FHQ wants to focus on that second paragraph. The set up is fine. The RNC, after what they perceived to be an injurious 2012 presidential nomination fight, tweaked the party's delegate selection rules, compressing the calendar and tightening the proportionality requirement. The goal: speed up the nomination.

But that's when the wheels fall off for Haberman.

First of all the previous calendar did not follow a sequence of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and Florida. Florida's move into late January for the 2012 cycle triggered a turf war between New Hampshire and Nevada that ended with the Silver state caucusing after Florida in early February.

Sure, that is something of a minor point. But sequence matters and the sequence is wrong in Habermas's piece.

The bigger issue is looking forward to the 2016 calendar. This idea that a "slew of states" has moved up to March 1 is just not right. A slew of delegates maybe, but not a slew of states; not yet anyway. Texas is back where it should have been on the calendar in 2012: the first Tuesday in March. But a dispute over redistricting in the Lone Star state forced that contest back to May 29. That is a significant movement of delegates from the end of the calendar to up near the front of the queue. But that is not a slew of states. The only other state that is new to the first Tuesday in March for 2016 is Minnesota. The shift in the case of the North Star state was a shift back relative to 2012. Four years ago, Minnesota Republicans held one of those non-binding caucuses that Rick Santorum won on the heels of the Nevada caucuses.

Look, sequence matters. More importantly, the states that comprise that sequence affects the course of a nomination race (maybe not its outcome, but certainly the path the nominee takes to the nomination). This story right now is basically Texas and its 150+ delegates is much earlier in 2016 and Florida set a date that is not right after South Carolina. That is not without consequence.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Utah Democrats Will Caucus on March 22

Late last week, the Utah Democratic Party posted its draft 2016 delegate selection plan just before the May 4 deadline to submit the plans to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee.1 The plan confirmed the details that had already been circulating about the party's plans for 2016: that the party will select and allocated delegates through a caucuses/convention system that will commence with neighborhood meetings on Tuesday, March 22.

Both that calendar position and that Utah Democrats are partnering with Idaho and Arizona on March 22 means that Democrats in the Beehive state will be eligible for the 15% clustering bonus to its national convention delegation (as will Democrats in Arizona and Idaho). March 22 is the first date on which regional and subregional partners of three or more states can qualify for that bonus.

2012 witnessed a number of Democratic caucuses states shift to later positions on the primary calendar to take advantage of the newly instituted bonus.

1 The above link is to the plan from the Utah Democratic Party site. FHQ will also keep a version of the plan here.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Colorado Presidential Primary Bill Dies in Committee

So long, Colorado presidential primary. We hardly knew ye.

The Colorado legislature is wrapping up the business of its 2015 regular session. One of the items that has popped up in these waning days has been an effort to reestablish a presidential primary in the Centennial state for the first time since 2000. The high hopes that some had for SB 15-287 crested late last week as the Senate Committee on State, Veterans and Military Affairs gave the legislation the green light, passing the measure by a 4-1 vote.

But that committee passed the baton on to a Senate Appropriations Committee that did not look favorably on the move to trade out the caucuses/convention process for a presidential primary (especially one that allowed unaffiliated voters to participate). Republicans in control of the state Senate (and thus the Appropriations Committee) killed the bill on Monday, May 4, postponing it indefinitely. Attempts to send the bill to the Committee of the Whole (the Senate floor) failed on a narrow 4-3 vote.

John Frank at the Denver Post points out that part of the reasoning behind the move was financial. The primary would have cost the state $1.7 million with additional resources coming from the county and local level. But mainly, the death of the bill is a function of two related factors. First, it is difficult to change the status quo -- in this case a caucuses/convention system -- when there is staunch support with a party for it. Second, this is the battlefield on which Republicans on the state level(s) and nationally have internally fought on over the last several years.

It is not an uncommon battle. On one side, there are interests in the party that want to win elections. Those were the folks who supported the presidential primary idea in Colorado. The thought was that the primary would engage more voters, pulling them toward the Republicans as the nomination phase gave way to the general election phase of the presidential election cycle. But on the other side, there is a group of folks also interested in winning elections but only with the right kind of candidate; in this case, a conservative one.

Again, this pragmatism versus purism divide is not unique to the Republican Party. It is a phenomenon that arises from time to time in any party. It has in Colorado and the presidential primary idea was a casualty.

...of that intra-party dispute and a maintenance of the status quo nomination system. [That latter factor is really under appreciated sometimes.]

Hat tip to Don Means for passing news of this along to FHQ.

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Monday, May 4, 2015

DC Presidential Primary to June 14

The Washington, DC legislation shifting the presidential primary in the district from April to June cleared its final hurdle over the weekend.

B20-0265 passed the DC Council late in 2014 and was signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier this year. However, the bill just made it through its formal congressional review period and has now become law. The DC presidential primary now moves from the first Tuesday in April to the second Tuesday in June. That new calendar position likely makes the vote in the district the last in the sequence of states on the 2016 presidential primary calendar.

On the Republican side, Washington, DC Republicans have traditionally allocated national convention delegates in a winner-take-all fashion. That winner-take-all contest for 19 delegates will now bring up the rear on the calendar. But don't read too much into that.  

Hat tip to Joe Wenzinger for passing news of this along to FHQ.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Iowa: A Question Mark Among Carve-Outs

I was struck reading Jennifer Jacobs' piece in the Des Moines Register this morning by the fact that there are some interesting questions marks hovering around the 2016 Iowa caucuses.

The big take home is the obvious: Mathematically, the more candidates competing in the Iowa caucuses, the lower the likely winning share of the vote will be among the logjam of Republican candidates. FHQ is less concerned with that. Actually, I'm skeptical of the chaos theory; that all these candidates will claim chunk of the caucuses electorate and the winner will be below 20%. Jacobs mentions the prospect of one candidate breaking away from the pack late in the invisible primary, but it may also be that there is some herding around candidates; one candidate who represents each of the lanes to the nomination that so many are discussing. With the exception of 1976, the post-reform competitive Republican caucuses have tended to have four or five candidates above (or right at) the 10% mark.

But let's put that on the back burner for the moment.

The bigger question mark surrounding the 2016 Republican Iowa caucuses might be how the state party will allocate its delegates. We know that New Hampshire will have a proportional allocation of its delegates. State law calls for it. South Carolina Republicans are very likely to continue with the winner-take-most (winner-take-all by congressional district) method the party has used for years. And while the mode of allocation may change in Nevada -- trading out caucuses for a primary -- Republicans in the state have already voted in favor of a resolution to continue the proportional method of allocation it used in 2012.

But Iowa? We do not yet know what the plans are in Iowa. Traditionally, Iowa Republicans have held non-binding caucuses. But the RNC passed rules at its 2012 national convention in Tampa to require the binding of delegates based on the earliest, statewide election. It was that rule, after all, that gave Iowa Republicans pause concerning their quadrennial Straw Poll.

So what will Iowa Republicans do? Every possibility is open to the party actually. If you were reading carefully above, you may have thought to yourself, "Hey. Wait a minute. How can South Carolina have a winner-take-most primary before the proportionality window closes on March 14?" The answer is that it's because South Carolina is not in the proportionality window. None of the carve-out states are. The proportionality window only affects states with primaries or caucuses from March 1-14. The carve-out states are exempt.

That means that Iowa could hold a truly winner-take-all contest if Republicans in the state wanted. That would certainly raise the stakes in the Hawkeye state. But with so many possibilities (candidates), the RNC might frown on such a decision (even if there are no rules preventing it or penalties to deter such behavior). Of course, Iowa is in the business of keeping Iowa first. Going winner-take-all is perhaps not the proper course to chart if preservation of first in the nation status is the goal.

Fine. Iowa is unlikely to institute a truly winner-take-all plan. However, there are some interesting possibilities even if Iowa Republicans were to go proportional in 2016. For example, let's assume that Iowa Republicans opt to hold proportional caucuses that proportionally allocate at-large delegates based on the statewide result and congressional district delegates based on the results in each of Iowa's four congressional districts. But if -- if -- the party also requires that a candidate receive 20% of the vote to be allocated any delegates (either statewide or in the congressional districts), then that could significantly limit the number of candidates who receive any delegates even in a proportional contests.1

If, for example, Scott Walker wins Iowa with 21% of the vote statewide, but no one else clears the 20% barrier. Well, Walker would win all of the at-large (and bonus) delegates allocated based on the statewide results. If Walker also wins three of the four congressional districts with above 20% of the vote there and no one else clears 20%, then Walker again wins all of the delegates from the congressional district. If Jeb Bush and Walker clear the 20% barrier in the one remaining congressional district, then they, depending on the rules crafted, split those delegates.

But Walker emerges with an overwhelming win in the delegate count -- Yes, there are only 30 total delegates at stake in Iowa. -- despite a proportional allocation plan. More importantly, in this scenario only two candidates win any delegates.

There may be talk of finishing in the top six -- or whatever -- in the Iowa caucuses once the votes have been cast. But if only two of them get any delegates out of the deal, then the talking points coming out of the contest and heading into New Hampshire are a lot less chaotic than many are talking about now.

1 Republican National Committee delegate selection rules allow state parties to set a minimum threshold of the vote that a candidate must attain in order to receive any delegates. That threshold can be set as high as 20% (both statewide and on the congressional district level).

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Shorter Primary Calendars and Unintended Consequences

FHQ heard from Mark Murray at NBC News the other night. He said they were doing a story on the 2016 presidential primary calendar and its potential implications and wanted my take. [Thanks!] I responded with a lot of what has filled the pages here for the last several months: the calendar formation stuff is winding down (calmer than in past cycles), but we're still waiting on the Republican delegate allocation rules at the state level to be layered on top of the calendar order. Also, I briefly discussed some of the quirks covered in our recent three part proportionality rules series -- backdoor winner-take-all contests in the proportionality window and the important distinction between truly winner-take-all contests and everything else after the proportional mandate ends after March 14 (not all states are rushing to change to truly winner-take-all rules).

One thing FHQ did not discuss was the shortened primary calendar the RNC has seemingly successfully manufactured for the 2016 cycle. I did not bring that up because the compressed calendar is likely to speed the process up rather than slow it down, not likely adding to the chaos that some are expecting from the 2016 Republican presidential nomination process. This is something FHQ touched on over at Crystal Ball last month, piggybacking on something that John Sides and I wrote in the days before Rick Santorum suspended his campaign in 2012.

The one line in the First Read piece that troubled me most was this one:
But the unintended consequence of a shortened nominating calendar is that about 70% of the delegates might not be decided until May.
Wait a minute. Kevin Collins had this great tweet a few months ago that was essentially, "so much of social science research boils down to one question: 'compared to what?'" That applies here. Fine, 70% of the delegates might not be decided until May. Compared to what?

Well, first the line -- and I know I'm nitpicking here (That's what I do.) -- is a bit ambiguous. Does it mean that only 70% of the delegates will have been allocated by May or that 70% of delegates will be allocated in May? I think it is the former, but one could make the argument that delegate allocation does not happen until state conventions have formally selected them. Even if that is the case, because of the new binding rules in place in the Republican race in 2016, that formal selection of delegates will have no bearing on how they are allocated/bound to particular candidates.

But let's examine the idea that 70% of the delegates will be allocated by May in 2016. How does that stack up against other cycles? Once the caucuses states more than likely slot into March positions on the calendar, the likely 75% delegates allocated mark will be passed on the last Tuesday in April. That is a full month before the May 22 date on which the 2012 Republican nomination race surpassed the 75% delegates allocated mark; the week before the Texas primary when Romney passed 1144.

Again, that 75% mark will hit a full month earlier in 2016 than it did in 2012. It is counterintuitive to suggest that this will slow things down in 2016, invite more chaos, and lead to a brokered deadlocked convention. All the compressed calendar is, is all the January and February states crowding back into March. Only a few states are actually attempting to move into March from later dates. Texas is the big one of those, but did not really move. The only reason Texas was forced away from the first Tuesday in March date in 2012 was because of unresolved redistricting issues. The primary date shift was forced on the state by the courts.

This may not be the typical Republican presidential nomination cycle, but if history is our guide then things will run their course and have fallen into place somewhere in the window of time between when 50% of the delegates have been allocated and when 75% of the delegates have been allocated -- the 50-75% Rule. That falls roughly between March 8 and April 26.

...before May.

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