Saturday, February 25, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Wyoming

This is the fourteenth 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 180º 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.


Just yesterday FHQ lamented the fact that for most of the caucus states to have held precinct meetings thus far the rules have been largely consistent (non-binding, no direct allocation of delegates, etc.) across states. In Wyoming, however, we have a caucus/convention system with a different set of rules worth examining in some detail.

Quietly over the last two weeks, there have been precinct caucus meetings throughout the Equality state; caucus meetings that have held non-binding straw poll votes. This is similar to what has gone on in other caucus states, but differs from the plan used by Wyoming Republicans in 2008. Four years ago, the party began its convention process with county conventions from which approximately half of the state's delegates to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota were directly chosen. In 2012, however, the state party shifted back the county conventions from January 5, 2008 to  Super Tuesday (through March 10). The party added another layer to the process, though, tacking the straw poll on to the precinct meetings before the county conventions as well.2 Those precinct meetings -- some of which ended up being county-wide meetings3 -- were to be held no more than 25 days and no less than 10 days prior to the point at which the county meeting is scheduled. Since the county meetings are scheduled for a window from March 6-10 that left a window for precinct meetings of February 9-29.4

A certain number of delegates -- a number designated by the county party but no less than two total delegates per precinct -- from each precinct are chosen to attend the county convention meetings. That delegate selection is conducted in addition to the non-binding straw poll vote that is being held at the precinct level. Again, once the process gets to the county level is the point at which national convention delegate selection begins to occur.

Here is the breakdown of Wyoming Republican delegates to the Republican National Convention:
  • 29 total delegates
  • 3 congressional district delegates
  • 23 at-large delegates
  • 3 automatic delegates
  • All delegates attend the national convention technically unbound, though, it is up to each delegate to decide to endorse a particular candidate ahead of time.
Note that FHQ did not discuss how those delegates were allocated (as in other similar posts in this series). That is mainly because the delegate selection is handled differently than most other caucus states. The congressional district delegates are not chosen at a congressional district convention because the state is its own lone congressional district. Similarly, not all of the at-large delegates are chosen at the state convention as in most other caucus state conventions. Instead, the Wyoming Republican Party  treats its counties -- in some sense -- like many other states treat their congressional districts. Wyoming, then, has what could be called county delegates and at-large delegates.

How does this work?

Well, there are 23 counties in Wyoming. Of those 23, 22 are placed into pairs.5 The remaining county, Laramie County, is a super county. In practice, Laramie County choses both a delegate to the national convention and an alternate delegate. For the paired counties, one of the pair choses a delegate while the other county in the pair chooses an alternate delegate. These pairs have previously -- as in across prior cycles -- been set and rotate within the pair the delegate/alternate distinction from cycle to cycle. The county pairs are the same as they were in 2008, but the counties that selected delegates to the convention in 2008 will be choosing alternates in 2012. That means that the counties that selected alternates in 2008 are now selecting delegates in 2012.

Confused yet?

Don't be. All this means is that 11 of the 22 paired counties will directly choose on March 6-10 one delegate to attend the national convention. In addition, Laramie County will choose a delegate as well making 12 county delegates. The remaining 14 delegates -- at-large delegates -- are chosen by and from among those delegates chosen at the county level to move on to the state convention. There is no binding mechanism at any point of this process to ensure that there is, for instance, a proportional or winner-take-all allocation of precinct delegates to the county level or county delegates to the state level.

In summary, then, while the precinct caucuses have been going on quietly throughout this gap in the February portion of the presidential primary calendar, the process -- while staggered -- has been much like what has been witnessed in Iowa or Minnesota or Colorado or Maine. Wyoming Republicans will, however, turn quite quickly around and in early March actually be selecting delegates to attend to the national convention. That will happen at the district level in those other caucus states, but not nearly so fast as what is happening in Wyoming. The state convention will complete the process in April.

NOTE: FHQ will have more later on the votes already cast in non-binding presidential preference straw poll that has been going on since February 11 (the same date as the Maine caucuses two weeks ago).

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

2 The precinct caucuses during the 2008 cycle actually took place in 2007 but with no straw poll.

3 Most of the precinct meetings were county-wide affairs, but a few counties broke the process up in to smaller subunits. For most of these precinct caucuses, then, the designation is precinct in name only.  The majority were county meetings held before the county convention.

4 The earliest precinct caucus date (February 9) is 25 days before the earliest county convention date (March 6) and the latest precinct caucus date (February 29) allowed is 10 days before the latest county convention date (March 10).

5 Those pairs of counties can be viewed in this memo on straw poll procedures distributed to the county parties by the Wyoming Republican Party in January:
Wyoming GOP Straw Poll Guidelines 1.2.12

Recent Posts:
2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Washington State

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Arizona

Missouri Republicans Will Caucus Both Before and After March 17

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Anonymous said...

The process was very similar in 2008 (except without a non-binding straw poll). Precinct caucuses were held in December 2007 to elect delegates to county conventions.

Here are news articles on two such precinct caucuses in December 2007:

Josh Putnam said...

Thanks. I added that fix.