Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: North Carolina

This is the thirty-fifth 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.


North Carolina delegate allocation is mostly uniform across both political parties. That is attributable to the fact that the matter is covered by the general statutes in the Tarheel state as opposed to being dictated by state party rules as in a great many other states. What that means is that there is little suspense as to how the 55 Republican delegates will be allocated to particular candidates. Little suspense. Let's look at the delegate breakdown and FHQ will explain what we mean by that.

North Carolina delegate breakdown:
  • 55 total delegates
  • 13 at-large delegates
  • 39 congressional district delegates
  • 3 automatic delegates
As I said above, the North Carolina general statutes cover the method of allocation. Delegates will be allocated proportionally based on the vote in the presidential preference primary election. If Romney receives 60% of the vote, the former Massachusetts governor would be allocated approximately 60% of the delegate slots.2 The question is: How many of those delegates will be proportionally allocated? The December RNC counsel memo indicated that the 52 non-automatic delegate slots are applicable -- bound -- but that the three automatic delegates remain unbound. However, the language of the North Carolina Republican Party rules leaves some doubt as to whether, in fact, that conclusion is accurate.3

Most of that doubt is a function of this line in the state party rules:
In order to comply with the rules of the National Republican Party and with the North Carolina General Statutes, specifically Section 163-213.8, immediately following the Presidential Preference Primary, the State Chairman, after consultation with the North Carolina Chairman for each Candidate receiving votes in the primary, shall allocate Delegate positions between the Candidates accurately reflecting the division of votes in the statewide primary, thereby requiring the election of the 3 Delegates and 3 Alternates 28 at the District Convention and the remaining Delegates at the State Convention, in such allocated numbers as to accurately reflect the results of the statewide primary
The use of the word remaining is similar to instances where state party rules in both Maryland and Wisconsin included the automatic delegates in the winner-take-all allocation in those states. In the North Carolina case, though, there is an out in the statute (Chapter 163, Section 213.8) that allows national party rules to take precedent over the statute should there be a conflict between the two. Yet, there does not appear to be a conflict here as the RNC rules leave the binding of delegates up to the state party, and the North Carolina Republican Party does not expressly indicate a specific binding mechanism for automatic delegates. Actually the NCGOP rules do not indicate that those three delegates are unbound. As such, the proper interpretation appears to be that those automatic delegates are included in the proportional allocation of the delegates by virtue of being included in the "remaining Delegates at the State Convention".

One additional note that should be made is that there is no vote threshold that a candidate has to meet in order to be eligible for delegates. A candidate only has to receive a share of the vote equal to or greater than percentage that would net said candidate at least half a delegate. In this case, 0.909%. In other words, 1% of the vote would make eligible a candidate for some share of the delegates. Both Gingrich, Santorum and a No Preference option are on the North Carolina ballot and may gain delegates. What becomes of the delegates -- the process for their release -- is not entirely clear, though all of the delegates with the exception of those committed to "No Preference" were McCain delegates in 2008.

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

2 Those are bound delegate slots. Actual delegates have already been selected in congressional district meetings and will continue to be selected at the state convention. The at-large delegates and both the national committeeman and national committeewoman will be elected at the June state convention. The latter two positions will be elected in June and will begin serving immediately. The state chairman -- the final automatic delegate -- is elected at odd-year state conventions. There will be no turnover in that position at the upcoming convention.

3 North Carolina Republican Party rules (see Article VII-F):
2011 NCGOP Plan of Organization

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