Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Minnesota Republicans Considering Skipping Presidential Preference Vote at Next Year's Caucuses?

One of the stories that popped up over the last few months that FHQ thought was a really interesting story -- but just was not getting much national coverage -- is how Minnesota Republicans have been reacting to the new binding rules from the national party. The objective of the Republican National Committee coming out of the Tampa convention and in fact the 2012 presidential nomination process was to cut down on some of the perceived mischief that took place during the process.

One of those perceived problems was the unbound delegate issue that kept arising in one non-binding caucuses state after another. There were two problems that stemmed from those unbound precinct caucuses. First, that the delegates were not bound to candidates meant there was a lack of clarity in the delegate count. But second, it also opened the door to delegates for a candidate who did not win the early stages of the caucuses winning the majority of the delegation at the state convention. The Ron Paul contingent was able to pull this maneuver off in a number of states. 

The lack of clarity and delegates not reflecting the will of the greatest number of caucuses participants at the most participatory/precinct level triggered the rules change, requiring the binding of delegates to candidates based on the results of the earliest statewide election. 

But that change has not been greeted well across all of the country. In fact, in Minnesota, state Republicans have petitioned the RNC for a waiver from the new binding rules. Thus far the RNC has not seemed open to the request. That makes sense. The national party changed the rules and expects states to make the necessary adjustments unless, in the words of the RNC rules. "compliance is impossible". Impossible is a high bar, especially when binding delegates based on the results of statewide precinct caucuses is a matter that is completely within the control of the state party. It would be another matter altogether if state law governed the binding process and the Democratic Party held unified control of the state government. That would be impossible. Binding delegates is not. least not theoretically. 

But one option on the table for the Minnesota Republican Party if the last ditch effort at a waiver is unsuccessful is to skip the presidential preference vote at the precinct caucuses meetings. No vote, no binding. That would leave the decision on national convention delegates up to the altered state party rules and/or the state convention. As is, the state party rule contradicts the new national party rule.
Minnesota Republican Party bylaws -- Article VI (National Delegates)
No delegate to the Republican National Convention shall be bound by Party rules (unless bound by the State Convention pursuant to the State Party Constitution, Article 5, Section 3D) or by State law to cast his/her vote for a particular candidate on any ballot at the convention.
Rules of the Republican National Committee -- Rule 16(a)(1) (Binding and Allocation)Any statewide presidential preference vote that permits a choice among candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in a primary, caucuses, or a state convention must be used to allocate and bind the state’s delegation to the national convention in either a proportional or winner-take-all manner, except for delegates and alternate delegates who appear on a ballot in a statewide election and are elected directly by primary voters.
What is preventing any issuance of a waiver from the RNC is what is mentioned above (It just is not that difficult to comply.) and the fact that the national party rules trump the state party rules when and if there is a conflict (see Rule 16(b)).

Of course, that is not the only conflict this situation represents. Not holding a presidential preference vote violates Minnesota state law requiring a presidential preference vote at presidential year caucuses as Michael Brodkorb mentions. The one thing that may pull the state party back from the brink of employing a "take my ball and go home" strategy in reaction to forced binding is that some rank-and-file party members like the idea of hardwiring grassroots preferences into the process.

That was kind of the intent of the rules change.

Hat tip to Mike Taphorn for passing this news on to FHQ.

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