Monday, September 14, 2015

Washington Republicans Settle on February 20 Caucuses for 2016, but...

Following last month's decision by a bipartisan committee to keep the Washington state presidential primary in May 2016, there were a couple of questions that remained for the Republican Party in the Evergreen state.1 One concerned whether the Washington State Republican Party would opt schedule early caucuses to complement the later primary, but the second was over the delegate selection process. Would the party continue to split the allocation of national convention delegates roughly evenly across the primary and caucuses or would it shift to allocating all of the delegates in the presumably earlier caucuses?

There was nothing out there in the time since August to suggest that the party was entertaining the shift to allocating all of its national convention delegates through a caucus/convention process, but theoretically, it would have made some sense in view of the majority of calendar movement in the post-reform era. Earlier has almost always been viewed as better from the vantage point of the states.2

However, Washington Republicans went with a none of the above answer at their state central committee meeting on Saturday, September 12. Instead of keeping the half and half allocation approach or opting for allocation through an early-starting caucus/convention process, Washington Republicans chose to shift the entire allocation to the May 24 presidential primary.3 In other words, 38 of the 41 total delegates will be proportionally allocated and bound to presidential candidates based on the statewide and congressional district results in the presidential primary election.

Though the national convention delegates will be allocated and bound based on the May primary, the process of selecting them will begin with caucuses on February 20, 2016. There will be no straw poll or presidential preference vote at those precinct caucuses, but delegates will be elected to go to the county conventions which will in turn elect delegates to attend the May 19-21 state convention. It will be from that pool of state convention delegates that the national convention delegates will be chosen (and later bound by the primary the following Tuesday).

This is not a situation like Colorado, where part of the intent was to have an unbound delegation from the state at the national convention. Washington Republicans will select delegates through a caucus/convention system, but allocate and bind them to candidates based on the primary election. The February caucuses, then, are compliant with Republican National Committee rules on delegate selection.

1 The committee was bipartisan, but the vote to maintain the status quo -- a late May presidential primary election -- broke along party lines with Democrats uniting to prevent the two-thirds result that would have ended in a March primary date.

2 The question has always been whether state actors are both willing and able to shift the date of a primary or caucus. Going later, particularly after 75% of the total number of national convention delegates have been allocated, has tended to be a gamble that has placed states on the outside looking in on the process. But a wide open presidential race at rules decision-making time in September 2015 has a way, rightly or wrongly, of affecting the likelihood of gambling that the race will extend to your contest.

3 Here is the full press release from Washington State Republican Party about the rules change:
The Washington State Republican Party, at its State Committee meeting September 12 in Pasco, decided its Rules for the 2016 Caucus and Convention including delegate allocation and Caucus date. 
All (100%) of our state's delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention (Cleveland - July 18-21, 2016) will be allocated in accordance with the vote of the people in the Washington State Primary (currently scheduled for May 24th, 2016). 
The WSRP State convention, scheduled for May 19-21 in Pasco is four days before the Primary. National attention will be focused on our state, and GOP presidential candidates will have a strong incentive to campaign in Washington in an effort to win the vote of the people. 
The allocation of delegates is in accordance with the National Rules of the Republican Party, utilizing a proportional system, with eleven at-large delegates being allocated on a proportional basis based on the statewide vote, and three delegates allocated on a proportional basis for each Congressional District. If a candidate receives a majority of the vote within a Congressional Delegate, that candidate will get all three delegates from that Congressional District. 
All GOP caucuses will take place on Saturday February 20, with county GOP conventions taking place in March and April. County conventions will elect delegates to the state convention, which in turn will elect delegates to the national convention. 100% of our state's Republican delegates to the national convention will be bound by the decision of the VOTERS, unlike the Democrats whose nominee will be chosen by a small percentage of Democrats at their statewide caucuses in March.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

No comments: