Thursday, November 12, 2015

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: ALASKA

Updated 2.29.16

This is part five of a series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation rules by state. The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2016 -- especially relative to 2012 -- in order to gauge the potential impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. For this cycle the RNC recalibrated its rules, cutting the proportionality window in half (March 1-14), but tightening its definition of proportionality as well. While those alterations will trigger subtle changes in reaction at the state level, other rules changes -- particularly the new binding requirement placed on state parties -- will be more noticeable. 


Election type: caucuses
Date: March 1 
Number of delegates: 28 [22 at-large, 3 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 13%
2012: proportional caucuses (with no official threshold)

The method the Alaska Republican Party is using in 2016 to allocate its 28 delegates to the national convention in Cleveland looks a lot like it did four years ago. The party is still holding caucuses. Those caucuses will be continue to be scheduled for the earliest date allowed by national party rules (March 1). And the delegates will be proportionally allocated to candidates based on the results in the presidential preference poll conducted at those caucuses.

Unlike 2012, however, the Republican Party in the Last Frontier will include a threshold that candidates must meet to qualify for any delegates. And it is a somewhat odd threshold: 13% of the statewide vote in the caucuses. Why 13%? FHQ does not have a really good answer to that question. Yet, if one looks back to the results of the last two competitive Republican caucuses -- caucuses in which there was more than just an incumbent president seeking reelection -- 13% is roughly the point that separated those candidates who received delegates and those who did not.

One could look at those results in 2008 and 2012 and come to the conclusion that that sort of threshold would limit the number of candidates qualifying for delegates, specifically limiting to four that group of candidates. That may or may not be the case in 2016. That four candidates were allocated delegates speaks more toward the impact of winnowing in those cycles than anything else. And yes, Alaska is similarly positioned on the 2016 calendar compared to both 2008 and 2012; the earliest allowed date.

But think of that limit of four as something of a floor when considering delegate allocation in Alaska. Mathematically, up to seven candidates could receive delegates in the caucuses based on how the allocation rules are worded. A candidate has to receive at least 13% of the vote to qualify for delegates. It is, then, a hard threshold. One could not get 12.5% of the vote, for example, and be able to round up to 13%.1

What the new threshold, combined with past results, tells us is that there are likely to be anywhere from four to seven candidates who will take delegates away from the Alaska caucuses. Whether the allocation ends up closer to the floor or ceiling there, depends on how the field winnows between now or Iowa and March 1.

Interestingly, if a candidate who has won delegates drops out of the presidential race, those delegates/delegate slots do not become free agents as is the case in other states. Instead, the allocation will be recalculated as if the remaining qualified candidates had been the only candidates to initially qualify following the preference vote in the caucuses.

Let's use the 2012 results as an example.
After the caucuses:
Romney (32.4%) -- 8 delegates
Santorum (29.2%) -- 7 delegates
Paul (24.0%) -- 6 delegates
Gingrich (14.1%) -- 3 delegates 
But now, let's assume that Gingrich drops out:
Romney (37.85%) -- 9 delegates
Santorum (34.10%) -- 8 delegates
Paul (28.05%) -- 7 delegates
The recalculation drops the Gingrich votes from consideration and allocates the delegates to the remaining three candidates as if they had been the only three to qualify (using on the votes that those three received). Basically, the three Gingrich delegates end up even distributed among the remaining candidates.

This is all fine if the candidate withdrawals occur prior to the Alaska Republican state convention in late April next year. The recalculation would be done and delegates would be elected at the state convention and bound to candidates to which they are already pledged.

However, if the withdrawal happens after the delegates have been elected, the delegates aligned with the withdrawing candidate are given the option of switching allegiance to one of the remaining candidates. If they opt not to align with another active candidate or to not align with candidates based on who has available slots, then the party will select delegate candidates who will align with that candidate.

For example, let's assume that Gingrich in the above allocation example dropped out after the state convention and the selection of delegates to fill his three delegate slots has occurred. Those three delegates would not have the option to all go to Romney, for example. The three delegates would have to go -- one each -- to the remaining active candidates as called for in the recalculation. If they opt not to or cannot agree to who they will each re-pledge, then the party has the power to select replacements.

Is this likely to occur? Probably not. By the time the Alaska state convention rolls around, the point on the calendar at which 75% of the delegates will have been allocated will have passed. That has been -- over the last few cycles anyway -- the point at which a presumptive nominee has emerged. If that is again clear by late April 2016, then the delegates will all likely end up allocated to that presumptive nominee anyway. If not, then they are very likely to be allocated to a significantly winnowed field of candidates. At that point in a sequential process, that is likely to be two candidates.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 Under that rounding scenario, eight candidates could tie at 12.5% of the vote and all qualify for three delegates.

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

No comments: