Sunday, December 13, 2015

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: OKLAHOMA

Updated 3.1.16

This is part ten 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: primary
Date: March 1 
Number of delegates: 43 [25 at-large, 15 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional (with majority (50%) winner-take-all trigger statewide and in congressional districts)
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15% (both statewide and within the congressional districts)
2012: proportional primary

Changes from 2012
The Oklahoma Republican Party made bigger changes to their method of delegate allocation from 2008-2012 than they did from 2012 until now. The state legislature in the Sooner state shifted back the presidential primary in the state by a month from February 2008 to March 2012. Squarely within the month-long -- all of March -- proportionality window for 2012, the reaction of the Republican Party in Oklahoma was to switch from winner-take-most (winner-take-all by congressional district) plan to an across-the-board proportional plan to comply with the new RNC rules four years ago.

But rather than proportionally allocating all of the delegates -- at-large and congressional district -- based on the statewide results, Oklahoma Republicans opted to award delegates in a proportionate manner based on the results statewide and in the several congressional districts. The at-large delegates were allocated and bound based on the statewide results and the congressional district delegates were awarded based on the results in each of the congressional districts.

That change ended up being more proportional than was necessary under the RNC rules in 2012. The only switch that was required to comply was the at-large delegate allocation. In 2012, a state could be considered compliant with the proportionality requirement if it proportionally allocated those at-large delegates. A state could continue to allocated congressional district delegates in a winner-take-all fashion (based on the congressional district results). Ohio made that incremental change, but states like Oklahoma and Georgia went the extra step and proportionalized the allocation of all of their delegates.

A total proportionalization for 2012 meant that states like Oklahoma and Georgia were ahead of the curve under the stricter definition of proportional the RNC has rolled out for the 2016 cycle; the one eliminating the winner-take-all allocation of congressional district delegates.

The historical rundown is intended to show that Oklahoma had no impetus to make any changes to its delegate allocation rules for 2016. And it has not really made any alterations.

So what does the process look like?

To win any delegates under the Oklahoma Republican Party delegate allocation rules, a candidate must pull in an at least 15% share of the vote in the March 1 presidential primary. That is true at both statewide and at the congressional district level. Should any candidate win a majority of the votes in the primary statewide or in a congressional district that candidate would be allocated all of the statewide, at-large delegates (25) or all of the congressional district delegates (3 in each district).

The usual caveats apply here. The more candidates who are alive by SEC primary day on March 1, the less likely it is that that majority winner-take-all trigger will be tripped. However, as the number of candidates drops, the likelihood of a majority winner either statewide or in a congressional district increases.

It should be noted also that the Oklahoma Republican Party delegate allocation rules do not prohibit the possibility of a backdoor winner-take-all allocation. That possibility is unit-specific and limited though. A candidate can be the only one to clear the 15% threshold either statewide or in a congressional district and claim all of the either at-large or congressional district delegates, respectively. It is not possible for a candidate to win all 43 delegates from Oklahoma unless that candidate is above the 50% threshold statewide and in each of the five congressional districts or unless that candidate is the only one above 15% statewide and in each of the five congressional districts. Both outcomes are possible but not probable. Call that a limited backdoor winner-take-all allocation or a backdoor winner-take-most plan.

Delegate allocation (at-large and automatic delegates)
This is a simulation of the allocation; not a projection. The numbers are less important than how the rules operate in this exercise.

The at-large and automatic delegates -- 28 delegates in total -- will be proportionally allocated to candidates with a vote share above the 15% mark. Based on the last poll conducted on the race in Oklahoma (the mid-November Sooner poll), the statewide allocation would look something like this1:
  • Trump (27%) -- 7.560 delegates
  • Carson (18%) -- 5.040 delegates
  • Cruz (18%) -- 5.040 delegates
  • Rubio (16%) -- 4.48 delegates
  • Huckabee (4%) -- 0 delegates
  • Bush (2%) -- 0 delegates
  • Fiorina (2%) -- 0 delegates
  • Paul (2%) -- 0 delegates
  • Kasich (1%) -- 0 delegates

  • Uncommitted -- 6 delegates
The first observation is that, as is the case in other states with a minimum qualifying threshold, Oklahoma's rules would limit the number of candidates who are actually allocated delegates. If a top tier emerges (and/or is maintained), then there will be a class of have candidates and a class of have not candidates. Of course, it should be noted that the carve-out contests have winnowed some of those have not candidates from the race.

The other thing that stands out about the Oklahoma delegate allocation formula for at-large and automatic delegates is the calculation itself. Unlike most other states, the language in the Oklahoma Republican Party rules uses the total vote -- and not the qualifying vote -- as the denominator in the equation. This is similar to how New Hampshire allocated delegates. Such a plan tamps down on the number of delegates the qualifying candidates -- those over the 15% threshold -- receive, but it also leaves a cache of delegates in limbo. In New Hampshire, the rule has always been to allocated those leftovers to the statewide winner in the Granite state primary.

But such a contingency is not a part of the Oklahoma rules. In the simulated allocation above, six delegates would not be allocated. anyone. They would remain uncommitted. This is similar to the state of affairs in the Louisiana rules. But here's the thing: there is a range of possibilities here. If three candidates -- say, Trump, Cruz and Rubio -- just barely clear the 15% threshold. They end up with around 45% of the total vote. That leaves 55% of the vote under the threshold. All three candidates would claim four delegates and the remaining 16 at-large/automatic delegates would be uncommitted.

If, however, those same three candidates all receive 30% of the vote -- no, that's not likely -- then they combine for 90% of the vote and leave only 10% unaccounted for. Collectively, Trump, Cruz and Rubio would receive 24 delegates and four would be uncommitted.

That is a big range, but the results are likely to be somewhere in between. However, that does mean that there will be a small group of uncommitted delegates coming out of the Oklahoma primary.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
If the above statewide numbers are extended to the congressional district level, there would be four candidates over the 15% threshold. However, there would only be three delegates to go around in a given district. Trump, Carson and Cruz would qualify for one delegate each and Rubio would be left out of the allocation.

That same sort of allocation -- one delegate each -- would also hold if three candidates cleared the 15% barrier. If only two candidates draw 15% or more of the vote in a congressional district, the district winner would win two delegates and the runner-up would be allocated the remaining delegate.   That is consistent with the baseline allocation of congressional district delegates in Alabama and Georgia.

And again, should only one candidate clear the 15% barrier (or if a candidate wins a majority of the vote) in a district, then that candidate would take all three delegates from that district.

Things left out/unclear
There are a number of matters left unclear in addition to the automatic delegate question above.
  1. What are the rounding rules? There is little guidance in the Oklahoma rules here other than to "round to the nearest whole number". It appears as if there is no process for dealing with over- and under-allocated delegates. Yet, given the structure of the rules, it would seem as if most of this is taken care of in the uncommitted delegate procedure described above.
  2. How long does the bind on delegates last? Again, this is something that is left unsaid in the Oklahoma Republican Party delegate allocation rules. 1st ballot? Two ballots? Infinitely. It is not clear. 
  3. What if no one reaches 15%? Oklahoma Republicans do describe a number of scenarios for the allocation of delegates based on the numbers of candidates clearing the qualifying threshold. However, that list does not include contingencies for the case where no candidate clears the 15% threshold statewide or in a congressional district. This seems unlikely and would require something like a seven-way logjam, but again, this possibility is not covered. Given Oklahoma's position on the calendar -- after the carve-out states -- and the pretty clear top tier of candidates in polling, the chances of a "no one above 15%" scenario seems limited.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 This poll is being used as an example of how delegates could be allocated and not as a forecast of the outcome in the Sooner state presidential primary.

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

No comments: