Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: TEXAS

Updated 3.1.16

This is part twelve 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: 155 [44 at-large, 108 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional (with majority (50%) winner-take-all trigger statewide and in congressional districts)
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 20% (both statewide and within the congressional districts)
2012: proportional primary

FHQ has discussed to some extent the Republican Party of Texas delegate allocation rules for 2016 already. However, there have been some tweaks made to the rules that have a fairly decided bearing on how Texas delegates will be allocated to candidates based on the results of the March 1 primary. Initially, the Texas GOP attempted to devise a primary-caucus plan roughly similar to the one Texas Democrats have utilized for years.1 That plan entailed raiding the pool of at-large delegates -- those allocated based on the statewide presidential primary results -- and granting the power of allocation to the state convention. It was a clever bid to get two bites at the apple in a wide open presidential primary season. Candidates would come in to the Lone Star state once for the primary and those still around and active in the nomination contest for the June state convention would return to woo the state convention and its delegates.

As 2015 progressed, however, that plan changed. By March 2015, the State Republican Executive Committee had added language to the rules that provided for a fall back option if the Republican National Committee rejected the primary-caucus plan. That proved a somewhat prophetic move as the RNC General Counsel's office informed the Republican Party of Texas via letter in early June 2015 that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus had interpreted the change -- the addition of the convention step -- as a violation of the Rules of the Republican Party.2

In the end, what this amounts to is a Texas delegate allocation plan that is one step less complicated without the allocation of 38 at-large delegates (one-quarter of the total number of delegates) at the state convention. But it also means that those 38 delegates will not be hanging out there as a potential June wildcard -- the intent behind the creation -- as primary season winds down.

Changes since 2012
The addition and then subtraction of the state convention portion of the allocation plan constitutes a change since 2012, but it will not ultimately be implemented for the 2016 cycle. Still, there are some changes to the current method as compared to how the state party handled its 2012 delegate allocation.

Redistricting challenges in the courts held the 2012 Texas primary date (and thus the eventual delegate allocation) hostage into March 2012. That back and forth had the Texas primary in March before considering an April date and then ending up on the last Tuesday in May. When the rules were made for the 2012 cycle, Texas Republicans were planning for a March primary and thus settled on a unique proportional allocation plan. Basically, Texas Republicans proportionally allocated all of their at-large and congressional district delegates based on the statewide results in the primary. It was all one big pool of delegates. However, only candidates who were above 20% of the vote within a congressional district were eligible for a share of the pool designated congressional district delegates. The plan was probably overly and unnecessarily complicated, but it essentially worked out to a small bonus for those candidate who did well.

For 2016 and a March primary within the proportionality window, Texas Republicans scrapped the 2012 plan and adopted a proportional plan that is more comparable to some of its SEC primary neighbors (see Alabama or Georgia, for example). As opposed to proportionally allocating a larger pool of at-large and congressional district delegates based on the statewide primary results (oversimplification, but see above), Texas Republicans will have a more unit-specific allocation. The at-large and automatic delegates will be proportionally allocated and bound based on the statewide primary results, but the congressional district delegates, unlike 2012, will be fully allocated according to the results within each of the 36 Texas congressional districts.

While the Texas Republican delegate allocation plan is proportional, it meets that mark, but with provisions that potentially limit the number of candidates who qualify for delegates or provide a statewide or district winner to be allocated a disproportionate share of the delegates from those units. Texas Republicans have kind of followed the letter of the law in laying out thresholds that go up to the RNC designated limits. That means candidates must hit 20% of the vote in a congressional district or statewide to be eligible for delegates, but if a candidate wins a majority in either unit, then that candidate is entitled to all the delegates either statewide or in a congressional district.

Contingent upon how many candidates clear the thresholds, there are a number of different directions in which the allocation can go. The limits of that statewide are clear. There can only be so many candidates beyond the 20% threshold. Four or fewer candidates will split those 47 at-large and automatic delegates. Unlike some of its SEC primary compatriots, Texas prohibits the backdoor winner-take-all scenario, where just one candidate breaks the 20% mark. Should only one candidate clear 20% statewide, that would trigger a top two allocation. The statewide winner and runner-up would be proportionally allocated a share of the at-large delegates (regardless of whether the runner-up is over 20%). Compared to others, then, Texas limits how much of a boost a winner can get out of the allocation.

If no one crosses the 20% threshold statewide, then the allocation is proportional and functions as if there is no threshold. That would open the allocation up to all candidates. However, as has been the case elsewhere, this becomes less and less likely as the size of the field decreases (even with a threshold as high as the one in Texas).

At the congressional district level there are still more contingencies. And, they, too, narrow the possibilities of who qualifies for those three delegates. In the situation where no candidate wins a majority in a congressional district, then the top two candidates -- provided at least one is over 20% in the district -- win the delegates. The winner is allocated two delegates and the runner-up claims the remaining delegate. If no candidate tops 20% in a congressional district, then the top three finishers each receive one delegate.

What is clear about the Texas plan, at least as compared some others -- is how limited the advantage is to the winner(s). The only way for a winner to put some real distance between him- or herself in the Texas delegate count is to win majorities or pluralities consistently across all congressional districts. That may or may not occur. This is exacerbated by the lack of backdoor winner-take-all provisions.

This set of rules tends to greatly reduce the number of candidates who qualify for delegates, but also is likely to produce a pretty tightly clustered delegate count.

Delegate allocation (at-large and automatic delegates)
The at-large and automatic delegates -- 47 delegates in total -- will be proportionally allocated to candidates with a vote share above the 20% mark. Based on the last poll conducted on the race in Texas (the late October/early November Texas Tribune poll), the statewide allocation would look something like this3:
  • Trump (27%4) -- 23.572 delegates
  • Cruz (27%) -- 23.428 delegates
  • Carson (13%) -- 0 delegates
  • Rubio (9%) -- 0 delegates
  • Bush (4%) -- 0 delegates
  • Fiorina (4%) -- 0 delegates
  • Paul (4%) -- 0 delegates
  • Huckabee (2%) -- 0 delegates
  • Christie (1%) -- 0 delegates
  • Kasich (1%) -- 0 delegates
  • Santorum (1%) -- 0 delegates
Here is where being the winner -- or more precisely the order of finish -- matters: rounding. The allocation occurs sequentially from the top down. Any fractional delegate rounds up, even if it is just a tiny fraction. How tiny? Well, Trump and Cruz basically tied in this poll. One more respondent favored Trump than Cruz. Trump could have a .01 fraction and still round up. This problem is mitigated to some extent by the fact that there is an odd number of delegates. Even in a one vote difference situation, Trump would always round up to one more delegate.

Rules matter. In this case, rounding rules matter.

No other candidate surpasses 20%, and they end up with nothing to show for it in the hypothetical at-large and automatic delegate count.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
If, as we have done with other states, we extend the above statewide "results" to the congressional district level, that small advantage Trump has -- one vote/respondent -- yields a sizable delegate advantage. When two candidates are over 20% at the congressional district level, the top finisher receives two delegates and the runner-up one. That is true even if that win is by just one vote. As FHQ has stated before, it is difficult to proportionally allocate three congressional district delegates.

The Texas Republican delegates to the national convention in Cleveland are bound to candidates based on the results of the primary on at least the first ballot at that convention unless they have been released by the candidate. For those who have not been released prior to or at the convention (but before the roll call vote), they are bound through two ballots. The exception is for delegates bound to candidates who fail to meet a 20% viability threshold on the first ballot. They are released for the second ballot vote. After a second inconclusive ballot all delegates are free from their binds.

Most states examined thus far have a one ballot hold on delegates bound to candidate still in the race. Texas, however, keeps delegates bound to those with 20% or more support through two inconclusive ballots.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 Long allowed by the DNC to be grandfathered into the future, the Texas Democratic primary-caucus (two step) process was rejected by the national party for the 2016 cycle. All of the Texas Democratic Party delegates will be allocated based on the results of the presidential preference primary and that contest alone.

2 That letter is appended to the current rules of the Republican Party of Texas.

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

4 Though Trump and Cruz both garnered 27% support in this poll, 163 respondents favored the New York businessman to 162 respondents for the junior Texas senator.


Amanda said...

It has been a (long) while since I studied about Texas voting practices, but I'm pretty sure that the top 2 candidates from the primary are part of a run-off election held in May if no 1 candidate gets 50% + 1 of the vote. Did that change?

Josh Putnam said...

The run-off provision only applies to down ballot races, not the presidential nominations (because other states are voting too).