Thursday, December 24, 2015

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: NEVADA

This is part fifteen 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: caucus
Date: February 23 
Number of delegates: 30 [15 at-large, 12 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional
Threshold to qualify for delegates: "Any candidate who receives less than the percentage required for one Delegate will receive no Delegates."1
2012: proportional caucuses

Changes since 2012
The Nevada Republican Party method of delegate allocation for 2016 does not really seem to be that much of a departure from what the party used four years ago. It isn't. Silver state Republicans will once again select delegates to the national convention in a caucus/convention system and will proportionally allocate those delegates to candidates based on a preference poll taken at precinct caucuses across the state on Tuesday, February 23.

Cut and dry, right?

In reality, nothing is ever actually as easy as that in Nevada. The delegate selection process for Silver state Republicans has been riddled with problems since they were reluctantly added to the carve-out state line-up for the 2008 cycle.2 In that first cycle in 2008, a rift between the state party and delegates aligned with Ron Paul forced the early adjournment of the state convention. Four years later, counting problems plagued the precinct caucuses overwhelmingly won by Mitt Romney and the state convention saw Ron Paul delegates elected to what had been assumed throughout primary season 2012 to be Romney delegate slots.

It is that latter issue from the 2012 state convention that contributed to rules changes at the national party level. The RNC's new binding requirement, in turn, triggered additional changes to the Nevada Republican method of delegate selection for the 2016 cycle. And that constitutes the biggest change to the state-level rules. The same sort of proportionality is in place that was there in 2012, but for 2016, that allocation is backed by a stronger, clearer set of rules regarding the binding of delegates to the national convention in Cleveland. [More on that below.]

Technically, there is no official threshold to qualify for any of the proportionally allocated delegates from Nevada. But the language of rules matters. Chapter 3, Section 1.0 of the Nevada Republican Party delegate rules sets the parameters here. To win any delegates a candidate must receive at least the percentage of the vote statewide required to qualify for one delegate. While the RNC recognizes Nevada as a state operating without a threshold for delegates, functionally, a candidate must win at least 3.33% of the vote to receive one of the 30 delegates available from the state.

Delegate allocation  [Simulation]
All 30 Nevada delegates will be proportionally allocated to candidates based on the outcome of the preference poll conducted at the February 23 precinct caucuses in the state. A simulated allocation based on the early October CNN poll of the Silver state (the most recent at the time of this writing),  would look something like this3 [AGAIN, THIS IS JUST A SIMULATION; NOT A PROJECTION]:
  • Trump (38%) -- 11.4 delegates 
  • Carson (22%) -- 6.6 delegates 
  • Fiorina (8%) -- 2.4 delegates 
  • Rubio (7%) -- 2.1 delegates 
  • Bush (6%) -- 1.8 delegates 
  • Cruz (4%) -- 1.2 delegates 
  • Huckabee (4%) -- 1.2 delegates 
  • Paul (2%) -- 0.6 delegates 
  • Christie (1%) -- 0.3 delegates 
  • Pataki (1%) -- 0.3 delegates 
  • Kasich (1%) -- 0.3 delegates
Note that FHQ has left those totals unrounded. That is due to the rounding scheme the Nevada Republican Party is utilizing; a largest remainder method. All that means is that there is a particular sequence to the rounding. First, those candidates who do not qualify for delegates are removed from consideration. Everyone below 3.33% of the statewide vote fits that category. Given the language of the rule, then, Paul, Christie, Pataki and Kasich do not qualify and cannot round up to one delegate. 

Rather than starting with the top votegetter and working down the list until all of the available delegates have been allocated, the largest remainder method first allocates the baseline integer number of delegates to their respective candidates. Trump would receive 11 delegates, Carson 6, Fiorina 2 and so on. That would allocate 24 of the 30 Nevada delegates, leaving six unallocated before rounding. 

In the second part of the largest remainder method of rounding, the candidates are arranged/ordered according to the fraction they have left over. That would place Bush -- with .8 -- first in line followed by Carson, Trump, Fiorina and on down to Rubio who has a remainder of just .1. Bush, then, would round up to two delegates, and then each subsequent candidate in the order would be rounded up until all of the remaining unallocated delegates are allocated. 

Recall that there were six unallocated delegates. Additionally, there were seven candidates who qualified for delegates. Each of the top six -- everyone but Rubio -- would round up a delegate for an allocation that looks like this:
  • Trump (38%) -- 12 delegates 
  • Carson (22%) -- 7 delegates 
  • Fiorina (8%) -- 3 delegates 
  • Rubio (7%) -- 2 delegates 
  • Bush (6%) -- 2 delegates 
  • Cruz (4%) -- 2 delegates 
  • Huckabee (4%) -- 2 delegates 

The above is essentially the reserving of delegate slots for particular candidates. Actual delegate candidates will be elected to fill those slots at the Nevada state convention. This is in line with how Nevada Republicans have conducted the process in the past. However, for 2016, the rules are a bit more specific in terms of how delegates are bound to candidates.

How different?

Let's say that Trump wins Nevada with 38% of the vote as was assumed in the hypothetical delegate allocation above. Yet, Carson, like Ron Paul before him, overruns the caucus/convention process and additionally corners the market on delegates who are elected/selected to attend the state convention and are thus eligible to be national convention delegates. An overwhelming number of Carson-aligned state convention delegates would all vote for each other and win all or most of the national convention spots. However, once all of Carson's 7 "earned" spots to the national convention were filled by delegates pledged to him, those remaining Carson-aligned national delegates would be bound to the (other) candidates who had 1) earned delegates from the preference vote at the caucuses and 2) were still in the race. If, for instance, Trump was the only other candidate still in the nomination race by the time of the (typically) late spring state convention, some Carson-aligned delegates would fill Trump's allocated slots, but the others would either be bound to Carson or unbound -- because the other candidates had dropped out -- but free to support Carson on the first ballot at the convention.

This is a long way -- through this probably exaggerated exercise -- of saying that the Nevada delegates will be bound to candidates on the first ballot regardless of the candidate that delegate may prefer.

There are some caveats to add to the discussion, though. One, as alluded to above, is that if candidates drop their delegates can become unbound. Can. Those delegates becoming unbound depends, however, on the candidate to whom they are bound not only exiting the race but releasing those delegates as well.

But that is just one option available to such a candidate. The candidate who has suspended their campaign can also choose to hold on to those delegates or can opt before the state convention to have them proportionally reallocated to the candidates still in the race.

Opting to reallocate those earned delegate slots would mean choosing to ensure that all of a withdrawn candidate's delegates are bound to the remaining candidates as opposed to, say, deciding that all of those delegates become unbound and then support Carson (as is consistent with the hypothetical above where Carson dominates the delegate election process). The withdrawn candidate can choose to have their delegates bound rather than releasing them to support someone the withdrawn candidate does not prefer.

How would this reallocation work?

Well, let's assume that Trump after having won Nevada later chooses to withdraw from the race after performing poorly in the states that follow on the primary calendar. But he chooses to reallocate those delegates rather than yield them all to Carson in an unbound situation (again, assuming that Carson has overrun the delegate election process).

Trump's 12 delegates would be reallocated as follows:
  • Carson (22%) -- 12.94 delegates (13)
  • Fiorina (8%) -- 4.71 delegates (5)
  • Rubio (7%) -- 4.12 delegates (4)
  • Bush (6%) -- 3.53 delegates (4)
  • Cruz (4%) -- 2.35 delegates (2)
  • Huckabee (4%) -- 2.35 delegates (2)
This is perhaps a bit of a stretch: to assume that the Nevada winner drops out but some of the other candidates below him there stay in the race. Still, it illustrates how delegates would be reallocated. In practice, this is more likely than not a move to allow all of delegates to be reallocated and bound to the one remaining candidate in the race; the presumptive nominee.4 As noted above, though, there is some gamesmanship to this reallocation provision of the Nevada rules if there is not a presumptive nominee by the time of the Nevada state convention.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 This can potentially be interpreted two ways:
  1. A candidate must receive at least 3.33% of the preference vote. That is the vote share required to receive exactly one delegate.  
  2. A candidate must receive at least 1.67% of the preference vote. That is the vote share required to round up to one delegate. The allocation instructions do include guidance detailing the rounding of fractional delegates to the nearest whole number.
Threshold aside, this is a discussion about the minimum vote share to qualify for one delegate. The odds are high that such a candidate will not be around when delegates are selected and assigned at the subsequent state convention anyway. Regardless, the literal meaning would seem to preclude option #2 above.

2 The Democratic National Committee added both Nevada and South Carolina to the cast of early state contests in 2006. With South Carolina at that point already a part of the group with Iowa and New Hampshire within the Republican nomination process, Nevada Republicans forced the issue and scheduled early caucuses to coincide with their Democratic counterparts for 2008.

3 This poll is being used as an example of how delegates could be allocated under these new rules in Nevada and not as a forecast of the outcome in the Silver state caucuses.

4 In the event that a candidate wins all of the Nevada delegates in such a scenario, the state party chairperson becomes unbound in order for the delegation not to violate RNC Rule 38.

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