Sunday, February 28, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: MAINE

This is part twenty-four 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: March 5
Number of delegates: 23 [14 at-large, 6 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 10% (statewide)
2012: non-binding caucuses

Changes since 2012
Like in a number of other caucus states in 2016, the Republican Party in Maine was forced by changes in the Republican National Committee delegate selection rules to alter the standard operating procedure in the Pine Tree state. Traditionally, Maine Republicans have conducted their delegate selection process through a caucus/convention system. That is not different for 2016. However, rather than beginning the stepwise process with a non-binding preference vote, as had been the case in past cycles, Republicans in Maine will conduct precinct caucuses on March 5 with a binding straw poll.

Based on the statewide results, candidates receiving more than 10% of the vote will be proportionally allocated a shared of the 23 delegates that will comprise the Maine delegation to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

That the preference vote at the caucuses is binding on the delegate allocation is the big ticket change for Maine Republicans since 2012. Yet, that creation of a couple of thresholds dictating that allocation is also noteworthy. To qualify for any of the 23 pooled delegates -- the at-large, congressional district and automatic delegates are all one big bloc -- a candidate must receive at least ten percent of the vote. A candidate cannot receive 9.7 percent of the statewide vote, for example, and round up to the ten percent threshold. The delegates are rounded, not the percentages that determine the ultimate delegate allocation.

It seems unlikely in a winnowed field of candidates, that no one will reach 10% of the vote. There is, however, a contingency in place to lower the threshold to five percent should no one hit the ten percent mark.

Additionally, in the event that one candidate receives a majority of the statewide vote, then that candidate is entitled to all 23 of the Maine delegates. Furthermore, there are no rules in place prohibiting a backdoor to a winner-take-all allocation. Should only one candidate clear the ten percent hurdle in the statewide vote, then that candidate would be allocated all 23 delegates from the state.

Delegate allocation (at-large, congressional district and automatic delegates)
The allocation of delegates in Maine is fairly routine. Candidates who cross the ten percent threshold are eligible for a proportional share of the state's delegates. As has been the case in a number of other states -- Massachusetts comes to mind -- only the votes of those candidates over the threshold are used in determining the number of delegates each candidate receives. Any votes for candidates below the threshold are excluded from the delegate allocation equation.

In other words, the total number of qualifying votes is the denominator and the vote share for a particular candidate is the numerator. The resultant percentage is used to calculate the share of the 23 delegates that that candidate will be allocated.

This is all done in sequence from the top votegetter over the threshold to the last qualifying candidate. Any rounding of the delegates is also done as part of that sequence. That means that the statewide winner has his or her delegates calculated and rounded and then the the second place finisher and so on. This method has the effect of rounding every candidate up (or down), leaving the last qualifying candidate with the leftovers.

Such a method tends to circumvent the over- or under-allocated delegates problem that other states have as a feature of their rounding method. But it also stands as another advantage for winners (by default). It makes the last qualifying position one to be avoided since that is the last candidate in the rounding sequence. One could call that the leftovers position. Whatever label is applied, it is another built-in advantage for those at the top of the vote order (in this case, statewide).

The delegates allocated based on the results of the March 5 preference vote in caucuses across Maine will be bound to those candidates through the first ballot at the national convention. Delegates can only be released from that binding if the candidate to whom they are bound withdraws before the national convention in Cleveland. The withdrawal of a candidate from the race means that any Maine delegates allocated to them are automatically released, becoming unbound.

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