Saturday, August 3, 2019

Nevada Republicans to Consider Resolution to Skip 2020 Caucuses for Allocating Delegates

At the upcoming September 7 meeting of the Nevada Republican Party state central committee, the party will consider a series of resolutions to forgo a presidential preference vote at precinct caucuses next February. In their place would be what the NRP is calling an Alternative Presidential Preference Poll, a vote not of rank and file Nevada Republicans statewide, but of the membership of the Nevada Republican Party state central committee.

Here is how it would work:
1) The Executive Committee, the smaller subset of the central committee, would determine "that a statewide presidential poll is unnecessary to determine the will of the majority of registered Nevada Republican voters," opting instead for the aforementioned Alternative Poll of the full central committee.  
2) This maneuver can only be used in cycles in which there is an incumbent Republican president.  
3) That incumbent president would automatically be placed in nomination as a candidate in the Alternative Poll.  
4) Other candidates can additionally file a nomination form with the party to be placed in nomination in the Alternative Poll as well. Those challenging candidates must include on that form the signatures of 20 members of the central committee.  
5) The members of the central committee then vote for that candidate (/those candidates) under rules established by the Executive Committee. 
While other candidates technically have access to the process, functionally someone like Bill Weld or Mark Sanford (or whomever) faces a steep climb in convincing 20 central committee members to give them that chance. That, in turn, means that President Trump is not only very likely to be the only candidate involved in that Alternative Poll, but also stands to have all of the Nevada delegation bound to him at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte.

Now, this may raise a few rules-related questions for some.
1) Can Nevada Republicans actually strip out the presidential preference vote from their precinct caucuses and still remain compliant under Republican National Committee rules.
Yes. In fact, Kansas Republicans are considering a similar shift in their delegate selection process. Under Rule 16(d)(1) of the 2016 Rules of the Republican Party -- the rules adopted by the 2016 convention to guide the 2020 process -- state parties have the discretion to select, elect and/or allocate delegates via state central committee action. 
2) But this sounds like a move by the party to allocate all of its delegates to the president, and winner-take-all allocation is prohibited before March 15, right?
This one involves a bit of a convoluted response. First of all, other than South Carolina, whose plan includes a winner-take-all by congressional district (winner-take-most) allocation scheme, no party with a contest prior to March 15 can allocate delegates in a winner-take-all fashion without also included some sort of qualifying threshold and/or winner-take-all threshold. The former can be set as high as 20 percent and the latter as low as 50 percent. There is nothing in any of these resolutions to alter the proportional manner in which Nevada Republicans allocate delegates. In fact, that proportional method is cited in the Alternative Poll's establishing resolution. 
But if Trump is the only candidate considered in the Alternative Poll, then he is the only candidate who can win a proportional share of the Nevada delegates.1 That would make for a winner-take-all allocation. That is true, but highlights the importance of 1) the Executive Committee's estimation that the statewide preference vote at the precinct caucuses is not necessary, and 2) the fact that other candidates technically have access to the Alternative Poll and thus a proportional share of any delegates for which such a candidate would qualify. The result is that while the end result is likely a winner-take-all allocation, there are ways for others to win delegates. The bar may be set high, but there is a bar. 
And according to the Associated Press:
The Nevada Republican Party’s proposes [sic] rule change “isn’t about any kind of conspiracy theory about protecting the president,” said Nevada GOP spokesman Keith Schipper. 
“He’s going to be the nominee,” Schipper said. “This is about protecting resources to make sure that the president wins in Nevada and that Republicans up and down the ballot win in 2020.”
This is akin to the resources arguments Kansas Republicans have made about skipping their caucuses as well, but in the Nevada Republican case, the precinct caucuses would still occur on February 25. There just would not be a preference vote to bind delegates to the candidates. Instead, the caucuses/convention process would be utilized as the means through which delegates would be selected. The delegation may have already been allocated to Trump by then, even as early as the September 7 Nevada Republican state central committee meeting.

As a postscript, it is noteworthy how differently the Republican parties in each of the four carve-out states have approached 2020. Iowa Republicans have remained steadfast that they will have a preference vote tethered to the February caucuses in the Hawkeye state. Republicans in New Hampshire considered but opted against bringing a resolution ending a party neutrality rule and endorsing as a party the president for renomination ahead of the primary in the Granite state. Meanwhile, South Carolina Republicans have also considered scaling down their operations for 2020, potentially shifting from a primary to a caucus. None of this state party maneuvering is confined to just the carve-out states, but they are the most consequential at the beginning of the process. Other state Republican parties across the country will finalize decisions on their 2020 delegate selection processes as the October 1 RNC deadline to finalize plans approaches. It will not just be Nevada Republicans who are active on this front in September.

1 And although it is not spelled out in the resolution, it is assumed that delegates could only be allocated as uncommitted if 20 members of the central committee filed that paperwork with the party secretary that other candidates would have to file.

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1 comment:

Howard Hirsch said...

As a former GOP county chairman in Nevada, I fully and enthusiastically agree with the state central committee's decision. There is no statutory or party rule requirement to hold a straw poll at precinct caucuses, and the activity is a distraction from the principal business of the caucus, which is to adopt resolutions that will filter up through county and state party platforms eventually to be distilled into a national party platform to be adopted at the national convention, and to elect precinct delegates to Nevada county conventions.

The last presidential cycle caucus I attended was in 2012. Mitt Romney won the straw poll vote, but Ron Paul won most of the precinct delegate positions, simply because all too many of Romney's supporters showed up to cast their ballot and then left, while the Paul supporters dug in until the end to win delegate slots by attrition.

The straw poll serves no purpose, but if the Nevada GOP decides to continue to conduct it, it should be done so as the last item of business so that precinct delegates will be elected first and those who want to vote have to stay until the end.

I do, however, disagree that the proposed rule change be implemented only in years in which there is an incumbent Republican president. While I enthusiastically support Donald Trump for re-election, we still have to have an open process.