Thursday, October 3, 2019

Georgia Republicans Nudge Delegate Allocation in a Winner-Take-All Direction

Back in May 2019, the Georgia Republican Party gathered in Savannah for its state convention. Coming out of the weekend, the biggest of headlines was the election of David Shafer as state party chair, but that was not all Republican delegates to the state convention considered.

No, there were also changes considered and made to the rules of the Georgia Republican Party, including some tinkering with the party's process for selecting and allocating delegates to the Republican National Convention. The main change on that front was the insertion of a new section into Rule 7.3 of the Georgia Republican Party rules. That new section plus a new preface to the original section defining delegate allocation in the state created a contingency based on when the presidential primary is scheduled.
B) If the Presidential Preference Primary shall occur on March 15 or thereafter in the year in which a Republican National Convention is held, the Republican Presidential candidate receiving the highest number of votes in the Presidential Preference Primary in each Congressional District shall receive all votes of such Congressional District Delegates and seated Alternates to the Republican National Convention. The Republican Presidential candidate receiving the highest number of votes in the Primary statewide shall receive all statewide (State at Large) Delegate and seated Alternate votes to the Republican National Convention, and such Delegates and Alternates shall file a qualification oath as required by O.C.G.A. $ 21-2-196.
Given the national party rules restricting the usage of winner-take-all allocation methods prior to March 15, the Georgia Republican Party basically created an allocation method for primaries scheduled on either side of that line of demarcation in the Republican presidential primary calendar.

The rules in the event of a pre-March 15 primary are the same as they were in Georgia in 2016: proportional under the broader Republican National Committee definition of the term with a 20 percent qualifying threshold (statewide and in each the congressional districts) and a winner-take-all trigger if a candidate wins a majority in each unit (statewide and in each the congressional districts). None of that has changed.

However, the new section B to Rule 7.3 accounts for a March 15 or later presidential primary. And it shifts Georgia Republican delegate allocation back to a method the party reliably used before 2012: a winner-take-most/winner-take-all by congressional district method. A candidate who wins a plurality statewide would win all of the statewide/at-large delegates. Any candidate who wins a plurality in any of the 14 congressional districts would win the three delegates from that district.

And that will be the method Peach state Republicans use in 2020. A month after the Savannah state convention, Secretary of State Raffensperger (R) set the Georgia presidential primary date for March 24. Georgia, then, will have a more winner-take-all flavored allocation method for 2020 than it has in any cycle since 2008.

While this may be treated by some as some advantage for President Trump, it should be noted that there were already winner-take-all triggers both statewide and at the congressional district level in the plan Georgia Republicans used in 2016. An incumbent president, popular within his own party, very likely would have/will hit those majority thresholds that would have tripped the winner-take-all triggers.

In any event, Georgia will be more winner-take-all in 2020 than it has been in recent cycles.

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