Monday, May 25, 2020

2020 Democratic Delegate Allocation: RHODE ISLAND


Election type: primary
Date: June 2
    [April 28 originally]
Number of delegates: 35 [5 at-large, 3 PLEOs, 18 congressional district, 9 automatic/superdelegates]
Allocation method: proportional statewide and at the congressional district level
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15%
2016: proportional primary
Delegate selection plan [includes post-coronavirus plans]

Changes since 2016
If one followed the 2016 series on the Republican process here at FHQ, then you may end up somewhat disappointed. The two national parties manage the presidential nomination process differently. The Republican National Committee is much less hands-on in regulating state and state party activity in the delegate selection process than the Democratic National Committee is. That leads to a lot of variation from state to state and from cycle to cycle on the Republican side. Meanwhile, the DNC is much more top down in its approach. Thresholds stay the same. It is a 15 percent barrier that candidates must cross in order to qualify for delegates. That is standard across all states. The allocation of delegates is roughly proportional. Again, that is applied to every state.

That does not mean there are no changes. The calendar has changed as have other facets of the process such as whether a state has a primary or a caucus.

Content to remain a part of the evolving regional primary collective that formed ahead of the 2012 presidential nomination cycle, majority party Democratic decision makers in Rhode Island did little to shake up the delegate selection process in the Ocean state for 2020. The date of the contest remained on the last Tuesday in April and other elements of the delegate selection plan stayed much the same as they were in 2016.

However, as with virtually every other state, Rhode Island had to adapt to the realities of the coronavirus pandemic. Like other states involved in the Acela primary regional primary -- Maryland and Pennsylvania among them -- Rhode Island also shifted its presidential primary election from April 28 to June 2. But the protocol the state adopted for dealing with the public health concerns around in-person voting wedged just in between where Maryland and Pennsylvania ended up. Whereas the state of Maryland sent all eligible voters a primary ballot and commonwealth of Pennsylvania opted not to do anything, Rhode Island decision makers chose to shift to a predominantly mail election. But unlike Maryland, Rhode Island mailed all eligible voters an absentee voting application rather than a ballot. Voters had until May 19 to apply.

In-person voting locations will continue to operate on election day, but will be reduced in number.

All mail-in ballots are due to state election office on or before 8pm on Tuesday, June 2. 

Overall, the Democratic delegation in Rhode Island changed by three delegates from 2016 to 2020. The number of pledged delegates increased by two -- three district delegates gained and one at-large delegate lost -- while the number of superdelegates increased by one.

[Please see below for more on the post-coronavirus changes specifically to the delegate selection process.]

The standard 15 percent qualifying threshold applies both statewide and on the congressional district level.

Delegate allocation (at-large and PLEO delegates)
To win any at-large or PLEO (pledged Party Leader and Elected Officials) delegates a candidate must win 15 percent of the statewide vote. Only the votes of those candidates above the threshold will count for the purposes of the separate allocation of these two pools of delegates.

See New Hampshire synopsis for an example of how the delegate allocation math works for all categories of delegates.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
Rhode Island's 18 congressional district delegates are split across two congressional districts and have no variation across districts from the measure of Democratic strength Rhode Island Democrats are using based on the results of the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections in the state. That method apportions delegates as follows...
CD1 - 9 delegates*
CD2 - 9 delegates*

*Bear in mind that districts with odd numbers of national convention delegates are potentially important to winners (and those above the qualifying threshold) within those districts. Rounding up for an extra delegate initially requires less in those districts than in districts with even numbers of delegates.

Delegate allocation (automatic delegates/superdelegates)
Superdelegates are free to align with a candidate of their choice at a time of their choosing. While their support may be a signal to voters in their state (if an endorsement is made before voting in that state), superdelegates will only vote on the first ballot at the national convention if half of the total number of delegates -- pledged plus superdelegates -- have been pledged to one candidate. Otherwise, superdelegates are locked out of the voting unless 1) the convention adopts rules that allow them to vote or 2) the voting process extends to a second ballot. But then all delegates, not just superdelegates will be free to vote for any candidate.

[NOTE: All Democratic delegates are pledged and not bound to their candidates. They are to vote in good conscience for the candidate to whom they have been pledged, but technically do not have to. But they tend to because the candidates and their campaigns are involved in vetting and selecting their delegates through the various selection processes on the state level. Well, the good campaigns are anyway.]

Rhode Island, like a number of the other former Acela primary states, has a delegate selection process that is more insulated from the effects of the coronavirus than some others. That is mainly a function of the fact that the district delegate selection process is run through the primary itself. Those 18 district delegates are directly elected on the primary ballot. Yes, the primary date shifted from April 28 to June 2, but filing had already been completed before the coronavirus and there was no need for the selection process to be shifted online or to some vote-by-mail system as has been common in some other states.

While the district delegates will be selected as previously planned but on June 2, the process for the selection of the eight statewide delegates -- five at-large and three PLEO delegates -- was more disrupted. The Rhode Island Democratic Party State Committee will continue to be the body that selects the statewide delegates, but that process will now take place virtually rather than in-person and will happen on June 15 about a month later than was originally planned.

[Initially, Rhode Island's district delegates were to have been selected on the April 28 primary ballot and the statewide delegates on May 17 at a meeting of the state committee. The coronavirus shifted both back on the calendar.]

Importantly, if a candidate drops out of the race before the selection of statewide delegates, then any statewide delegates allocated to that candidate will be reallocated to the remaining candidates. If Candidate X is in the race in mid-June when the Rhode Island statewide delegate selection takes place but Candidate Y is not, then any statewide delegates allocated to Candidate Y in the early June primary would be reallocated to Candidate X. [This same feature is not something that applies to district delegates.] This reallocation only applies if a candidate has fully dropped out.  This is less likely to be a factor with just Biden left as the only viable candidate in the race, but Sanders could still gain statewide delegates by finishing with more than 15 percent statewide. Under a new deal struck between the Biden and Sanders camps, Biden will be allocated (or reallocated) all of the statewide delegates in a given state. However, during the selection process, the state party will select Sanders-aligned delegate candidates in proportion to the share of the qualified statewide vote.

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