Showing posts with label automatic delegates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label automatic delegates. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

2020 Delegate Selection Rules and Convention Call Pass Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee Hurdle

Last week the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) once again reconvened in Washington, DC to finalize its proposed package of recommended changes to the delegate selection rules, call for the convention, and bylaws for the 2020 cycle. Despite some of the headlines trumpeting what a momentous occasion it was, the meeting was, in reality, another incremental step in the process of finalizing the amendment proposals. It was a meeting intended to polish one final time the changes the panel would send to the full DNC for consideration in August.

Now, that is not to minimize the work of the RBC over the last six months. Indeed, from a macro perspective the changes the members of the Democratic National Committee will vote on at its Chicago meeting next month represent some fairly significant potential changes to the Democratic presidential nomination process. But the RBC arrived at those decisions in fits and starts over a series of meetings during the first half of 2018. In other words, the heavy lifting had already been done.

Take, for example, the oft-discussed Third Way Plus proposal to reduce the role of superdelegates in the nomination process. Yes, the RBC voted on the exact language of those changes at this final July 11 meeting (27 votes for , 2 abstentions), but the group had previously passed off on the framework by a similar vote (27 for, 1 against, and 1 abstention) during a June 27 conference call meeting.

And that is the way it most often goes: changes both monumental and incremental can get lost among all of the rules tinkering that occurs at periodic but regular meetings of the Rules and Bylaws Committee.

While that superdelegate/automatic delegate change and the remainder of the amendments package will go before the full DNC in August, the convention-created committee where many of the proposed changes found their inspiration -- the Unity Reform Commission (URC) -- has the ability to review the package and reconcile it with their own work from 2017.

A thumbs up from the URC means the DNC will likely have an up or down vote -- pending any amendments from DNC members -- on the package of changes.

Any dissension in the URC review process likely signals amendments to come from the URC itself. Their threshold is whether the RBC in the URC's judgment has "substantially adopted" the URC recommendations. If, in the committee's judgment, the RBC has failed to meet that subjective threshold in the areas of primaries, caucuses, unpledged delegates, and party reform, then the URC can put before the full DNC next month proposals that will.

Two additional notes should be added here:
First, recall the membership of the URC. Although there was wide consensus across nearly all of the planks in each of the four areas (There were only two instances in which unanimity was not reached.), the panel tilted toward the more establishment faction (Clinton-chosen plus Perez-chosen members). Should, for example then, the Sanders faction of the URC come to the conclusion that some recommendation was not substantially adopted, they would need help from the other faction to get an alternative before the full DNC. [It could work in the opposite direction as well, but the establishment faction would have the votes without needing any Sanders-aligned support. That said, this scenario seems unlikely.]

It should also be noted that the DNC parliamentarian urged the RBC during its final July 11 meeting to adopt well ahead of the DNC meeting a clear protocol for amendments to be introduced at that meeting. Objection to a proposed change, as is the case with the platform amendment process at the national convention, would not be sufficient to derail a change. Rather, an objection plus an already devised and drafted alternative must be provided. The URC, then, can object, but it will have to work out an alternative proposal for the DNC to consider. And that proposal would have to include the exact language of the change. [This was an issue with the URC recommendations. The RBC spent the first few meetings this year trying to transition the proposals to language that could be inserted in the rules, convention call, and bylaws.] That would add to the items on the URC plate in its review meeting; items that could potentially take up time as the clock ticks down toward the DNC meeting.

Procedure aside, at what is the URC looking from the RBC and can it be reconciled with the recommendations the group settled on throughout 2017?

On superdelegates/automatic delegates, the RBC, it could be argued, went beyond the recommendations of the URC. Rather than fashioning a plan to leave a third of the superdelegates in place and bind the remaining two-thirds of the would-be automatic delegates based on statewide primary or caucus results, the RBC remedy for curbing the influence of superdelegates was to remove them from the equation on the first ballot roll call vote at the national convention.

The third way plus proposal was introduced during the June 27 RBC conference call meeting by member Elaine Kamarck. Her motion was the following:
All current unpledged delegates will become automatic delegates. On the first ballot of the presidential roll call, only pledged delegates will be permitted to vote unless a presidential candidate has secured enough pledged delegates to receive the nomination under any circumstances. At that point, automatic delegates should be permitted to vote. This determination shall be made by the DNC secretary upon certification of pledged delegates at the conclusion of the primary and caucus process. The threshold for a presidential candidate to secure the nomination is a majority (50% + 1) of all eligible delegate votes. In the event that the nominating contest moves beyond the first ballot, all automatic delegates would be able to cast a vote for the candidate of their choice on the second ballot and all subsequent ballots until a nominee is chosen. Automatic delegates would retain their ability to vote according to their own preferences on all other convention matters including the credentials, convention rules, platform, and the vice presidential nomination. 
This framework was adopted as described in the first section above. The intent and the eventual language set up the conditions under which the now-automatic delegates can or cannot participate in the first round of voting.
  1. If a candidate wins 50 percent of the pledged delegates plus one during or by the end of primary season, then the superdelegates are barred from the first ballot.
  2. If a candidate wins 50 percent of all of the delegates (including superdelegates) plus one, then the superdelegate opt-in is triggered and that faction of delegates can participate in the first (and only) round of voting.
  3. If no candidate wins a majority of either pledged or all delegates during or by the end of primary season, then superdelegates are barred from the first round and allowed in to vote in the second round to break the stalemate.
The route differs from the URC proposal for reducing the role of superdelegates in the presidential nomination process, but the RBC plan -- third way plus -- arrives at a similar end.

There were additional tangential recommendations made around the edges concerning automatic delegates. Under current rules, unpledged delegates are barred from seeking pledged delegate slots. However, the third way plus proposal gave the RBC reason to revisit that; to lift that prohibition, allowing automatic delegates a way to participate in the first ballot vote. To do that, an amendment adopted during the July 11 RBC meeting, would force any automatic delegate taking a pledged slot to give up their automatic status.

While that may seem like a backdoor to superdelegate participation -- and it technically is -- this is a point that came up during the URC meetings in 2017. The conclusion then among some members was if automatic delegates are willing to forego their automatic status, then they can run for pledged slots.

FHQ elaborated on this in a series of tweets during the July 11 RBC meeting:

Collectively, the URC is likely to green light these changes given that they exceed the two more complicated, less workable recommendations on unpledged delegates.

In the areas of caucuses and primaries, most of those recommendations were consolidated into some changes to the requirements and encouragements from the national party to state parties in Rule 2. Those recommended changes drafted by member Frank Leone were adopted during the May 8 RBC meeting.

These too are likely to pass muster with the URC in whole or in part. This series of requirements more functionally embeds the recommendations in the delegate selection rules.

The URC meets via conference call starting at 2pm on Tuesday, July 17.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Third Way? Third Way Plus? The Democrats' Rules and Bylaws Committee Again Revisits Superdelegates

The Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) once again took up the issue of superdelegates and 2020 at its recent meeting in Providence (the one on June 8 that ran concurrent with the DNC Executive Committee meeting).

On some level, one could argue that battle lines were drawn. However, it was yet another incremental push toward an altered treatment of the fraction of Democratic national convention delegates who have been unpledged in past cycles. Much of the work of the previous four 2018 meetings of the RBC have centered on the two plans that emerged from the Unity Reform Commission report. But both the complexity of those two reform proposals and the fact that the changes required to implement either of them would require an amendment to the charter of the Democratic Party -- and thus a two-thirds supermajority vote of the full DNC -- set the bar for passage quite high.

As those plans have lost steam another gained traction. First raised at the first of two March RBC meetings, the plan now dubbed the Third Way would make the first vote on the presidential nomination at the national convention one tabulated based on the votes of just the pledged delegates; removing the automatic, unpledged delegates -- superdelegates -- from the initial equation. That simpler approach would also prove easier to implement on the front end. Only a simple majority of the DNC would be necessary to shepherd the reform over the finish line. It is that combination of factors that has, at least in part, won the Third Way option the backing of DNC chair Tom Perez.

But in the back and forth in Providence among RBC members over how the national convention roll call vote would be designed and handled under a Third Way scenario, there was some resistance to prohibiting superdelegate participation on the first ballot presidential nomination vote. FHQ will save a discussion of the bulk of that series of exchanges for another post. For now, I want to focus on one specific counterproposal -- friendly amendment -- to the Third Way: Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chair and Association of State Democratic Chairs (ASDC) chief, Ken Martin's Third Way Plus.

The rationale behind Martin's proposal is to add a caveat to the Third Way plan; an exemption of sorts. If the pledged delegate count at the end of primary season is conclusive -- there is a clear winner -- then there is no need to prohibit superdelegate participation in the first ballot presidential nomination vote. If those unpledged delegates cannot overturn the will of the voters, as the charge against superdelegates often goes, then there is no need to bar them.

In effect, that would make the final tally -- the final delegate count -- an actionable datapoint; an opt-in for the party in terms of superdelegate participation in the initial round. Either a candidate will have accrued a conclusive level of pledged delegates by the second Tuesday in June or they will have not.

Although the caveat is a potentially helpful bridge to those on the RBC and within the DNC opposed to stripping superdelegates of their vote in the first round, the real import in Martin's proposal is in the trigger mechanism. But it is a flawed mechanism.

It is flawed because it is potentially built on wishful thinking. Wishful in that the process will work the way it normally does. Candidates will run. Candidates will withdraw from the race as wins and losses are tabulated and delegates won. And all of them but one will drop out as the war of attrition plays out and/or once one candidate wins 50 percent plus one of the requisite number of delegates. And that may happen.

But it also may not. The scenario that has often been spoken about is one where a large field of 2020 Democratic candidates winnows slowly enough under proportional allocation rules to keep some candidate from a majority of delegates before the convention. Under that set of circumstances, the plus in Third Way Plus is left unactivated and the party ends up with one of two options. On the one hand, there is some maneuvering among the party, the candidates, and their pledged delegates/delegations ahead of the convention that gets a candidate to a simple majority level of support.

Alternatively, that first vote is devalued as the convention approaches. The second vote -- the one with superdelegates -- then, becomes the "real" vote. The convention goes through the motions on the first vote, it stalemates in a manner that reflects the end-of-primary-season delegate count, and the superdelegates are added to the equation on the second vote to resolve the nomination. One could hypothesize that the former is more likely the closer the plurality primary season winner is to the 50 percent plus one mark in the delegate count while the odds of the latter increase the smaller the share of delegates the plurality winner has.

Neither route is what one would consider "clean". Then again, any path taken in a sequential nomination system offers up its own quirks, roadblocks, and problems. But this is a quirk, a roadblock, a problem, or a scenario for which the RBC is not exactly planning.

And look, it is easy for someone outside the process to critique the efforts of rules makers. Those rules makers -- regardless of party -- have to weigh not only the future but account for the past, and particularly the pressures from parts of the broader party coalition to right the wrongs, real or perceived, of past cycles. Often those goals do not match; do not mesh well. For Democrats in the current context to plan for 2020, they have to address lingering issues from 2016. And while relevant in the context of 2016, those issues -- superdelegates or otherwise -- may not matter in the same way during and through the next iteration of the nomination system.

None of this is to suggest that superdelegates do not represent a real or perceived problem. However, it requires of the RBC a fair amount of balancing across a number of different dimensions, not just the 2016 versus 2020 one.

But how well does the Third Way or the amended Third Way Plus even -- partially or completely -- resolve the superdelegate-related issues leftover from 2016? That is worth exploring.
  • Neither plan gets rid of superdelegates. Nor, in fact, did either of the two proposals that emerged from the Unity Reform Commission (URC). The Third Way options reduce the influence of superdelegates by removing them from the first round of nomination voting at the convention (or in the case of the Plus, only if primary season was inconclusive). The two URC plans allowed superdelegates to retain their automatic status (They would remain delegates; delegates with their positions reserved rather than those that have to run for delegate positions.), but sought to bind 60 percent of those automatic delegates to candidates based on the results of primaries and caucuses. 
  • Neither plan completely prevents the controversial type of early influence superdelegates had in 2016. That ability of superdelegates to endorse early remains intact. That act -- an endorsement -- just would not count towards an evolving delegate count. Or would it? It is hard to imagine a situation where those votes are not counted even with an asterisk. "Candidate X has the support of Congressperson Y. Congressperson Y's vote at the convention may or may not matter, but Candidate X has that vote in hand if it does." And with or without that sort of secondary delegate count, patterns of these types of endorsements are bound to be reported. "Members of Congress and governors are flocking to Candidate X and none of the others." There are signals -- there is influence -- in that sort of activity under even a Third Way structure.
While "doing nothing is not an option," this particular something does not exactly address the two biggest complaints/desires coming out of 2016 (nor some of the scenario-specific issues described above).

What might?

One approach may be to wed the past with the future. Attempts to balance an infrastructural element of the Democratic delegate selection process almost demands that.

First, the future. Ken Martin's plus is a novel idea. But its value is in turning the final delegate count into an actionable point in the process and less about the trigger. To repeat, none of these plans call for the elimination of superdelegates, and that is a nod to them being a load-bearing part of the overall delegate selection process. Eliminating superdelegates means fewer delegate slots and more competition for those spots (potentially/likely more among/between rank-and-file members and elected officials). Changing that would have a cascading effect on other elements of the delegate selection process.

If one acknowledges, then, that superdelegates are not going anywhere, then how does the party deal with their influence? One component is nestled in Martin's trigger. Not the trigger itself, but in the cutoff; the end of primary season delegate count. That data can be determinative in terms of the superdelegates. Either a candidate has a conclusive number of delegates to claim the nomination or said candidate does not. If one candidate has met the threshold, then the superdelegates can participate as they could not overturn the will of the primary voters. That is the plus mechanism in Martin's Third Way Plus; the no harm, no foul outcome.

However, the alternative outcome is an inconclusive primary season. That is a scenario in which superdelegates may be needed to break the stalemate. A convention vote is not needed to accomplish that when the result is already known. Moreover, why potentially take that tiebreaker into a convention setting? It would be a wide departure from what conventions have evolved to in the modern era: a kickoff to the general election.

Now, at this point one may ask, "Well, is this not just a way to keep superdelegates involved in the process?" It does resemble the status quo. That is why it is necessary to couple with the end of primary season delegate count with an element from the superdelegates past.

[For more on the history of superdelegates see The Unity Reform Commission and Superdelegates]

When the superdelegates concept was rolled out for 1984, there were a set number of slots set aside. There were 400 apportioned to the state parties to dole out. Additionally, state party chairs and vice chairs were granted automatic spots and 60 percent of the members of Congress (the latter of which were selected by the House Democratic Caucus and the Senate Democratic Conference).

One problem that arose during that initial run was that the congressional superdelegate selection happened prior to the first round of contests. That was viewed at the time -- mainly because there was a near-consolidation of congressional support behind one candidate, Walter Mondale -- as an unofficial first primary; one that provided undue influence on the nomination.

This came up in the rules discussions after 1984, and, in fact, affected the 1988 rules. The process of determining who the superdelegates were was streamlined. The who part was specified, getting away from the process of state parties tagging folks as unpledged. Instead, DNC members from the states were granted superdelegate status in addition to officeholders like governors and big city mayors. Additionally, the percentage of members of Congress was increased from 60 percent to 80 percent. Both these moves upped the number of superdelegates for 1988 as compared to the previous cycle.

However, one corrective action the 1985 Fairness Commission -- the corollary to today's Unity Reform Commission -- helped produce was a change in the time period in which congressional superdelegates would be chosen. Rather than having that selection process happen before Iowa and New Hampshire, the process was pushed back to late April and early May. And the intent was reduce the influence of the most high-profile superdelegates. That late selection period and the fact that only 80 percent of the Democratic members of Congress were selected combined to limit superdelegate influence. Sure, Democratic members of Congress could endorse but the impact is muted if it is unknown (to the public) whether that vote would be cast in any meaningful way at the convention.

And that was something that was consistent with the Hunt Commission report/recommendations. That 1982 commission sought to get Democratic members of Congress back involved in the convention, the potential deliberations around the presidential nomination, and weighing in (if needed) at the convention. The changes instituted for 1988 accomplished that (although Dukakis was the presumptive nominee well before the convention).

The superdelegate system -- indeed, the nomination system -- evolved from that point, and by the 1996 cycle, the "randomness" of which Democratic members of Congress would be involved was eliminated. With all Democratic members of Congress involved thereafter, the "selection" process became frontloaded (or at the very least the decision to weigh in early was left to the discretion of the most high-profile of superdelegates and on the individual level).

It was that change over time that left the Democratic system vulnerable to charges of undue and early superdelegate influence under circumstances like 2016 (where there was a consolidation of superdelegate support behind one candidate).

Bringing back some of that "randomness" to the process and pushing the "selection" of congressional superdelegates to the end of primary season when pledged delegate count is complete would help mitigate the influence. It does not get rid of superdelegates -- that has not been on the table -- but it would reduce their influence. And that was the main complaint during and following 2016.

Look, this is not going to be implemented. It is too late in the rules process for that (although this is similar in some respects to the plan discussed by former DNC chair, Don Fowler, at the Providence meeting). But by combining elements of the future and past, the influence of superdelegates could be reduced without either some of the problems in Third Way or removing superdelegates from a scenario where their ability to break a primary season stalemate is needed.

But the complications of juggling the needs of a cycle yet to come with the leftovers a cycle just past often yield unintended consequences. That is the nature of making nomination rules in diverse party coalitions.


Friday, January 24, 2014

RNC Passes 2016 Delegate Selection Rules Proposals

The full RNC voted early this afternoon to pass a series of changes to the national party's delegate selection rules; the rules that will govern the process by which the party selects its next presidential nominee. Neither the Rules Committee process nor the full RNC consideration today were all that contentious. In both meetings where the changes were considered -- and ultimately passed -- there were just a handful of dissenting votes.

In other words, there was some consensus within the RNC membership behind the changes that the Rules subcommittee devised and submitted for consideration at this winter meeting.

FHQ will certainly have a more robust analysis about the exact changes made in the coming week(s), but for now some reactions to, well, the reactions to these alterations.

A few of the talking points emerging in reaction to the changes are nothing new. They tend to fall in at least a couple of categories. On the one hand, there is skepticism that it will ever work in their intended fashion; in this case, to rein in not only a chaotic calendar formation process, but to tweak the overall nomination process. On the other, there are comments about the national parties fighting the last war; mistakenly making changes to account for problems from the last cycle.

I don't know. Those observations certainly aren't wrong, but in both cases, miss the all-too-important nuance. The "last war" line strikes me as off base in the narrow context of the relationship between the national parties and the states (whether state parties and/or state governments).1 Of course the national parties are fighting the last war when they assemble to devise a delegate selection plan for an upcoming presidential nomination cycle. They move forward with the uncertainty-addled information they have. This is, and has been since the 1972 cycle, an iterative and sequential process. The national parties make rules and the states (and candidates) react to those rules -- some in compliance, but some, and usually only a handful, not. Wash, rinse repeat.

Only, it really is not that simple. There is no way of testing these rules changes ahead of their implementation. The only laboratory is either the experience from previous cycles or the combination of the invisible primary and primary season for the next cycle in real time. A national party does not know and often cannot (adequately) rectify midstream (see Florida and Michigan in 2008) problems that may come up along the way. That is the sequential part of the process. The national parties have to have their rules in place so that the states can react to them, to plan for the upcoming election. Only, some states don't play by the rules, or haven't in a select set of cases over the 2008 and 2012 cycles.

And that is where the probably-warranted skepticism comes in to play. State actors may behave seemingly rationally; moving a primary up and out of compliance with national party rules under the assumption that delegate sanctions will not be enforced. That line of reasoning was used numerous times in 2012 during the formation of the Republican presidential primary calendar. But for the second consecutive cycle, the RNC actually did enforce its penalties. And this is where the national parties have become more sophisticated in their responses to rogue activity. The combination of enforcement and an incremental closing of loopholes that states have exploited in the past have made it harder to states to misbehave.

FHQ spent a lot of time in 2011 and 2012 talking about the work both parties had done to coordinate the basic structure of a presidential primary calendar. We spent still more time talking about the fact that a lack of meaningful and coordinated penalties. One of the missed opportunities in 2012 was the fact that both parties had seen the ineffectiveness of the 50% delegate reduction penalty on states. It worked for most, but some were willing to take that type of hit to their delegation in order to impact the nomination process.

States may not be similarly willing to take a much deeper cut at their delegations in 2016. Nine (in the case of small states) or twelve (for big states) total delegates is a significant reduction. But you know what is missing from a lot of the reaction pieces penned in the wake of the RNC rules changes? The Democratic Party.

Oh, sure, there are certainly some light comparative mentions -- usually having to do with the respective fields of candidates and she who must not be named -- but nothing that comes close to identifying the impact the DNC's eventual delegate selection rules will have on whether the RNC will be successful in its endeavor. On the surface, that's a strange concept. It almost sounds like the DNC would be helping the RNC. [That would never happen!] But that isn't the case. This is more a matter of shared interests -- common nuisances -- among the two national parties. If the DNC ups its penalties, for example, it would go a long way toward determining whether the RNC will get the type of primary calendar it is angling for.

But if you want potential unintended consequences, look to the potential for cross-party differences over some of the Rule 20-based changes the RNC just made. These are the rules pushing up the end of the primary process. Now sure, the RNC made allowances for waivers for Democratically-controlled states that may not be able to comply with those rules (depending on what the DNC does).

That's not all of the unintended consequences either, but FHQ will save that for another time.

The bottom line for now is that the national parties are doing exactly what one would expect them to do. While they are still susceptible to rogue states, the national parties have gotten more sophisticated in their responses to them. The traditionally-exploited loopholes have largely been closed. Want rogue states in 2016? Look at the usual suspects FHQ has been mentioning for months. It won't be Florida. It'll be Arizona, Michigan, Missouri and North Carolina.

And start looking to the end of the calendar too. We may see some creative rogue states in 2016. The reactions the curbs on late May and early June contests may provide for some unconventional "rogue" activity.

1 In the broader context of the overarching delegate selection process, there may be something to this. Again FHQ is reminded of John Sununu's comments on this at the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting in January 2013. I'm paraphrasing here, but he mentioned that national parties often tread this line of managing or controlling the delegate selection process. He said that when parties attempt to control the process rather than manage it, they often get themselves into some form of trouble. Whether what the RNC has done this week falls into the control or manage category likely is in the eye of the beholder.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Round Up on RNC Rules Committee Meeting

There weren't any surprises at the RNC Rules Committee meeting in DC this afternoon. Here are a few takes on the proposed 2016 delegate selection rules changes, post-meeting:

Zeke Miller at Time says the rules moves are all about the money.

WaPo's Reid Wilson and USA Today's Susan Page talk calendar compression.

Benjy Sarlin over at MSNBC frames the changes as an attempt to reduce the odds of a divisive primary.

FHQ will weigh in when we have had a chance to see the actual language of the changes. In the meantime, the package of revisions that passed the Rules Committee on a near-unanimous voice vote today heads off for consideration in the full RNC tomorrow. To pass, the series of changes will require a three-quarters vote. That is a pretty high bar, but the Rules Committee vote signals pretty close to a consensus on the changes. The committee reports will be made to the full RNC a little after 11am tomorrow morning.

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The RNC Already Increased Penalties on Potential Rogue Primary States

There is a lot of chatter this morning about what the RNC will be up to these next couple of days in Washington, DC. One thing neither the Rules Committee nor the full RNC will do -- despite the bulk of reports today -- is to increase the penalties on states that move their delegate selection contests ahead of the March 1 threshold or state parties that do not allocate delegates in accordance with the rules laid out by the national party.


Mainly, the RNC will not be upping the penalties because it has already done so. Some seem to have conveniently forgotten the struggle over the rules in the Rules Committee meetings in the week leading up to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Perhaps the increased penalties got lost in the shuffle of Rule 40 changes that had Ron Paul delegates up in arms during the actual convention.

But the point is, the Bennett rule -- named for former Ohio GOP chair, Bob Bennett who devised the penalty -- had already been added, stripping rogue state delegations down to nine delegates (12 including the automatic delegates) for holding primaries or caucuses too early. The rules coming out of Tampa also included a 50% penalty on states that did not follow proportionality requirement. None of that is new. None of that will be new after the RNC winter meeting concludes.

What will potentially be new is:
1) The proportionality requirement will see some changes. The rules package will reduce the window of the proportionality requirement from all of March to just the first two weeks of March. Additionally, the language of the rule (described in Rule 16(c)2) will be ever so slightly altered. As it is now the word "may" appears, suggesting that states allocated delegates in a proportional manner before March 15. The new rule will, as was the case in 2012, mandate this with the word "shall". All that is doing is insuring that there is an actual proportionality requirement for the 50% penalty already described in Rule 17 to apply to.
2) The super penalty described in the Bennett rule will be tightened up to close a loophole that a very small number of small states could have exploited. FHQ has covered those discrepancies for nearly a year.

There are some other matters -- particularly Rule 20 -- that may be noteworthy during the Rules Committee meeting today. But that rule has nothing to do with penalties. It is something that will from the RNC perspective help lay the groundwork for an earlier convention. Everything else will be about tightening up the language for the penalties that are already there.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Morton Blackwell on RNC Rules Subcommittee Proposals for 2016

Virginia Republican National Committeeman, Morton Blackwell, has posted over at RedState an open letter to RNC Chair, Reince Priebus, concerning the forthcoming Rules subcommittee proposals tweaking the 2016 delegate selection rules. The prevailing sentiment is opposition to the changes. Yet, even that is nuanced.

Some of it takes the form of a suggestion box entry. There is a call for clearer language in Rule 16(a)(1) where there appears to be an allowance on the part of the RNC for either proportional or winner-take-all allocation rules (regardless of timing). That is perhaps not completely consistent with the restrictions on winner-take-all allocation laid out later in Rule 16 and penalized in Rule 17.1

Other points -- like the one on the width of the proportionality window -- show some resistance, but not outright defiance. The impact of an all-proportional March versus a half-proportional March (March 15 cutoff) is indeterminate. It may or may not slow down or speed up the pace with which the ultimate nominee accrues delegates. Much of that depends on the dynamics of the race -- who is still in the race, what the terrain is (what the sequence of events is).

The fact the tone is this way on these proposed rules changes may be a function of either the scale of the change or the fact that the issues in the proposed changes have been discussed and find some consensus within the Rules Committee and/or the RNC.

The new wrinkle, and where the discussion in the Rules Committee gathering at the RNC winter meeting this week in DC is likely to be interesting,2 is the change proposed to Rule 20. Peter Hamby brought this up in his rundown of the proposed changes a few weeks back. This is the rule that accounts for the certification of the election/selection of delegates.

The reason that this is somewhat contentious is that this is the potential provision that would allow state Republican central committees to select delegates in states with late primaries that may conflict with the logistical requirement of having delegates in place 35 days before the convention. In other words, this is something that is necessary in order to lay the groundwork for a late June or early July convention. [FHQ has more on this here (in the discussion of providing incentive to late primary states to move up).]

Blackwell views this as an overreach of the RNC, infringing on a state's ability to select delegates to the convention as it sees fit. Whether this is eventually a contentious discussion at the meeting remains to be seen. Much will depend on the calculus of RNC members present and voting on the change. Will they see Blackwell's way or will they value the earlier convention that Chairman Priebus and others with the party want?

1 Mr. Blackwell also points out the inconsistency regarding automatic delegates in Rule 17 that FHQ described here.

2 FHQ does not necessarily mean heated or controversial here. Rather, it may take some time to unpack and explain everything on the proposed rules change in the context of the meeting.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

For RNC Members, A Rules Contradiction That Would Affect Them in 2016

The Republican National Committee is on the eve today of another annual winter confab. This meeting will likely see the Rules Committee take up and consider -- if not vote on and send to the full RNC -- a series of tweaks to the 2016 delegate selection rules that came out of the party's Tampa convention in August 2012. This will not be the first time the Rules Committee and then the full RNC has revised those rules.1 However, this time around, the changes are likely to be more substantial both in terms of quality and quantity. That is a function of the alterations coming out of a special rules subcommittee that was tasked last August -- at the summer meeting -- with reexamining the process by which the Republican Party nominates its presidential candidates; the delegate selection portion anyway.

One seemingly minor change that is likely to be included in the full series of proposed rules changes concerns the convention voting rights of the automatic delegates. Recall that the automatic delegates are the three members of the RNC from each state: the state party chair, the national committeeman and national committeewoman. In most but not all cases, these delegates are free to select any candidate of their choosing. They are an unbound part of the state delegation to the national convention.

That said, there has been some discussion as to how these automatic delegates should be treated at the convention should the state they represent violate the delegate selection rules on timing. In 2012, the rules the Republican Party utilized removed the voting privileges of the RNC members/automatic delegates from states in violation of those rules (Rule 16.e.1). On its surface, then, the penalty was supposed to strike at a group of people -- those RNC members involved in state party politics -- in a position within the national party to presumably deter state-level moves that would bring a state into violation of the rules. This obviously is something that is easier said in rule-making than done in practice. Regardless, the stick was put in place.

The effectiveness of such a penalty is not entirely clear, but it can be quite difficult for a state party chair or national committeeman/committeewoman to prevent a state legislature and governor -- potentially of a different party -- from acting in a manner consistent with the Republican National Committee delegate selection rules. Still, that language persists in the rules that will govern the 2016 Republican presidential nomination process.

Rule 17.f.1 (the same exact language as Rule 16.e.1 in 2012):
(f) If a state or state Republican Party is determined to be in violation:
(1) No member of the Republican National Committee from the offending state shall be permitted to serve as a delegate or alternate delegate to the national convention.

Yet, that seems to be undermined by the language describing the new super penalty earlier in Rule 17. Here's the relevant portion of Rule 17.

Rule 17.a (emphasis FHQ's):
If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(1) of The Rules of the Republican Party with regard to a primary, caucus, convention or other process to elect, select, allocate, or bind delegates and alternate delegates to the national convention by conducting its process prior to the last Tuesday in February, the number of delegates to the national convention shall be reduced to nine (9) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state...

Now, regular readers will be acquainted with what may be perceived as an annoying practice: FHQ's insistence on saying that the super penalty reduces a state delegation to nine delegates plus the three automatic delegates should a state violate the nomination rules. That is a function of the above language. Yet, that language in Rule 17.a is contradicted by the two-part rule fully described in Rule 17.f.1-2.

The RNC members -- the three automatic delegates from each state -- have convention voting rights in one section of the rule but not the other. The RNC is aware of this issue, but it remains to be seen what the ultimate remedy will be. The penalty stripping RNC members from violating states of their convention votes is one that has passed muster with the group in the past, but given the out -- and given the reality that RNC members may have very little sway in how the timing of their state's primary, for instance, is decided -- the RNC may also opt to retain the voting privileges of their membership at the expense of other delegates from the a violating state's delegation.

Again, it is not clear what proposed changes the RNC rules subcommittee will bring to the Rules Committee on this issue and a number of others, but details will emerge as the RNC convenes tomorrow.

1 There was a cosmetic change to Rule 16.a.2 at the 2013 spring meeting that clarified the procedure for dealing with potential rogue delegates and their votes at the national convention.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Race to 1144: CO, MN & ND Conventions

Contest Delegates (via contest results and rules, and RNC)
Automatic Delegates (Democratic Convention Watch)

Delegate breakdown (post-CO, MN & ND conventions):

Changes since Maryland, Washington, DC & Wisconsin (4/3/12):
  • Romney: +25 delegates (Colorado: +14, North Dakota: +7, New York: +2, Connecticut: +1, Massachusetts: +1)
  • Santorum: +15 delegates (North Dakota: +7, Colorado: +6, Minnesota: +2)
  • Paul: +12 delegates (Minnesota: +10, North Dakota: +2)
  • Gingrich: +1 delegate (North Dakota: +1)
1) Mitt Romney has picked up five automatic delegates in the time since the April 3 primaries: two in New York and one each in Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

2) The AP reported in the week after the North Dakota Republican state convention that of the 25 total delegates, Romney added 12, Santorum 8, Paul 2 and Gingrich 1. The remaining two contest delegates were uncommitted.

3) In Colorado, Romney was awarded 13 delegates, Santorum 6 and the final 14 contest delegates remained uncommitted following the state and congressional district conventions over the weekend.

4) The four congressional district conventions that have been held in Minnesota have favored Texas congressman, Ron Paul, thus far. Ten of his supporters have won slots while Santorum delegates filled out the 12 delegate slate.

5) The allocation of the delegates in Georgia is based on the most recent vote returns published online by the office of the Georgia Secretary of State. The allocation here differs from the RNC allocation in Georgia. The above grants Gingrich one additional delegate (which has been taken from Romney's total). Due to the way the Georgia Republican Party rounds fractional delegates, the FHQ count was off by one delegate (+Romney/-Gingrich). The congressional district count is unaffected (Gingrich 31, Romney, 8 and Santorum 3), but the way the at-large delegates are allocated to Gingrich and Romney -- the only candidates over 20% statewide -- is a bit quirky. Gingrich's portion of the vote would have entitled him to 14.6 delegates and Romney's 8.0. Under Georgia Republican rules, Gingrich is given 14 delegates and Romney 8. That leaves nine delegates unclaimed because the remaining candidates did not clear the 20% threshold. The candidate with the highest "remainder" is awarded the first delegate and the candidates over 20% trade turns until all of those delegates are allocated. Remember, Gingrich did not round up to 15 delegates (14.6), but that 0.6 gives him a larger "remainder" than Romney. The former speaker, then, is allocated the first of nine delegates. With an odd number of delegates leftover, Gingrich would have a fifth turn after Romney's fourth and that would end the allocation of those "extra" delegates. Gingrich would claim five to Romney's four. Of the 31 at-large delegates, Gingrich is allocated 19 and Romney 12. Please note that for winning the statewide vote, Gingrich is allocated the three automatic delegates. That makes the final allocation Gingrich 53, Romney 20 and Santorum 3. The RNC, though, has a different interpretation.

6) The Alabama primary results by congressional district have not been released by the Alabama Republican Party. The distribution above is based on the RNC interpretation of the allocation.

7)  Iowa Republican Party Chairman Spiker was a part of the Paul campaign in Iowa and resigned his position upon taking up the post of party chair. While he has expressed his intent to side with whomever the Republican nominee will be, Spiker has not also directly signaled any neutrality in the race. The door is open for his support of Paul at a potential contested convention. While FHQ includes Spiker in Paul's delegate total, it is necessary to make note of the possible future subtraction of one delegate that would bring the Texas congressman's total to 26.

Recent Posts:
Mixed Results for Romney in First Contests Since Becoming Presumptive Nominee

Hey Hey, Ho Ho. This Romney Protest's Got to Go?

Santorum Suspends: A Nomination Race in Context

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