Showing posts with label proportionality rules. Show all posts
Showing posts with label proportionality rules. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

An Update on 2020 Colorado Republican Delegate Allocation

Last week, FHQ pointed out in a post that, under its at-the-time rules, the Colorado Republican Party had a 2020 delegate allocation problem. The party in March adopted at its state convention a set of delegate allocation rules that eliminated a proportional option and substituted a winner-take-all allocation option for it. The latter would not be compliant with national party rules because of the Super Tuesday date of the Colorado presidential primary. It falls too early for a party to conduct a winner-take-all allocation.

As a result, Colorado Republicans would be vulnerable to the 50 percent delegation reduction penalty for conducting a winner-take-all primary too early (prior to March 15).

In other words, something had to give if Colorado Republicans wanted a full delegation to attend the Republican National Convention in Charlotte next year. And something did happen late in the window to make rules changes before the October 1 deadline for state parties to finalize delegate selection plans for 2020. The Colorado Republican Party state central committee met on September 21 and passed a series of amendments affecting the delegate selection process.

Article XIII had the non-compliant winner-take-all option removed and replaced with a couple of contingencies. If the primary is late enough or a candidate receives enough support in the primary, then that candidate is eligible for all of the delegates from the Centennial state. The former accounts for timing of the primary, but also establishes a minimum threshold for triggering a winner-take-all allocation (regardless of timing). Under the new rules, if a candidate receives 50 percent or more of the vote, then the winner-take-all trigger is tripped.

That rule stands regardless: a majority winner in the Colorado presidential primary gets all of the delegates regardless of timing. However, if no candidate reaches that winner-take-all threshold (and the primary is early), then a proportional means of allocation is instituted. To qualify for delegates under this contingency, the new rules call for candidates to have received 20 percent or more of the vote; the highest qualifying threshold allowed under RNC rules.

Both the addition of the winner-take-all contingency and the new qualifying threshold under the proportional option bring the Colorado Republican Party back into compliance with RNC rules. And both are set to points that nearly guarantee that Trump will win all of the delegates from the state. Both changes also bring Colorado in line with the delegate allocation rules in most other states on Super Tuesday.

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Monday, October 7, 2019

For 2020, Colorado Republican Delegate Allocation Rules Seemingly at Odds with RNC Rules

Back in the lead up to the 2012 presidential primary season, the Republican National Committee (RNC) instituted a new set of rules governing the presidential nomination process. The changes for that cycle put in place a later start time to primary season (reserving February for the four carve-out state contests), but also added a new wrinkle to how state parties could allocate delegates based on the results a primary or caucus.

The latter of those national party-level restrictions on the activities of state parties required that states with primaries and caucuses in or before March allocate delegates in a proportional manner. Now, in the time since that point, the RNC has redefined what proportional means and decreased the size of the window of the calendar in which winner-take-all rules are prohibited. But that proportionality window still exists. State parties with contests before March 15 have to set in place rules that proportionally allocate national convention delegates.

Yes, that is a more restrictive national party mandate than has historically been the case in the Republican process. However, state parties are not without some latitude. They have some discretion. For one, state parties can add a delegate qualifying threshold of up to 20 percent which can greatly restrict the number of candidates who receive delegates (especially in a cycle in which an incumbent president is seeking renomination).

State parties also have the option of splitting up the allocation of different types of delegates. At-large delegate allocation can be tethered to statewide result while congressional district delegates can be awarded to candidates based on their performance in those subunits within a given state.

Finally, even in the proportionality window that opens the presidential primary calendar under the RNC rules, state parties have the option of adding a winner-take-all trigger for candidates who win a majority or more of the vote statewide. Massachusetts Republicans, for example, added a winner-take-all trigger to their delegate selection rules for their Super Tuesday primary in 2020. And that is not uncommon for states with contests in the proportionality window. Most, in fact, have winner-take-all triggers in their plans.

In other words, state parties have options to tilt the allocation in a winner-take-all direction on the early calendar and still remain in compliance with RNC rules.

Perhaps that is an overwrought preface, but it is laid out in advance of a possible rules violation by one state party ahead of the 2020 cycle. Last week -- on or before October 1 -- state Republican parties were to have finalized and submitted to the RNC their delegate selection plans for 2020. And the bylaws of the Colorado Republican Party appear to violate the proportionality mandate from the RNC for the party's 2020 presidential primary (newly reestablished for the 2020 cycle).

Much of this potential conflict can be traced to the late March 2019 state central committee meeting of the Colorado Republican Party. The state party chair election dominated the headlines coming out of that meeting, but that was not the only piece of business on the committee's agenda that weekend. They also considered changes to the 2020 delegate selection rules.

In light of the new presidential primary in the Centennial state, a proposal came before the committee to streamline the delegate selection process. And it should be noted that Colorado Republicans are constrained not only by national party rules but state law as well. RNC rules require that delegate allocation be based on the earliest statewide contest and the new Colorado law concerning the presidential primary purposefully schedule caucuses in the state for after the primary (the Saturday after). The caucuses (and any attendant presidential preference vote) would follow the vote in the primary. The Colorado Republican Party, then, is basically stuck using the primary for allocating delegates.

Part of the rules changes on delegate allocation at the state central committee meeting in March addressed that. Struck from the rules at the time was a contingency for allocation depending upon whether there was a primary or caucus. Now that section of the bylaws simply refers to the results of the Colorado Presidential Primary.

Also struck from the old rules, however, was guidance on who -- which candidates -- would qualify for delegates in the event that Colorado held a presidential primary. The old rules, and this other section that was struck from them, allocated delegates to candidates who received 15 percent or more of the vote in the presidential primary. Again, that is consistent with RNC proportionality requirements for states with primaries or caucuses before March 15 and was part of the 2016 rules Colorado Republicans used (but there was no presidential primary).

But that guidance is now gone, and in its place is this language on delegate allocation and binding:
a. On the first nominating ballot for President, in accordance with State statute all members of the State’s delegation shall be bound to vote for the Presidential candidate who received the highest number of votes in the Colorado Presidential Primary, and the CRC Chairman acting as chair of the delegation, or his designee, shall announce that the entire vote of the State’s delegation is for that candidate. If that Presidential candidate releases his delegates through public declaration or written notification, the candidate's name is not placed in nomination, or the candidate does not otherwise qualify for nomination under the rules of the Republican National Convention, the individual National Delegates and National Alternate Delegates previously pledged are released to cast their ballots as each may choose. b. On any succeeding ballot for President and on all ballots for other purposes the individual delegates are released to cast their ballots as each may choose.
[Emphasis added by FHQ]

That appears to be a violation of RNC rules restricting delegate allocation in early calendar contests.

However, there are a couple of caveats.

First, the next rule in the sequence after those listed above does give the state central committee the ability create rules governing the selection of delegates that are consistent with both the bylaws and RNC rules on or before October 1 in the year prior to a presidential election. The above winner-take-all provision, then, is just a baseline. But one that conflicts with national party rules given the position of the Colorado primary on the calendar.

In addition, the process by which delegates are selected requires them to align (or remain unpledged) with a candidate. The RNC legal counsel interpretation of the RNC rules in 2016 was that that alignment -- pledging to a candidate upon filing to be a delegate candidate -- bound that delegate candidate to their presidential preference. And that Colorado selection procedure is still in rules for 2020. Whether the RNC legal counsel still interprets the RNC rules the same in 2020 as was the case in 2016 remains to be seen.

Regardless, any delegates selected at the state convention or in congressional district conventions aligned with candidates other than the winner of the presidential primary in Colorado would likely be bound to those candidates at the national convention. But that would only be the case if that candidate was still in the race and had his or her name placed in nomination at the convention. That, too, seems a stretch in a year in which an incumbent Republican president (still popular within the party) is up for renomination. But any such delegates would become free agents and could support another candidate.

Finally, the secretary of state in Colorado also has the option of canceling the presidential primary if there is no competition. That has to be done by January 3, 2020. But the bar for ballot access to the Colorado primary is quite low for prospective candidates: $500 fee or 500 signatures.

Colorado, then, will likely have a Republican presidential primary on March 3, and because of those caveats above, likely will not allocate delegates in a winner-take-all manner.

...unless the party has added a winner-take-all trigger as other states have done.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Earlier Primary in Place, California Republicans Make Delegate Allocation Changes

Earlier this month when the California Republican Party converged on Indian Wells for the party's 2019 state convention it was a rules-based change in reaction to a new Golden state law prohibiting ballot access to presidential candidates for not disclosing their tax returns that grabbed the headlines.

And that change is not without import. If a nationally recognized candidate is denied access to the ballot, then under the new rule, the CAGOP state central committee or executive committee would meet after March 15, 2020 -- more than a week after the Super Tuesday primary in California -- to determine which candidate would select a slate of delegates to represent them at the national convention in Charlotte.1

There is an important assumption in that rule. Only one candidate would receive delegates from California. More than anything, that is a nod to the other allocation-based changes the party adopted at the convention. In recent cycles, the California Republican Party has used a winner-take-most/winner-take-all by congressional district delegate allocation scheme. A candidate who wins statewide is awarded all of the at-large delegates and winners within each of the Golden state's 53 districts would receive three delegates from a won district.

However, given the 2017 presidential primary date change in California, that method of allocation was no longer compliant under Republican National Committee rules. The primary, set for Super Tuesday, is early enough on the primary calendar to fit within the proportionality window the party established for the 2012 cycle, requiring early states to have a proportional allocation plan in place. California Republicans had to make a change.

And that is something the California Republicans at the state convention addressed. Proposal 10 highlights the changes in language within the rule from 2016 to 2020. Gone are the winner-take-all elements, at least as the default. In their place is a proportional scheme consistent with RNC rules. Candidates who receive more than 20 percent of the vote either statewide or in congressional districts will qualify for a proportional share of the delegates within those units. And that is where the aforementioned assumption comes into the picture. Again, the ballot access workaround notes that the committee will determine which candidate -- not candidates -- who would name and slate delegates from the state. CAGOP seemingly is of the opinion that that 20 percent bar -- the highest allowed by the RNC -- is sufficient enough to keep other candidates from qualifying (and thus allow President Trump and his campaign the ability to name a slate of delegates from California).

That is one change instituted, but was not the only one. In addition to the new high qualification threshold, the party also adopted a winner-take-all threshold. That, too, factors into the assumptions the party is making in the newly adopted ballot access rule. Should a candidate win a majority of the vote statewide, then that candidate would win all of the delegates from the state. That is another threshold that President Trump could likely easily hit in the primary should his name appear on the ballot.

But in the end, it is clear that these rules were adopted with the idea of the president winning and naming all of the delegates to the national convention from the state in mind. And the sunset provision is a pretty clear indication the changes were made to ease Trump's path to the nomination. Add California to the list of states, then, that have upped their thresholds for this cycle.

1 This provision, while adopted by the state convention, is only in effect for the 2020 cycle. It expires on January 1, 2021.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

California Republicans Face Decision on 2020 Delegate Selection

Heading into their state convention this weekend, California Republicans are staring down an October 1 deadline under RNC rules to finalize delegate selection plans for the 2020 cycle. And due to the 2017 move of the presidential primary from June to March for 2020, a change in the way delegates are allocated is necessary.

For years, California Republicans have used a winner-take-most allocation system in the presidential nomination process, doling out (at-large) delegates to the plurality winner statewide and to the plurality winner in each of the Golden state's congressional districts. But unlike past cycles when California held an early (February or March) primary, the contest now falls in the proportionality window the Republican National Committee adopted for the 2012 cycle, tweaked ahead of 2016 and kept for 2020.

That overlap -- a primary in the proportionality window and a winner-take-most allocation scheme -- means California Republicans have to make some changes or face sanction from the RNC (50 percent delegate reduction). And this coming weekend's state convention is one of the last opportunities for the party to make those changes before the RNC deadline at the end of the month.

California Republicans, then, are one of the few state parties that will have a less incumbent-beneficial plan in 2020 as compared to 2016. A handful of states have made subtle maneuvers in 2019 to award more delegates to majority winners (which incumbent presidents typically are) in primaries and caucuses. Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Ohio have all either altered their delegate selection rules from 2016 or moved primaries or caucuses to retain or create more incumbent-friendly allocation rules (read: winner-take-all).

So what will California Republicans do?

There is no draft of what the California Republican Party Rules Committee will tackle during their Saturday evening meeting, but the path of least resistance -- the one that alters the status quo the least -- is a proportional allocation system set up with either or both of a maximum 20 percent qualifying threshold on statewide and district results and/or a 50 percent winner-take-all trigger applied to both statewide and district results. That would likely retain the winner-take-most elements in a contest with an intra-party popular incumbent president seeking renomination.

Time, however, will tell that tale. But a change does have to occur for California Republicans to remain in compliance with RNC rules.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

North Carolina Republicans Have Tweaked Their Delegate Allocation Formula, but...

North Carolina Republicans had a bit of a roller coaster ride in 2015 with respect to how the party's plans for delegate selection came together.

First, North Carolina law at the time tethered the presidential primary in the Tar Heel state to the primary in South Carolina. That was a position -- prior to March 1 -- out of compliance with the national party rules.

Then, in an effort to remedy the calendar issue, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation (which was subsequently signed into law) that not only shifted the primary election date back into compliance but called for a winner-take-allocation of delegates. The latter of those changes was then ignored by the North Carolina Republican Party when the party opted for a straight proportional allocation of national convention delegates.1

But most of that law expired after the 2016 primaries. The primary date reverted to its position tethered to the South Carolina primary and the allocation method called for in state law again defaulted to proportional.

However, the tinkering has continued on both fronts -- within the state party and in the state legislature -- during the 2020 cycle. But the actions from both in that span have conflicted with one another and again threatens the compliance of the NCGOP delegate selection process. At the same time that legislation was active in 2017 in the General Assembly to schedule the North Carolina presidential primary for Super Tuesday (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March), North Carolina Republicans were voting to make the method of allocation more winner-take-all. That legislation became law in 2018, pushing the presidential primary in the Tar Heel state into the proportionality window (where winner-take-all rules are conditionally prohibited).

Now, while that combination of primary date and allocation rules is non-compliant under 2020 RNC delegate selection rules, it is not a problem, per se. And FHQ will explain why in a moment. But first, let us step through the changes that have been made to the allocation rules to this point.

For the 2016 cycle, North Carolina Republicans pooled all of their delegates (at-large, congressional district and automatic) and proportionally allocated them based on the statewide primary results. Additionally, there was no defined qualifying threshold. In other words, 1) the 2016 NCGOP allocation method was a close to mathematical proportionality as it gets and 2) that allowed for candidates receiving a very marginal share of the statewide primary vote to win delegates. Ben Carson, for example, only won roughly one percent of the vote in the 2016 North Carolina primary, but that was good enough to round him up to one delegate of the state's 72.

Few other states had a bar set so low for a candidate to be allocated any delegates. North Carolina, then, was inconsistent in its method of allocation compared with its peer states, much less the entire pool of states and territories. That gave the NCGOP room for some maneuvering during the 2020 cycle. And tinker they did in 2017.

In assembling a new plan in 2017, North Carolina Republicans shifted away from low bar proportionality and added several new layers that are similar to neighboring states.
  • From the Tennessee Republican method, the NCGOP borrowed a fairly high, two-thirds winner-take-all threshold for the allocation of congressional district delegates. Of the states that have winner-take-all thresholds in the Republican nomination process, the vast majority set it at its lowest point, a bare majority. If a candidate wins a majority of the vote, then that candidate wins all of the delegates either statewide or within a given congressional district. A two-thirds winner-take-all trigger is obviously a more difficult bar to hit (especially potentially in a crowded field of candidates).
  • From the Georgia Republican allocation method, the NCGOP mimicked the unique proportional allocation scheme for congressional district delegates. If no candidate reaches the two-thirds threshold, then the allocation system awards two delegates to the top vote-getter and the other congressional district delegate to the second highest candidate, but only if both candidates are above the 20 percent qualifying threshold. If only the top candidate clears that barrier in a given congressional district, then all three delegates go to that candidate. That is the backdoor winner-take-all scenario (but confined to just the congressional district level).
  • From the South Carolina Republican allocation method, the NCGOP took its new method for allocating at-large delegates. Under the South Carolina system -- and now the North Carolina Republican system -- the plurality winner of the statewide vote wins all of the at-large delegates from the state. 
The elements borrowed from Tennessee and Georgia are both consistent with RNC rules. Yes, the combination contains winner-take-all elements, but those thresholds are rules-compliant. So, too, is the unique proportional allocation. No, that sort of top two allocation method is not exactly mathematically proportional, but there are only so many ways that three congressional district delegates can be allocated proportionally. This is one of them.

But the winner-take-all element that is akin to the South Carolina delegate selection process is not rules-compliant for a primary that is scheduled before March 15. And it is that segment of the NCGOP plan of organization that will have to change to come back into compliance.

That is a problem, right?

Technically, yes. But North Carolina Republicans are on top of it. A change to the at-large delegate allocation is on the agenda for the June 6-9 North Carolina Republican Party state convention in Concord. If adopted -- and the party has a persuasive case built on compliance issues to take to state convention delegates -- the allocation of at-large delegates would become more conditionally proportional. Under the proposal, the allocation of at-large delegates would...
  1. Remain winner-take-all in the event that such a scheme is consistent with national party rules. While it is not, the insertion of this element is crafted with future cycles in mind. Should the RNC rescind the proportionality window in the future, then the NCGOP already has language included to allow for a winner-take-all allocation of at-large delegates. Even without a change on that front from the RNC, the NCGOP would have the foundation in place for a winner-take-all allocation of delegates should the North Carolina primary be scheduled for a later date, outside the proportionality window. 
  2. Be proportional to all candidates with more than 20 percent of the vote statewide in the primary.
Those changes would bring the North Carolina Republican Party delegate selection process back into compliance with RNC rules. However, what is noteworthy is what is missing in this latest round of proposed changes. There is, for example, no equivalent two-thirds threshold to conditionally award all at-large delegates to a candidate in a way similar to the allocation of congressional district delegates.

In other words, this plan is not quite as helpful to an incumbent president as it could be. And that breaks to some degree from the narrative that the RNC in concert with state parties is working to engineer a delegate selection system that is maximally advantageous to President Trump. Like Massachusetts Republicans, the NCGOP plan moves in the direction of assisting the president, but unlike those Bay state changes, the North Carolina move does not turn the knob as far in the president's favor as it could have.

1 "Ignored" may not be the best way of describing that. State parties ultimately have the discretion to set their own rules for delegate allocation. And the North Carolina Republican Party certainly used that discretion in the midst of the consideration the 2015 bill cited above. That said, the bill-turned-law set the method of allocation for winner-take-all, but allowed state parties an opt-out if that baseline was inconsistent with national party rules. But for Tar Heel state Republicans, a March 15 presidential primary was outside the proportionality window, and thus the winner-take-all scheme was compliant with national party rules. Nonetheless, North Carolina Republicans chose a proportional method of allocation with no qualifying threshold.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Massachusetts GOP Rules Change Adds an Element of Winner-Take-All to 2020 Delegate Allocation

The Massachusetts Republican Party has adopted changes to its method of allocating national convention delegates for the 2020 cycle according to Stephanie Murray at Politico. New in 2020 will be a winner-take-all trigger that will award all of the Republican delegates in the Bay state to any candidate who receives a majority of the vote in the Super Tuesday Massachusetts primary.

While that addition is not without import, one should take a step back before ramming it into the "change the rules to help Trump" narrative. On the surface, adding a winner-take-all trigger would theoretically benefit a popular (within party) incumbent president. And that is more true in light of the facts (at this time) that President Trump is likely to face only token opposition and from a very limited number of candidates. The closer the number of challengers is to one, the greater the chances are that Trump hits the winner-take-all trigger.

That sounds like advantage Trump, right?

Yes, but as is often the case with respect to rules changes, there is a bit of context that is missing from the Politico piece.

First, Murray overstates the extent of the change via a misleading description attributed to Dean Cavaretta, Trump's 2016 Massachusetts state director. The rules change does not "eliminate" the traditional proportional allocation of delegates in Massachusetts. Instead, it makes the overall allocation conditional on the results. If no candidate receives a majority, then the allocation is proportional among all qualifying candidates. However, if one candidate clears the majority threshold then a winner-take-all allocation is triggered.

And that reality neatly dovetails with another issue in the Politico story: the replication of these winner-take-all triggers in other states. But here is the thing: Massachusetts is actually joining other early calendar states on the Republican side in using a conditional trigger in the allocation process. FHQ says "early" because under the rules of the Republican party for 2020, states with delegate selection events prior to March 15 have to meet the RNC definition of proportional in the state-level allocation rules. But while states have to maintain some measure of proportional allocation, winner-take-all triggers are allowed and can be set as low as 50 percent. This is what Massachusetts has done with its rules change for 2020. The party has added a trigger.

But again, that addition brings the Massachusetts Republican delegate allocation process in line with other early states. Of the eleven Super Tuesday states with defined allocation rules in 2016, Massachusetts was one of just three to lack a winner-take-all trigger. And six of the remaining eight states set a winner-take-all trigger of 50 percent. [The other two had much higher winner-take-all thresholds.]

The question, then, is not really whether other states will replicate the Massachusetts Republican strategy, but rather, whether the small number of states without those triggers will add them and join the majority of states that had them as part of their rules before Trump even came down the escalator in June 2015.

The trigger addition won the headlines, but the real essence of this change is geared toward the delegate selection process. It is on that front that the Massachusetts Republican Party has had some issues over at least the last two presidential nomination cycles, issues this change in allocation method indirectly impacts.

The 2016 RNC Rules Committee meeting that preceded the national convention in Cleveland saw a showdown over the binding of delegates (based on the results of primaries and caucuses). During the 2016 nomination process a vocal minority of activists argued against binding based on the fact that delegates elected/selected may have other allegiances. In other words, the two processes -- allocation and selection -- could point in different directions. Trump could overwhelmingly win a Massachusetts primary and be allocated a set number of delegate slots, but Cruz candidates for delegates in the Bay state could be selected to fill some of those slots. As the argument went, those Cruz-sympathetic delegates could not, under the rules, be forced to vote for Trump at the convention.

However, that argument lost at the 2016 Republican National Convention. But it was spurred, in part, by things that had happened in Massachusetts in 2012 and 2016. In 2012, it was Ron Paul delegate candidates in Massachusetts who were selected to Romney-won slots from the Super Tuesday Massachusetts primary. They later were disqualified. And the Ted Cruz campaign attempted to follow the Paul plan in Massachusetts (and elsewhere) in 2016.

But those problems lie in the selection process, not the allocation process.

[UPDATED, 5/7/19 1:45pm]

And the Massachusetts Republican Party addressed that as well. In lieu of the problematic caucus/convention process, the party has shifted the delegate selection responsibility to other entities. Under the new plan, the state party chair would select one-third of the 27 congressional district delegates, the state committee would select another third of the congressional district delegates and the qualifying presidential candidates would select the remaining third of the congressional district delegates and the 11 at-large delegates.

This is the bigger change. This is the change that most benefits Trump and especially if the president clears the 50 percent winner-take-all threshold. There is far less room for the sorts of shenanigans that  hampered the party in its delegate selection process each of the last two cycles.

Thanks to Evan Lips, Communications Director at the Massachusetts Republican Party for passing along the plan adopted last week by the party's State Committee.

Quick glance at the delegate allocation process:

  • The plan confirms that the baseline allocation is proportional (as it has typically been in Massachusetts). 
  • To qualify for delegates, a candidate must win at least 20 percent of the vote. That is an increase over the 5 percent qualifying threshold the party used in 2016. It is also the maximum qualifying threshold allowed under RNC rules for 2020. That means that the protest vote would have to be quite large against an incumbent president running for renomination for any challenger to receive delegates under this plan. 
  • Again, as stated above, if a candidate receives a majority of more of the vote in the Massachusetts Republican presidential primary, then that candidate is allocated all of the state's delegates. 
  • There is no backdoor to a winner-take-all allocation. This can in some states happen if a candidate is the only candidate to clear the qualifying threshold but not the winner-take-all threshold. Hypothetically, for example, if Trump again received 49 percent of the vote in the Massachusetts primary (as he did in 2016), then under the 2020 Massachusetts Republican rules, at least the runner-up would receive some delegates even if that runner-up received less than 20 percent of the vote. Again, using the 2016 results but 2020 rules, Kasich would have received a share of the delegates (split with Trump) even though he only got 18 percent of the vote in the primary. Rubio, less than a thousand votes behind Kasich would be locked out of the allocation. 

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- California, Early Voting, and the 2020 Rules

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the day that was...

As 2018 came to a close a second wave of folks seemed to be getting in their two cents about the impact of the three month shift of the California presidential primary on the 2020 calendar.1

And it is not a move that is without import. While California pairing with Texas (among others) on Super Tuesday is a new wrinkle for 2020, frontloaded primary calendars with California on the heels of the earliest states are not. California was part of the logjam on the first Tuesday in March in 2000, and similarly just a month behind Iowa kicking things off on the 2008 calendar.

Of course, the dynamics of each of those races were different. Each cycle is always different in some way from its predecessors.2 The 2000 cycle saw fields of candidates on both sides that were comparatively small. And in 2008, California was early on a de facto national primary date, but other states -- Florida and Michigan -- sought to push even more directly into the early calendar territory Iowa and New Hampshire.

But maybe 2020 is when the stars align for a California primary move to be of consequence. Perhaps, but 2019 has already witnessed no lack of 2020 candidate maneuvering. And the attention, at least to this point, seems to be in the usual directions: toward the earliest states.

Yes, there is still time for that to change.

In fact, the increase in early voting in the Golden state and the stretch of that window of convenience voting to a point on the calendar in line with the caucuses in Iowa may be enough to alter the equation. It is that reality that has driven much of the renewed discourse about the California primary and 2020.

Some have argued that the implications of the California primary move coupled with that Iowa-aligned early voting start means that the Golden state cannot be ignored. If that is even partly true, then it will likely serve as an extension of the frontloaded calendars cited above. To be successful, candidates have to have the resources to plan for a crowded Super Tuesday, and in 2020, an early vote GOTV effort in the state. Both have winnowing possibilities layered into them.

Still others have made the case that a largely unwinnowed, or lightly winnowed, field entering into a month-long California primary voting window may lead to a fractious split of a large cache of delegates, raising the likelihood of an inconclusive outcome to primary season.

FHQ would submit another scenario altogether, a rather counterintuitive one.

Those rooting most heavily for a still crowded field by the time California rolls around in 2020 are those with some nominal frontrunner status, those with some experience winning statewide in the Golden state, or those with some combination of the two. The more crowded it is, the less likely it is that some number of candidates clears the 15 percent threshold to qualify for delegates in (each of the 55 races for delegates in) California.3

The fewer candidates that crest above 15 percent, the greater the delegate prize California would be to those who do. Bear in mind that, despite the fact that winnowing was slow in 2016 in a crowded Republican nomination race, no primary or caucus saw any more than three candidates receive 15 percent or more of the vote.

And hey, if it is crowded enough in the California results, then California could become a very big prize indeed. If early voting is great enough and distributes the votes in a way that only one candidate clears that threshold (in all 53 jurisdictions), then California becomes a winner-take-all affair.

Advantage: winner.

But it is early yet and the winnowing has only really just begun.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Sanders is heading to the Palmetto state to speak at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Rally.

2. Later this month Bloomberg will be in Virginia to speak to the Democratic Business Council. This one is more preaching to the choir than broadening any likely coalition of the former New York mayor's.

3. In Iowa today, Steyer is going to announce something. What can one announce in the Hawkeye state?

4. Speaking of announcements, Castro is building up to his own later this week. Yesterday he was in Iowa pledging to shun PAC money and in Nevada reaching out to the Latino community.

5. Meanwhile, Draft Beto stretches into Nevada and California with new hires in an attempt to pull the former Texas congressman into the 2020 race.

6. Finally, Harris has an entry for the 2020 Book Primary.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

1 Second wave because there was an initial round back in 2017 when the California legislature pushed the presidential primary in the Golden state up.

2 That is the reason that even small rules changes can yield large impacts (or alternatively, be amplified by differing dynamics).

3 There will be 55 contests for delegates nestled in the broader California primary. Allocations of at-large and party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates will be based on the statewide results, while the results in each of the 53 congressional districts will determine how the varying numbers of congressional district delegates will be allocated.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: NEW MEXICO

This is part fifty-two 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: primary
Date: June 7
Number of delegates: 24 [12 at-large, 9 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15%
2012: proportional primary

Changes since 2012
New Mexico Republicans are about to do in 2016 what they have done every four years since 1980: hold one of the final presidential primary elections of the season. Though Democrats during Bill Richardson's time as New Mexico governor created and opted into a February firehouse primary that was allowed at the time by state law, Republicans in the Land of Enchantment never followed suit. Likewise, the 2015 push by Republican legislators to move the consolidated primary -- presidential and those for other offices -- into March stalled in committee.

All that means is the New Mexico will once again have a primary on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June. Furthermore, the Republican Party of New Mexico is like its neighbor to the west, Arizona. In both cases, the procedure for the primary and delegate allocation (and all that goes along with that) are laid out in state law rather than state party rules. The latter are dedicated to describing the delegate selection through a caucus/convention process. But since the presidential primary law has not been altered since 2011, there are no changes to the method by which Republicans in New Mexico will allocate delegates in 2016.

The only difference is based on the guidance provided by the RNC on the binding of automatic delegates. Now, those three, formerly unbound delegates are allocated and bound like the at-large and congressional district delegates.

The aforementioned state law sets the threshold for candidates to qualify for delegates at "at least 15 percent". Like most other states, fractional delegates are rounded in New Mexico, not fractional percentages. A failure to get at or above 15 percent in the statewide vote would leave a candidate excluded from the delegate allocation.

Delegate allocation (at-large, congressional district and automatic delegates)
New Mexico Republicans do not separate the delegate allocation across congressional districts and the state. All 24 delegates are in one pool that is proportionally allocated to qualifying candidates at 15 percent or more of the statewide vote in the primary.

The rounding rules are not laid out in either state law or the state party rules. In a competitive environment that would be consequential, but given the position of the New Mexico primary on the calendar and the fact that the field has typically winnowed down to a presumptive nominee, the lack of clear rounding rules carries less weight.

The tendency, then, is for the presumptive nominee to be the only one to clear the 15% threshold. And since the allocation equation divides by only the qualifying vote, the winner ends up being allocated all of the New Mexico delegates. That has been the case over the last two cycles in any event. Mitt Romney was the only candidate to earn more than 15 percent of the vote in the 2012 primary, and though Ron Paul just barely missed out on qualifying in 2008, John McCain took all of the delegates in 2008.

After touching base with the Republican Party of New Mexico, the rounding scheme the party uses works as follows:
  • Fractional delegates are rounded to the nearest whole number.
  • If that leads to an overallocation of delegates, then the surplus delegate is subtracted from the candidate with the remainder least proximate to the rounding threshold.
  • The allocation is done sequentially from the top votegetter down, but should any delegates remain unallocated, then the delegate would be allocated to the qualifying candidate with the highest remainder (closest to the rounding threshold). 

Again, this is a matter that is covered by state law. Delegates are proportionally allocated to all qualifiers (or just to the winner/presumptive nominee if he or she is the only qualifier) and bound by statute to vote for that candidate on the first ballot at the national convention. The law essentially provides the delegation chair at the convention with enforcement power. Said chair is instructed by the law to cast the votes in proportion to the vote in the primary (rather than the delegates themselves).

Delegates are released after the first ballot, but can be released before that if the candidate to whom they are bound dies or by written release.

State allocation rules are archived here.

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2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: NEW JERSEY

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: WASHINGTON

This is part forty-eight 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: primary
Date: May 24
Number of delegates: 44 [11 at-large, 30 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional (with winner-take-all trigger for majority support at the
congressional district level)
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 20%
2012: nonbinding caucus

Changes since 2012
Washington state joins Idaho and Missouri on the list of states that shifted from 2012 caucuses to 2016 primaries. Each has its own story, but the tale in the Evergreen state is a long one. Historically, the primary has been little used in Washington since a voter initiative added after the 1988 cycle. Washington Democrats have never utilized the election as a means of allocating national convention delegates in the three competitive cycles the party has had since 1988 and that carried over into the 2016 cycle as well.1

Evergreen state Republicans have only been marginally more active in using the primary election over the same time period. Traditionally, the party has allocated about half of its delegates through the primary while the other half were awarded through a caucus/convention process.

The story of the Washington primary, then, is one of a contest that has traditionally been underemployed by the state parties. Given that reality, in less competitive cycles, there has existed at least some motivation to cancel the primary in order to save the state money. That was the case in 2004 when only Democrats had an active nomination race and were not going to use the primary anyway, and again in 2012 when the combination of a budget shortfall and the Washington State Republican Party only half using the primary led to cancelations.

But those cancelations were always only temporary, lasting just the one cycle. That brought the primary back in the subsequent presidential election years. And that all set the baseline to which a number of changes the WSRP has instituted for 2016 can be compared.

Yes, the 2016 primary replaced the 2012 caucuses, but that came about because Washington Republicans narrowly held the state Senate after the 2014 elections. That allowed them to stop any efforts to cancel the primary (which they did). However, holding only the state Senate meant Republicans in the legislature faced a partisan roadblock in moving the primary to an earlier date. Plans to for a coordinated March 8 primary with Idaho were scuttled by Democrats on several occasions.

Once the primary scheduling had finally resolved itself in August 2015, Washington Republicans also opted to use the primary to allocate all of their convention delegates, breaking with the half and half approach that had been the custom. All told, Washington Republicans shifted from a non-binding, early March caucus in 2012 to a binding, late May primary in 2016.

In trading the non-binding caucuses for a binding primary, the WSRP adopted a proportional method of allocation that split the awarding of delegates across both congressional districts and the state. Part of that allocation plan entails a qualifying threshold. To win any delegates in the Washington primary a candidate must win at least 20 percent of the vote -- the maximum allowable threshold under RNC rules -- within a congressional district or statewide. Those who fail to reach that threshold fail to win any delegates. This is not unlike a number of the states that held contests in the proportionality window; particularly those that were part of the SEC primary on March 1.

Additionally, there is a winner-take-all threshold that applies. However, that only applies in the case of the allocation of congressional district delegates. The candidate who wins a majority of the delegates within any of the ten congressional districts in Washington state, wins all three delegates from that district.

But again, this threshold is only applicable in the congressional districts. There is no winner-take-all threshold for the 14 at-large and automatic delegates. As such, that pool of delegates is always proportionally allocated to candidates with more than 20 percent of the vote statewide. This is is a setup unique to Washington. In most cases where there is a winner-take-all trigger, it separately affects both the at-large and congressional district delegate allocation. In other instances, a statewide majority supersedes the separate allocation, awarding all delegates, regardless of distinction, to the majority winner.

Delegate allocation (at-large and automatic delegates)
If the unevenly applied winner-take-all trigger was not enough, there are additional wrinkles to the allocation of the at-large and automatic delegates. It is impossible under the WSRP delegate allocation plan for a candidate to win all 14 at-large and automatic delegates. Not only is there no winner-take-all trigger, but a candidate cannot even take a backdoor route to the allocation of all of those delegates by virtue of being the only qualifying candidate.

There is no backdoor winner-take-all trigger in Washington and that has everything to to do with the underlying allocation equation the Washington Republican Party is using. Rather than dividing a candidate's vote share by the total qualifying vote -- just the votes for the candidates with 20 percent or more of the statewide vote -- the WSRP is dividing by the total number of votes cast for both qualifiers and non-qualifiers alike.

This is atypical as the modal activity on the state level in 2016 has been to use the qualifying vote instead of the total vote as the denominator in the allocation equation.


Basically, the answer lies in efficiency. To use the qualifying vote is to streamline the process; to eliminate the possibility of the obvious follow up question. What do we do with these unallocated delegates? This is less of an issue when there is a small group of candidates who are qualifying. But that is a pretty limited sweet spot. In scenarios where there is a large field of candidates (and only a limited few are barely clearing the qualifying threshold) or a smaller field of candidates with a clear frontrunner (but the laggards are still winning votes), the number of unallocated delegates tends to increase.

Those are situations in which non-qualifiers are still winning a sizable chunk of the vote; leaving a corresponding bloc of delegates unallocated in the process.

Let's use the results in last week's Oregon primary to illustrate this point. Donald Trump won 67 percent of the vote in the Beaver state while Cruz and Kasich respectively took 17 percent and 16 percent of the statewide vote. If that outcome were to repeat itself statewide in the Washington primary, it would create the following byproducts: 1) Cruz and Kasich would not qualify for any of the 14 delegates but 2) Trump would not win all of them as the only qualifier.

Trump would take two-thirds of the delegates, but the remaining one-third would be unaccounted for. Of course, "unaccounted for" in this case means that those delegates are unallocated. And in Washington, the state party is treating those delegates as unbound. That one-third is about five unbound delegates.

All of this is compounded by the rounding method the WSRP is using. The basic rounding scheme is simple enough. The party is rounding to the nearest whole number: Qualifying candidates with a fractional delegate of .5 or above round up while any fraction below .5 rounds down. The complication comes in how the party is dealing with the contingencies in which rounding leads to either an over- or under-allocation of at-large and automatic delegates.

Consistent with some other states, Washington Republicans are using a furthest from the rounding threshold method in cases where superfluous delegates are allocated due to rounding. An over-allocated delegate is subtracted from the total of the candidate with a fractional delegate furthest from the rounding threshold.

If, however, there are any under-allocated delegates due to rounding, then those delegates remain unbound as opposed to being allocated to the candidate, for example, closest to the rounding threshold (as is the case in some other states).

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
The picture of how the 30 congressional district delegates are allocated is a bit more defined. There is no potential for unbound delegates, but there are a number of possibilities that the WSRP has helpfully laid out for their allocation in Rule 37B of the party bylaws:
  1. There is a winner-take-all trigger on the congressional district level. If a candidate wins a majority of the vote in any of the 10 Washington congressional districts, then that candidate receives all three delegates from that district. The remaining scenarios are dependent on whether/if a candidate hits the 20 percent qualifying threshold. 
  2. If no candidate hits 20 percent, then the top three votegetters in that district each are awarded one delegate. 
  3. There technically is also a backdoor winner-take-all trigger on the congressional district level. If only one candidate clears the 20 percent threshold in one of the congressional districts, then that one qualifying candidate receives all three delegates from that district. 
  4. If two candidate surpass 20 percent of the vote, then the allocation resembles, say, the Georgia congressional district allocation: the district winner gets two delegates and the runner up, the remainder..
  5. Should three candidates all qualify for delegates, then each qualifier is allocated one delegate as in Oklahoma
  6. Finally, if four candidates clear 20 percent, then the top three finishers receive one delegate each.
A winnowed field with a frontrunner/presumptive nominee is likely to produce a lopsided allocation of congressional district delegates. The winner-take-all trigger described in #1 above is most likely to be tripped in that scenario.

While the 2012 caucuses in Washington were described as non-binding above, that glosses over some of the intricacies of how the Republican Party in the Evergreen state handled its delegate selection process. Delegates were bound but based not on the results of the early March caucuses in 2012. Instead delegates were bound as they have been in Colorado, the Virgin Islands or Wyoming in 2016: based on which presidential candidate the delegate candidates (selected at district and state conventions) affiliated with in filing to run for national convention delegation openings. Four years ago, Washington Republican delegates were bound for the first ballot at the national convention to the candidate they preferred when filing to run.

The first ballot is still the limit of the bond in 2016 as well. However, the selection of delegates does not have to follow the results of the primary. As is the case in most other states, the selection process is completely divorced from the allocation process. Whereas 2012 delegates from Washington were locked into to the candidate they preferred when filing to run, that is not the case in 2016. The delegates have already been selected in Washington, and 40 of the 41 selected were aligned with Ted Cruz. Rather than supporting the Texas senator -- as would have been the case four years ago -- those delegates will likely be bound to Donald Trump based on the primary results on the first and likely only ballot at the national convention.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 Those cycles include 1992, 2000 and 2008. Yes, 2004 was a nomination that was contested on the Democratic side, but the Democratic-controlled Washington legislature postponed the primary that year.

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: OREGON

This is part forty-seven 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: primary
Date: May 17
Number of delegates: 28 [10 at-large, 15 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 3.57%
2012: proportional primary

Changes since 2012
Much of the delegate selection plan the Oregon Republican Party used in 2012 and has historically used in the post-reform era has carried over to 2016. That is largely a function of the significant overlap between the state party rules and state law in the Beaver state with respect to delegate allocation, selection and binding. States where that bond -- between rule and law -- is strong are states  that are more resistant to change than states where the state party rules and state law are more fully divorced from each other.

That is not to say that such a state cannot make changes to their state party rules that conflict with state law.1 Rather, their holding pat signals how entrenched/institutionalized the practice has become over time.

In Oregon, that is the case again in 2016. The allocation will again be proportional based on the statewide results as called for in state party bylaws and state law. The binding requirements will again hold delegates through the second ballot (with some conditional exceptions described below).

The one change made to the bylaws and/or special rules the ORGOP adopts every four years (as called for in those bylaws) is actually a recent one. Just this spring, the party made a change to its rules on allocation and binding. Triggered by the January memo from the Republican National Committee general counsel's office, Oregon, like many other states, had to tweak its rules regarding the allocation of the three automatic delegates in the Beaver state. Unlike past cycles and due to a change in the RNC binding requirements, those three party delegates have to be allocated and bound in some manner based on any statewide preference vote.

Rather than just 25 delegates, all 28 Oregon delegates will be proportionally allocated based on the results of the May primary. Also, as Oregon Republican Party Chair Bill Currier notes, those three delegates -- the state party chair, the national committeeman and national committeewoman -- are likely to fill three of the slots allocated to the winner of the primary. To be clear, those three delegates will fill three of the slots allocated to the winner. That is different than them being separately -- as a bloc of three -- to the winner. Very simply, the automatic delegates are part of the total pool of delegates to be allocated.

Functionally, the allocation process in Oregon approximates the language of the delegate selection rules in NevadaAny candidate who receives less than the percentage required for one Delegate will receive no Delegates. That is essentially how the process will operate in Oregon. For every 3.57% of the vote a candidate receives statewide in the primary, the candidate will be allocated one delegate.

Delegate allocation (at-large, congressional district and automatic delegates)
The Oregon Republican approach to proportional allocation is a bit different from that described in other proportional states in this series. The crux of the difference is the allocation equation. In most other states, the equation amounts to something like this:
Delegates allocated to candidate X equals candidate X's votes divided by the total number of statewide votes. That ratio is then multiplied by the total number of delegates at stake. 
In Oregon, however, that equation is replaced by a more stepwise method. The ratio is still the same -- candidate vote share divided by total votes cast -- but that percentage is divided by the 3.57 "threshold". That -- the 3.57 -- is what the ORGOP calls the "benchmark increment". It is not dissimilar to the incremental rounding threshold FHQ uses to describe the share a Democratic candidate would have to receive to round up to an additional delegate.

That process is done sequentially -- from the top finisher down -- until all of the delegates have been allocated. In doing so, the method the party is using eliminates the possibility of an overallocation. In the event, the allocation process works its way through the qualifying candidates and has unallocated delegates, then the procedure is to award delegate slots to the candidate closest to that benchmark increment.

If there are multiple unallocated delegates, then the allocation follows a sequence of proximity to that benchmark increment. The candidate closest to rounding up gets the first delegate, the next closest the next delegate and so on.

The form delegate candidates have to file with the Oregon Republican Party includes a section that not only requires those candidates to affiliate with a presidential candidate -- it requires them to state a preference -- but lays out the conditions of how long that pledge holds. As mentioned above, delegates if selected to attend the national convention are bound to the candidate to whom they have pledged through the first two ballots at the convention.

However, if the candidate to whom the delegate is pledged/bound is not on the ballot at the national convention (not placed in nomination), is released by the candidate before the balloting and/or does not receive 35 percent support on the first ballot, then the delegate is unbound. Typically in an environment with a presumptive nominee, this means that all of the delegates not bound to the presumptive nominee are freed by virtue of no other candidate appearing on the ballot (or their candidate releasing them). Yet, the bottom line here is that the two ballot requirement is less restrictive than meets the eyes. These exceptions greatly loosen that barrier.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 Ultimately, state parties have the final say in matters of delegate selection. On the Republican side, the RNC give precedence to state party rules over state laws in any instance of conflict between the two. Additionally, it should noted that there are potential penalties associated with breaking with state law. A state party could take the matter to court as has been done in a number of cases in which state law has defined parameters of primary participation -- open or closed -- that conflict with the desired mix in the state party. This can also be seen in the maneuvering of dates on the primary calendar. A state party may want an early primary, but be stuck in a later date (as that is the timing defined by state law). Often the only alternative is for a state party to hold caucuses but on its own dime. Those financial costs -- disincentives -- can force a continued marriage between state law and state party rule.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: RHODE ISLAND

This is part forty-three 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: primary
Date: April 26 
Number of delegates: 19 [10 at-large, 6 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 10%
2012: proportional primary

Changes since 2012
Though Rhode Island Republicans still operate under the banner of proportional allocation in 2016, much has ever so slightly changed since 2012 about its method of proportionality. The Republican delegation in the Ocean state is just 19 deep, and as FHQ has often said this cycle there are only so many ways that a small group of delegates can be awarded to candidates. Some similarly small states have historically been to be as close to winner-take-all as possible so as to maximize whatever influence they have over the process. Others -- and perhaps most fit into this category -- stick with tradition and use some form of proportional allocation. Often that tradition is rooted in a loose tie to originally Democratic-passed measures to comply with the DNC proportionality mandate.

But again, Rhode Island Republicans have not always used a straight proportional method directly consistent with the Democratic Party rules. Instead they have settled for a number of variations. Four years ago, for example, the proportionate method utilized by the party pooled the delegates for the allocation process. However, they were selected differently. The three party delegates were unbound as many were across the country in 2012, but of the remaining 16, eight were directly elected from one district and eight from the other.

That shifts in 2016. This time around, the RIGOP will split the delegates by type -- at-large/automatic and congressional district -- and proportionally allocate them to candidates based on the statewide or district level vote respectively. That means that tiny Rhode Island will have just one delegate less than New York available based on the statewide result, but without a similar winner-take-all trigger. Additionally, Rhode Island will carry 25 fewer congressional districts and thus lack the extra 75 district delegates New York had to offer. Those delegates also come with no winner-take-all trigger.

The selection is also different. Rather than being elected at the district level as in 2012, the 10 at-large delegates will be elected statewide, and voters within each district will directly elect three district delegates (rather than all selected in the congressional districts and allocated based on the statewide vote).

Finally, while there were efforts to change to a March primary through the state legislature in 2015, the fourth Tuesday in April primary persisted. That kept Rhode Island tethered to a cluster of regional contests that lost New York from 2012, but added Maryland for 2016.

This could just as easily have been added to the section on changes, but the threshold for qualifying for delegates also changed. FHQ spoke in 2012 about how Rhode Island differed from some of its neighbors in having a 15 percent threshold rather than requiring 10 percent to qualify (as Massachusetts and New Hampshire had in 2012). That was then.

Four years later, Rhode Island Republicans have lowered their threshold to 10 percent, which will virtually assure that most of the viable candidates will qualify for some of the 19 delegates. That additionally greatly lowers the type of surplus that the winner of the primary should expect to take from the Ocean state.

There is no winner-take-all threshold, but there is also no prohibition of a backdoor winner-take-all outcome. However, with such a low threshold, such an allocation is highly unlikely.

Delegate allocation (at-large and automatic delegates)
There are perhaps more questions than answers in the Rhode Island Republican Party rules on delegate allocation. The proportional allocation is clear enough, but neither the allocation equation nor the rounding rules are specified.

With respect to the allocation of the at-large and automatic delegates, the sorts of issues that might arise based on rounding -- namely how many delegates a candidate should have -- are deferred to the Credentials Committee of the state party. Questions would be handled by that group according to Rule 3.03.b.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
The at-large allocation is not the only process that produces question marks. Allocating congressional districts under the Rhode Island Republican plan is also overly simplistic and lacking in contingencies for particular outcomes (particularly those where fewer than three candidates qualify for delegates).

The default setting is based on an assumption that three candidates will clear the 10 percent threshold within a congressional district. There is no rounding involved and all three (or the top three) candidate each receive one delegate. That is true in all cases unless the congressional district winner receives 67 percent of the vote. That is enough to claim two of the delegates rather than just one. But the language of the rule is that a winning candidate in such a scenario would receive "at least" two delegates. This implies there is some potential for even further expansion of the district allocation, but the details are not clear. It could simply mean that a candidate who has won at least 67 percent of the vote reduces the likelihood that another candidate has cleared the 10 percent threshold. But since there is no prohibition of a backdoor winner-take-all outcome, the "at least" seems superfluous.

The RIGOP Credentials Committee would have initial jurisdiction on any rounding-related questions here as with at-large delegates.

In another change from 2012, members of the Rhode Island delegation will be bound in 2016 to the candidate to whom they have been allocated either until released by the candidate or until one ballot ha been cast at the national convention. The first condition was true in the last cycle, but the first ballot provision replaced one that required a 75 percent vote among the delegates bound to a particular candidate to release themselves (if not released by the candidate).

As stated above delegates are directly elected from slates filed by the campaigns (or as uncommitted) rather than selected through a caucus/convention process. Not only do the candidate have some say in filing a slate of delegates, but there is added insurance in this selection process.

Take for instance a scenario in which Candidate A wins 50 percent statewide followed by Candidate B with 30 percent and Candidate C with 20 percent. Assume also that seven delegates on Candidate B's slate are the top delegate votegetters statewide and that Candidate C has the next three highest finishers. This seems like a situation where Candidate A would have five delegates bound to him or her that would likely abandon Candidate A after a hypothetical inconclusive first ballot.

While this can happen in some states, the Rhode Island Republican rules prevent that outcome, giving the candidates a firmer grasp on their delegates following the primary. In the scenario mentioned above, Candidate B would have the top three finishers from the Candidate B slate as his or her three allocated delegates. The remainder would become alternates. The same would happen for Candidate C. Candidate A's delegate slots would be filled by Candidate A slate delegates. The only "damage" done to Candidate A is in the alternate delegate count. The lower down the finishing order Candidate A's delegates are, the less likely it is that Candidate A would have any alternates.

But among the top line of delegates, Candidate A's positions are guaranteed (as are Candidate B's and  Candidate C's).

State allocation rules are archived here.

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