Saturday, September 21, 2019

Wyoming Republicans Flirt with Changes to Delegate Selection Process But Hold Pat

Over the summer Wyoming Republicans have been mired in something of an ideological struggle within the state party. A more conservative faction within the party is pushing a more aggressive use of the state party's Governance Review and Feedback Committee, created to eye how well Equality state legislators and legislation align with the party platform.

In other words, it is potentially being used as a litmus test on more moderate Republicans in the Wyoming legislature.

But that has drawn the ire of the two most populous counties in the state where more moderates find their home, but also stretches into the national convention delegate selection process the state party uses. Natrona County Republicans, for example, in August passed three informal resolutions including one against the litmus tests, but also against possible changes to the delegate selection process that would shift the balance of power away from those population centers and empower the more rural counties in the state. Yes, that is an urban versus rural divide but is also one that features the ideological divide within the party. It is also something that is being sold as advantageous to President Trump, shifting the balance of power toward more Trump-friendly rural areas.

Under the traditional delegate selection system Wyoming Republicans have used, like the one in 2016, only one county is guaranteed to have a delegate every presidential election cycle: Laramie County, the most populous county in the state. All other counties are paired off and trade off which one gets national convention representation every cycle. Those counties only get national convention representation every other cycle.

This back and forth between the state party and the county parties occurred over the summer in the lead up to the Wyoming Republican Party state central committee meeting on August 23-24. Instead of a showdown at that meeting, however, there was an open dialog about the ideological rift and the proposed state party resolutions. In particular, the delegate selection changes were shelved and will be dealt with at state convention next May. Any changes made then would fall after the 2020 caucus/convention process and thus be implemented in 2024.

Despite the rise in ideological tensions over the summer over these proposed delegate selection plan changes (among other things), the party held steady with the system it has utilized with the caucuses in recent cycles.

The question moving forward out of Wyoming is whether the state party will opt to hold a presidential preference vote in the first stage of the caucuses next year or whether they will follow the lead of other states in endorsing the president and skipping the preference vote.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

New Iowa Delegate Selection Plan Passes Muster with DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee

The Iowa Democratic Party on Thursday, September 19 released the top lines of a revised delegate selection plan. A day later the plan was before the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) for the panel's consideration via conference call.

The reason for the delayed consideration -- most state parties' plans have already been found in conditional compliance by the RBC over the summer -- was that the committee's initial consideration of the original Iowa delegate selection plan found fault with the innovative virtual caucuses system the state party proposed back in February. Hacking concerns over the tele-caucusing proposal loomed over the plan and led to its rejection by the committee.

But under the revised plan, Iowa Democrats will allow for a petition process whereby any Iowa Democrat can file to set up a satellite caucus to be conducted on the same day as the traditional caucuses as close to the same 7pm start time as possible. Those petitions will by November 18, 2019 go before a review committee comprised of members of the Iowa Democratic Party state central committee not aligned with any presidential campaign. Petitions would be approved or rejected by December 16 and made public by December 18.

Functionally, the satellite caucuses within a congressional district will be collectively counted as an additional county in a given congressional district. Delegates and state delegate equivalents will then by apportioned based on that. What remains unanswered pending the full draft delegate selection plan approved by the RBC, is just how much those satellite caucuses will count. There were four satellite caucuses approved in 2016 in Iowa but that only ended up adding an additional three delegates to the state convention totals. That is far less than the nine percent addition to the total the originally proposed virtual caucuses would have added in 2020 would those tele-caucuses been approved.

The question, then, is whether the expectation is that the satellite caucuses will be low turnout affairs aim a particular groups most affected by the traditional caucus process or if there is a higher cap placed on them similar to the virtual caucus model. It could end up somewhere in between or could be figured on the fly on caucus night. The latter would add not only a bit of mystery but some uncertainty to caucus night not only for the candidates and their campaigns in terms of how they direct their supporters but for caucus administrators not to mention the media reporting the caucus results.

Expectations were set on this front in the 2016 delegate selection plan in Iowa. The three satellite caucus state convention delegates were determined in the plan. Absent the current plan approved today, there is no definitive answer to that question.

But in the meantime, the plan, including the satellite caucuses proposal, was deemed conditionally compliant by the RBC.

Here is more from the Iowa Democratic Party about how the satellite caucuses would work:

  • The 2020 satellite caucus proposal will allow for additional caucus locations on February 3 to expand participation for people who cannot attend their in-person precinct caucus. 
  • The IDP will expand the constituency engagement team to ensure the party is reaching communities across the state, as well as accessibility staff to make sure the caucus system works for all Iowans. 
  • Iowa Democrats can apply to hold a satellite site at places like factories, group homes, or community gathering places, to better accommodate people who cannot attend their in-person caucus. This option will be especially useful for shift workers, Iowans with disabilities, Iowans serving overseas, and students. 
  • The IDP will create a special satellite caucus review committee that will review applications and determine approval. The committee members will be appointed by the IDP Chair, and it will be comprised of SCC members who have pledged neutrality in the presidential race. 
  • Just like precinct caucuses, each satellite location will have a trained captain who is charged with overseeing the room, managing volunteers, and reporting the results on caucus night. 
  • The results will be reported using the same method as precinct caucus locations. The satellite caucuses will create one additional county in each Congressional District.

Stay tuned for more when the full delegate selection plan is made public by the Iowa Democratic Party.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

June 2 Presidential Primary Bill Crawls Forward in Washington, DC

Earlier this week, the Washington, DC Council reconvened following a lengthy recess. Among the first items the body considered on the consent agenda on Tuesday, September 17 was the effort to shift the presidential primary (and those for other offices) from the third Tuesday in June to the first Tuesday in June, B23-0212.

Previously the council had passed both emergency and temporary legislation to ease along the legislative process but neither has a window of implementation that stretches far enough into 2020 to include the June 2 date the body is targeting. Permanent legislation, then, is needed, and that is what the above bill is intended to accomplish.

In the meeting earlier this week, the council adopted the consent agenda -- including B23-0212 -- on a unanimous 13-0 vote with no discussion. That represents passage on a first reading. The bill will require one more final reading and vote before passage.

The DC council next meets on October 8.

The move, should it be approved, signed and passed off on by congressional review, would align the DC primary with presidential primaries in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota on what would be the next to last date on the 2020 presidential primary calendar with a contest.

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West Virginia Republicans Adopt Winner-Take-All Allocation Scheme, Alter Delegate Selection Process for 2020

West Virginia Republicans at a recent Executive Committee meeting made changes to the way in which the party will select and allocate delegates to the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte. Gone is the loophole primary the state party has traditionally used, where voters would not only vote on presidential preference, but directly elect both at-large and congressional district delegates on the primary ballot.

Such a system puts the onus on campaigns to gain ballot access for their candidate but to also round up and file for delegate candidates supportive of the candidate. The former is easier than the latter as is evidenced by Rick Santorum's troubles in the Mountain state in 2012.

That system has been scrapped by the WVGOP for 2020 in favor of a more streamlined process. By a 92-12 vote, the West Virginia Republican Party executive committee opted to share the delegate selection process with the Trump campaign and shift to a winner-take-all method of allocation.

Under the new plan, Republican primary voters in West Virginia will only have one presidential choice before them, the presidential preference vote. Whichever candidate wins that vote would be awarded all of the delegates at stake in the West Virginia primary on May 12. On the selection side, delegate candidates would no longer be included on the primary ballot. Instead, prospective delegate candidates would apply and interview with the WVGOP executive committee and the Trump for President Committee to determine what that individual has done for the party/Trump and how loyal they are. Obviously, that would give much more discretion to the state party and the Trump campaign to identify and select delegates than under the loophole system.

This option was one of three being considered by the executive committee. The other two were 1) to keep the loophole (direct election of delegates) system the same or 2) to adopt a convention system similar to what the West Virginia Republican Party used in 2008. The latter was quickly dismissed and the alternative winner-take-all system was deemed preferable by the executive committee in its vote in late August.

One important coda to this maneuvering is that the change will sunset after 2020, reverting to the old loophole system for subsequent cycles (unless there is state party action to make other changes).

Yes, this change clearly gives the Trump campaign a great deal of discretion over the delegates chosen for the national convention from West Virginia. But bear in mind that Democratic National Committee rules allow candidates to reject delegates selected to fill delegate slots allocated them and then represent them at the convention. However, that right of refusal happens after the delegate selection process. The West Virginia Republican Party plan cedes a great deal of control to the Trump reelection effort before and/or during primary season, likely ahead of the West Virginia primary in May. That is an important distinction between how Democrats conduct the process and how West Virginia Republicans are handling theirs.

This also adds another data point to the growing list of states making a variety of changes to their delegate selection rules to help insulate the president from intra-party challenges and hypothetically keep divisiveness down within the party-in-the-electorate before the transition into the general election phase.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Virginia Republicans Will Hold 2020 Presidential Preference Vote at State Convention

Much ink has been spilled of late about the number of Republican state parties considering or deciding to forgo primaries or caucuses during the 2020 presidential nomination cycle. There was a rash of these decisions during the first weekend of September when Republican parties in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina opted out of their respective delegate selection events for next year.

But those states are not alone, nor were they the first to opt for a more closed system of selecting and allocating delegates to the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte.

In fact, during their late June state central committee meeting, Virginia Republicans entertained a motion to hold a presidential preference vote at the party's state convention and the Republican Senate nomination vote in a (June) primary. That motion was split into two questions and dealt with separately. While the state central committee voted in a narrow 40-35 roll call vote to conduct a Senate primary in June 2020, the party opted via an uncontroversial voice vote to skip the presidential primary in favor of a presidential preference vote at the party's state convention next year.

Like many of the states above, Virginia Republicans also have a history of selecting and allocating delegates through means other than a primary. Actually Virginia's use of a primary is more of a 21st century phenomenon. Other than 1988, both parties conducted delegate selection through caucus/convention systems or held firehouse primaries (Democratic state party-run contests) through the early years of the post-reform era. That included 1992, the only time in that late 20th century window when a Republican incumbent (George H.W. Bush) was up for renomination.

This was also the case in 2004 when George W. Bush was again seeking the Republican nomination. Virginia Republicans skipped the primary then as well.

Now, history will repeat itself in 2020 as Virginia Republicans will handle the preference vote, national convention delegate selection and delegate allocation at the state convention. Like in the other states, this is likely to benefit President Trump in his effort win, if not all of the delegates from Virginia, then certainly the lion share of them.

While this often gets described as maneuvering to insulate the president from a challenge, it has a history in a number of states -- particularly on the Republican side -- over time. Virginia is yet another data point for that in the 2020 cycle.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Michigan Republicans Make Small Change to 2020 Delegate Allocation Rules

Over the weekend it was reported that the Michigan Republican Party had made some changes to their delegate selection rules for the 2020 cycle.

But this is a story that unsurprisingly, since it deals with rules changes, deserves some context. There are a number of changes that are happening on the Republican side this cycle. Primaries and caucuses are being cancelled in states like Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina. And delegate allocation rules are being altered in still other states, among them Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Ohio.1

All of those are examples of changes that can be viewed as either Trump- or incumbent-friendly. And the Michigan change can be too as has been widely reported. However, as compared to the formula Michigan Republicans used in 2016, this recent alteration of the rules in the Great Lakes state is far more modest when compared to rules the changes in other states thus far.

Massachusetts is a good point of comparison. Republicans in the Bay state made the decision to increase their delegate qualification threshold from 5 percent in 2016 to 20 percent for 2020. Candidates have to receive, in other words, 20 percent of the vote to be allocated a proportional share of any delegates Additionally, the Massachusetts GOP added a winner-take-all threshold. Should a candidate win a majority or more of the vote, then that candidate is eligible for all of the delegates.

Those are both significant changes: a 15 point increase in the qualification threshold and the addition of a winner-take-all threshold. Bill Weld surpassing five percent may or may not be likely, but the former Massachusetts governor getting up to 20 percent in that primary seems a stretch. That is certainly true of Trump not clearing 50 percent in that primary as well.

The Massachusetts change, then, is clearly Trump- or incumbent-friendly.

But Michigan?

Again, the changes the Michigan Republican Party has instituted for the 2020 cycle are much more modest. In 2016, Michigan Republicans employed the same proportional allocation formula with triggers they will in 2020. The party also had a winner-take-all threshold in place last cycle. Both carry over to 2020.

The change?

What the party altered was the qualification threshold, raising it from 15 percent to 20 percent. Just how Trump- or incumbent-friendly that change is depends on just how likely one perceives Bill Weld's or Mark Sanford's or Joe Walsh's chances of clearing 15 percent of the vote in Michigan, much less the new 20 percent threshold (the maximum allowed under RNC rules). What is most likely at this point in time is that Trump, embattled though he may or may not be, clears the majority threshold and claims all of the delegates from Michigan.

But that is not a new addition. That winner-take-all threshold was in place in 2016, and is the most likely benefit Trump will exploit in 2020. Overall, this Michigan change is a modest change in Trump's direction, but it is way down the scale from Trump- or incumbent-friendly changes being made elsewhere by Republican state parties ahead of primaries and caucuses next year.

1 The change in Ohio was to the date of the primary in order for the state Republican Party to retain a winner-take-all delegate allocation formula for 2020.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

New York Presidential Primary Shifts to April 28

One day prior to the bill becoming law without his signature, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed SB 6374 into law. The measure schedules the separate presidential primary in the Empire state for April 28, aligning the contest with presidential primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island on that date.

The contiguous six state cluster -- the Acela Primary -- will allow New York Democrats and those in the other five states to take advantage of DNC delegate incentives. That 15 percent bonus will be added to the base New York delegation on top of the 10 percent bonus state Democrats will receive for scheduling an April primary. The additional 49 bonus delegates bring the already large New York delegation up to a total of 273 pledged delegates, second behind only California's delegation.

In his signing memo, Cuomo cited his desire for an earlier primary, something the governor flirted with temporarily in recent weeks after the bill was finally transmitted to him in early September. But  after some push back from the Democratic National Committee, Cuomo later quickly rejected the idea. And the reasoning behind that is twofold. First, the legislature was not receptive to the idea, and second, under DNC rules, the state party would have gone from bonus delegates for an April primary to losing half the delegation during primary season for a non-compliant February contest.

One thing Governor Cuomo did note in the memo was that he continues to see value in a consolidated primary -- presidential primary plus those for other local and federal offices -- that would fall on April 28. However, he will not call a special session for the New York legislature to move on that. Rather, he urged the legislature to act in January when they reconvene for the 2020 session. But such a move would have an impact on those filing to run for those other offices that would fall on the same April date as the presidential primary. That, too, may be too quick a turnaround, threatening the viability of that sort of change.

But the New York presidential primary is now locked in on April 28. That change is now reflected on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

6/18/19:  New York Assembly Passes April Presidential Primary Bill

6/9/19:  New York April Presidential Primary Bills Outline 2020 Delegate Selection in the Empire State

4/25/19:  New York Democrats Signal an April Presidential Primary

2/14/19:  Small Signal Points Toward an Earlier 2020 New York Presidential Primary

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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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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Maine Ranked Choice Voting Presidential Primary Bill Revived in Special Session

The Maine legislature convened a brief special session on Monday, August 26 and raised the ranked choice voting presidential primary bill that had carried over from the earlier regular session.

The bill -- LD 1083 -- had become a casualty of the final day of the legislature in June, failing to get one final enacting vote passed in the state Senate. That vote came on Monday and passed along party lines with just one majority party Democrat voting with dissenting Republicans.

Final enacting vote behind it, the bill now moves to Governor Janet Mills (D) for her consideration. She previously in the summer signed legislation into law reestablishing a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state and scheduling it for Super Tuesday.

Just last week, the Democratic Party Rules and Bylaws Committee raised the topic of ranked choice voting in presidential primaries during the DNC summer meeting in San Francisco. And while Maine was cited as a potential ranked choice voting state in the process, the RBC punted on issuing any guidance until any changes were final in state law and state party delegate selection plans had been revised and resubmitted.

There are some questions as to how the process would work in Maine in a presidential nomination context. Unlike in New Hampshire, where ranked choice voting in presidential primaries legislation failed earlier this year, the Maine legislation is less forthcoming about the mechanics of the process. Whereas the proposed New Hampshire system would have shifted the reallocation line to a 15 percent threshold (as opposed to reallocating until one winner is determined), the Maine system does not specifically lay out any instructions over than it should follow the same procedure as any other ranked choice system. That would mean narrowing the list down to one winner.

However, what the bill does do is leave up to the discretion of the state parties the process of delegate allocation and selection. And the standard Democratic threshold of 15 percent remains the mandate from the national party. The Maine Democratic Party delegate selection plan already received a conditional compliance grade from the RBC during its July 30 meeting. Should the ranked choice voting bill be signed into law, though, the plan would have to be revised.

Tip of the cap to @khfan93 for the heads up about the Press-Herald story on the bill's passage cited above.

1/18/19: Maine Lost its Presidential Primary

2/1/19: Maine Decision to Re-Establish a Presidential Primary Option for 2020 Hinges on Money

2/9/19: Maine Committee Hearing Highlights Familiar Divisions in Caucus to Primary Shifts

3/16/19: Alternative Bill Would Reestablish a Presidential Primary in Maine but with Ranked Choice Voting

3/22/19: Maine Committee Hearing Finds Support for and Roadblocks to a Ranked Choice Presidential Primary

3/30/19: Maine Democrats Signal Caucuses in Draft Delegate Selection Plan, but...

4/23/19: New Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Maine

5/10/19: Maine Committee Working Session Offers Little Clarity on 2020 Presidential Primary

6/3/19: Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

6/4/19: On to the Governor: Maine House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

6/19/19: Fate of a Reestablished Presidential Primary in Maine Not Clear Entering Final Legislative Day

6/20/19: Governor Mills' Signature Sets Maine Presidential Primary for Super Tuesday

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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Kentucky Republicans Change Presidential Caucus Process

It is not clear yet whether Kentucky Republicans will hold caucuses again in 2020 or revert to the May presidential primary the party has traditionally used for allocating national convention delegates.  FHQ's repeated attempts to contact the party were either ignored or turned away.

In any event, there are some tea leaves to read that point in the direction of the Republican Party of Kentucky (RPK) using the caucus/convention format again in 2020. For starters, the party adopted rules changes to the caucus section of the RPK's rules added in 2015. Back at the June 15 meeting of the RPK state central committee the rules were changed for 2020. The party not only changed the date of the contest, but altered the method of delegate allocation as well. And the former made the latter possible. First, the date of the caucuses was moved back on the calendar from the first Saturday in March. In 2020, if Republicans in the Bluegrass state hold caucuses, the event will fall on the third Saturday in March.

That new position on the calendar allowed the party to then trade out the proportional allocation method used in 2016 for a winner-take-all method in the current cycle. Under Republican National Committee rules, no contest before March 15 can allocated delegates in a winner-take-all fashion without having a winner-take-all threshold (no less than 50 percent of the vote) in place. RPK skipped that, opting for a later date -- March 21 -- and a true winner-take-all plan with no trigger.

Those would be inconsequential rules changes if the RPK ultimately decided to use the May state-run presidential primary for allocating delegates instead. Why go to the trouble? That does not confirm that Republicans in Kentucky will use the caucuses again, but it certainly points in that direction.

It should additionally be noted that in 2015 when the party added the caucuses language to the party rules, that August state central committee meeting was the setting in which the decision to use the caucuses for delegate allocation in 2016 was made as well. Now, whether that same protocol was utilized at the June 2019 meeting is unclear. But if the pattern in 2015 was the same in 2019, then the party will be using a winner-take-all caucus on March 21 of next year.

Kentucky, then, potentially fits the pattern of state parties making rules changes that might benefit the president's renomination outlook.

FHQ will add the new date of the Kentucky Republican caucuses to the 2020 presidential primary calendar, but with an asterisk until the move is confirmed with the party.

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