Saturday, August 20, 2011

Alabama Republican Party Posts 2012 Presidential Primary Delegate Allocation Guidelines

The Alabama Republican Party on Friday posted a resolution outlining the rules regarding the allocation of its delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Given that the Alabama presidential primary is now scheduled for the second Tuesday in March -- March 13 -- that puts the contest outside of the window in which the newly established RNC rules allow straight winner-take-all delegate allocation. That said, as FHQ pointed out earlier this week, state Republican parties have rarely looked on the delegate allocation as a binary choice between proportional or winner-take-all rules. Some choose proportional rules while other states choose winner-take-all. Still others choose some hybrid version that include certain vote thresholds by which candidates can be allocated all of a state's or congressional district's delegates.1 Since the 2004 cycle, Alabama has fit into this middle, hybrid category. And in 2012, the state not only fits that category again, but also reprises its 2008 method of delegate allocation.

Alabama is one of those states that has had some winner-take-all provisions in the past, but those are provisions that are untouched by the 2012 RNC delegate selection rules. That is why the 2012 allocation mimics the 2008 allocation formula. Let's have a look:
Alabama Republicans: 50 delegates [26 at-large (10 base, 16 bonus), 21 district (3 per each of the 7 congressional districts), 3 automatic]2
At-large allocation: If a candidate receives a majority of the statewide vote, that candidate is allocated all of the 26 at-large delegates. Should no candidate clear the 50% barrier, those 26 delegates would be allocated proportionally provided said candidate has received at least 20% of the statewide vote.
Congressional district allocation: If a candidate receives a majority of the district vote, that candidate is allocated the full three delegates from the district. Should no candidate clear the 50% barrier, the top vote-getter in the district is allocated two delegates and the second highest vote-getter receives one. That is conditional upon both top candidates receiving at least 20% of the district vote. Should only one of the top two candidates cross the 20% vote threshold, the top candidate shall receive the full three district delegates.
Automatic delegate allocation: The Alabama Republican Party chair, the Alabama national committeeman and the Alabama national committeewoman are free to pledge themselves to or endorse whomever they choose. They may also choose to go to the convention uncommitted.
Notes: Seemingly missing from the above provisions is an equivalent to the 20% rule on congressional district delegate allocation for at-large delegates. Let me explain. Both do have that barrier if no candidate receives a majority of the vote. However, only the congressional district allocation accounts for the contingency where only one candidate clears the 20% barrier. That remains absent in the at-large allocation. That said, it is unlikely, given Alabama's position on the calendar, that the field will have not winnowed itself down to three viable candidates by that point. The fewer viable candidates there are, the less probable it is that only one candidate clears the 20% vote threshold.
This is all laid out in Paragraphs 5 and 6 of the Alabama Republican Party resolution on the rules of the presidential preference primary:

Postscript: FHQ concedes that this is not ground-breaking news. However, it does underline the point made earlier in the week that the 2012 Republican delegate selection rules are not going to fundamentally rewrite the method -- winner-take-all or proportional -- by which delegates are actually allocated. Where the RNC rules will have the most impact is on scheduling. The direct effect on allocation is there, but that in turn, indirectly affects the accumulation of delegates by the candidates.

1 The RNC rules apportion three delegates for each congressional district. That is the method by which the party accounts for population differences from state to state.

2 For more see the 2008 Rules of the Republican Party (revised August, 6, 2010) Rule 12(a).

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