Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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