Thursday, January 29, 2015

The 2016 RNC Super Penalty

From the 2012 Rules of the Republican Party (the delegate selection rules that will govern the 2016 nomination process):
Rule 17(a): If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(2), the number of delegates and the number of alternate delegates to the national convention from that state shall each be reduced by fifty percent (50%). Any sum presenting a fraction shall be decreased to the next whole number. No delegation shall be reduced to less than two (2) delegates and a corresponding number of alternate delegates. If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(1) of The Rules of the Republican Party the number of delegates to the national convention shall be reduced for those states with 30 or more total delegates to nine (9) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state, and for those sates with 29 or fewer total delegates to six (6) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state. The corresponding alternate delegates shall also be reduced accordingly.
The second half of that rule (bolded by FHQ for emphasis) describes the so-called super penalty to be levied on states that violate the timing rules laid out in Rule 16(c)(1). The reality is that the penalty is there to prevent states from doing that; going rouge. Instead of the flat 50% delegation reduction used in 2012, the RNC will shrink rogue delegations to 12 total delegates (in states originally with 30 or more delegates) and to 9 total delegates (in states with 29 or fewer delegates) in 2016. The party has traded that flat rate of reduction to a set point of reduction that places an increasing penalty on states as their delegations grow in size.

Now that the 2014 midterms have passed, the Republican National Committee has the data necessary to determine bonus delegates and thus the size of each state delegation.1 A firmer sense of the size of each delegation (via The Green Papers), in turn, provides the extent to which the super penalty would affect each state if a decision was made on the state level to break the rules prohibiting primaries or caucuses before the first Tuesday in March (March 1, 2016).2

Here is the percentage of the delegation lost if each state violated the super penalty (More below the figure):
With the exception of Delaware, Vermont and the four smallest territories, all states have a greater than 50% penalty for a delegate selection event scheduled before March 1. And even if, say, Delaware or Vermont decided to roll the dice and go rogue, the combination of nine delegates in Democratic Party-dominated states would likely not prove attractive to the candidates. Of course, that would assumes that those Democratic state governments would move the primaries into earlier and non-compliant calendar positions in the first place.

As the delegations grow in size, the effect of the penalty increases. States with delegations larger than 60 delegates would face an over 80% reduction in possibly being non-compliant. North Carolina, for example, moved up the list since our earliest look at the original super penalty. The state is now under unified Republican control and has gained bonuses as a result. But those in the Republican majorities on the state level also opted to separate the presidential primary from those for state and local offices and tether that presidential primary to the (likely February) primary in South Carolina. That means the Tar Heel state is currently staring down a substantial 83% reduction to their full 71 member delegation (tied for sixth largest delegation).

Past rogue states have already disarmed. Florida moved back. Arizona moved back. Michigan looks to be moving back. All moved after the original super penalty came out of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Other states with February contests (New York) or ties to February contests (Colorado, Minnesota, Utah) have either moved back in the past (and are likely to do so again) or have options that allow them to avoid the problems attendant to non-compliant contests.

Upping the penalty seems to be having the desired effect from the RNC perspective.

...but it is not all the way there. All eyes on North Carolina.

1 Those bonuses -- determined by the guidelines in Rule 14(a)(5-7) -- are based on Republican electoral votes in the previous presidential election and Republicans' hold on US House and Senate positions, governors seats and state legislative control. Basically, the more Republican control there is in a state, the more bonus delegates are added to a state's at-large delegate pool.

2 This penalty does not apply to the carve-out states unless any of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and/or South Carolina holds a contest more than a month before the next earliest, non-carve-out state.

Recent Posts:
Back to the Future in Michigan: Another Attempt to Move Presidential Primary to March

Legislation Would Shift Illinois Presidential, Other Primaries from March to June

The End of the New Hampshire Primary? Death Penalty?

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