Thursday, December 10, 2015

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: GEORGIA

Updated 4.18.16

This is part 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: March 1 
Number of delegates: 76 [31 at-large, 42 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional (with winner-take-most trigger statewide and congressional district)
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 20% (to win statewide, at-large delegates)1
2012: proportional primary

For the most part Georgia Republicans have retained the same method for allocating national convention delegates as the state party utilized in 2012. Unlike states such as Ohio, though, the Georgia interpretation of proportional in 2012 is still consistent with the changed definition the national party is using in 2016. But in 2012, the allocation of delegates in the Peach state was overly proportional.2 In 2016, Georgia is still compliant with the RNC proportionality requirement with much the same rules.

At-large delegates
Georgia Republicans will proportionally allocate the 31 at-large delegates apportioned to the state by the RNC to candidates who clear the 20% threshold in the statewide vote in the presidential primary election. If no candidate receives 20% of the vote, the threshold is lowered to 15%. Should no candidate reach 15%, then that threshold is decreased to just 10% of the statewide vote.

It is worth noting that despite the varying thresholds, if only one candidate clears whatever barrier is established, then that candidate would be entitled to all 31 of the statewide, at-large delegates. If, for instance, Ted Cruz is the top votegetter statewide at 10.1% and Marco Rubio is the runner-up at 9.9%, then Cruz would win all 31 at-large delegates, even with such a narrow advantage. The fact that the Georgia threshold for a candidate to qualify for delegates is a bit of a moving target adds some intrigue to the process, but it does make it more difficult to game out. It is a potentially low mark to trigger a possible backdoor winner-take-all scenario for the at-large delegates.

One new aspect in Georgia for 2016 is that if a candidate wins 50% of the statewide vote, then that candidate wins all of the at-large delegates. If the field remains even somewhat crowded though, this seems more unlikely than a backdoor winner-take-all scenario.

Unlike the RNC summary, the Georgia rules specify that winning a majority statewide entitles a candidate to all at-large delegates, not all delegates in the state.3

"Rounding" of at-large delegates
The Georgia rules clearly state that there is no allocation of fractional delegates. But there is no defined method of rounding delegates. In lieu of rounding, then, what happens is a series of repeated proportional allocations of remainders. Let's look at this using the 2016 results that are now available to us.

The first thing is the allocation equation. Georgia uses a candidate's share of the statewide vote as the numerator and the total statewide vote -- not the qualifying vote of just those above the threshold -- as the denominator. Given Tuesday's results, that looks something like this:

Round 1
[34 at-large delegates]
(Allocated delegates in parentheses)

Trump: 34 X .388 = 13.196 delegates (13)
Rubio: 34 X .244 = 8.312 delegates (8)
Cruz: 34 X .236 = 8.024 delegates (8)

That allocates 29 of the 34 at-large delegates, leaving five leftover. Those five are then allocated using the same equation from above.

Round 2
[5 leftover at-large delegates]
(Allocated delegates in parentheses)

Trump: 5 X .388 =  delegates (2)
Rubio: 5 X .244 =  delegates (1)
Cruz: 5 X .236 =  delegates (1)

That leaves just two delegates to be split among three qualifying candidates. All that is left are fractional delegates as a result. Since the remaining delegates cannot be proportionally allocated without ending in fractional delegates, the remaining two delegates go to the statewide winner.

Final allocation
Trump: 13 + 2 + 1 = 16 delegates
Rubio: 8 + 1 = 9 delegates
Cruz: 8 + 1 = 9 delegates

According to the Georgia Republican Party general counsel's office, the three automatic delegates are included in the at-large allocation and are the first three delegates to fill in the first three allocated slots the statewide winner has been awarded.


Congressional district delegates
The bulk of the Georgia delegation -- as is the case the larger a state's population gets -- will be allocated at the congressional district level. Each of the 14 congressional districts in the Peach state is apportioned three delegates by the RNC. The state party has opted again in 2016 to allocate those three delegates in a Top Two manner. The district winner is allocated two delegates while each district runner-up is awarded the remaining one delegate. There is no threshold to qualify. Candidates simply have to get into the top two in the district vote count.

This roughly simulates the proportional allocation of three delegates, but does present the potential to hurt a third place finisher who is tightly clustered with the top two.  That third place candidate would likely be deprived of a delegate in that scenario; a delegate that goes to the winner of the district count. On the other hand, the top two method does eliminate the possibility of a candidate winning all the delegates in a district by clearing a low threshold (as is the case with at-large delegates).

Again, there is no threshold to qualify for congressional district delegates, but there is a threshold to qualify for all three of a district's delegates. Should a candidate win a majority of the vote in a district, then that candidate would be allocated all three delegates. Newt Gingrich was able to exercise this option in a handful of districts in his 2012 win in the Georgia primary.

The method is the same at the congressional district level in Georgia as it was in 2012.

Automatic delegates
The three party delegates are functionally at-large delegates in the Georgia delegate allocation plan. The party chairperson, the national committeeman and the national committeewoman are all allocated and bound to the statewide winner of the Georgia primary. As was the case with the congressional district delegates, the automatic delegates are allocated and bound in the same manner in which they were during the 2012 cycle.

All Georgia delegates are bound through the first ballot of the national convention. Additionally, there is no explicit guidance in the bylaws concerning the release of delegates upon the suspension of a presidential campaign or candidate withdrawal from race. Those delegates would theoretically continue to be bound to the candidates throughout, assuming the contest is unresolved throughout. If it is not competitive, the fact that the Georgia delegation voted unanimously for Romney at the convention in Tampa in 2012 speaks to the ability of delegates to be released from those bindings.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 If no candidate reaches the 20% threshold, the barrier is dropped to 15%. If no candidate reaches the 15% mark, the threshold is lowered to 10%.

2 Though the Ohio presidential primary is situated outside of the proportionality window on March 15 and is truly winner-take-all for 2016, Buckeye state Republicans used a modified winner-take-all by congressional district method in 2012. The statewide delegates were allocated proportionally, but the congressional district delegates were allocated in a winner-take-all fashion to the winner of each congressional district. That qualified as proportional in 2012, but does not in 2016. Georgia was ahead of the curve in 2012 and thus did not have to make many changes to its rules for 2016.

3 Now, the Rule 16F filing the Georgia Republican Party made with the RNC made indicate a totally winner-take-all scenario, but that is not something that is described in the state party rules.

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John Bragg said...

Huh. I just did a quick-and-dirty, with some assumptions.
Started with HuffPo national averages (Trump 38.5, Cruz 14.1, Rubio 12.3, Carson 1.9), eliminated everyone else. (Discard their voters, or assume they'll split by the same %s)

That puts Trump at 48.3%, close to WTA territory.
Cruz is at 19%, Rubio at 16.6%, Carson at 11.9%. Nobody is at 20%, Trump runs the table for the 34 statewide delegates.

With that sort of margin, 48%-19%, it's safe to say Trump runs first in all CDs, for 14 x 2 = 28 more delegates. Crudely, I'd assign 14 delegates to Cruz running second everywhere. That gives Trump 62, Cruz 14 delegates out of Georgia.

People are refusing to consider that the advantages that the GOP system gives to the frontrunner are going to work in Trump's favor this time. Trump probably won't take 80% of the March 1 delegates with 48% of the vote, but he's likely to take a majority of them with close to 40% of the vote.

Josh Putnam said...

Probably too quick and too dirty. :-)

A few things:
1) The field will winnow and those numbers will obviously change as that happens and as results from other states come in.

2) There's really no need to rejigger the numbers. Trump getting to a majority statewide is probably farfetched, but him potentially being the only candidate over 20% (or whatever the threshold is) is conceivable. That means that he (or any competitive/viable candidate) is closer to backdoor winner-take-all than a true majority-based winner-take-all allocation of those at-large delegates.

3) It is a stretch to assume that that margin yields a win for Trump in all 14 congressional districts. Gingrich actually won by a similar margin over Romney in 2012 and lost a handful of districts to the eventual nominee.

4) State level rules are mostly all designed to give the winner of the contest something of a bonus. The extent of that bonus differs from state to state. But yeah, that is usually (though not always) the frontrunner. There is no reason yet to think that Trump will not or cannot take advantage of that.

John Bragg said...

The point of a quick-and-dirty is to see what happens that surprises you. I didn't expect Trump so high or everyone else still below 20% low when I changed the denominator from 100 to 74.

1. Sure, those numbers will change, but no one knows how. I'm doing a quick model of the field winnowing, and the surviving candidates picking up proportional shares of those voters. It's possible that Trump takes less, but it's also possible that the frontrunners' bandwagon takes a larger share.

2. I re-jiggered the numbers to reflect the field winnowing.

3. Yes it's unlikely that a 48%-19%-18%-17% means that 48% takes first in exactly 14 CDs and 19% runs second in 14. But it's likely to balance out, with Mr 48% winning absolute majorities in about as many CDs as he runs second in. (And with a CRuz-Rubio-Carson field, you'd certainly have different runner-ups in different districts). Again, I don't think Trump takes 80% of the Georgia delegates with 48% of the vote, but it's hard to see how he doesn't take a 55-75% with 40% of the vote.

4. Again, I don't think Trump takes 80% of the Georgia delegates with 48% of the vote, but using Georgia as a stand-in for the entire March 1 primary, it's hard to see how he doesn't take 55-75% with 40% of the vote. People are not panicking enough, judging by the punditry-at-large. There is an assumption that the laws of political gravity that carried Romney to victory over Santorum & Gingrich & Co will carry someone to victory over Trump. When the fact is that half of those "laws" are the advantages the GOP process gives to the frontrunner.