Saturday, December 12, 2015

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: MINNESOTA

Updated 2.29.16

This is part nine 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: caucuses
Date: March 1 
Number of delegates: 38 [11 at-large, 24 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional (with supermajority (85% statewide) winner-take-all trigger)
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 10% (both statewide and within the congressional districts)1
2012: non-binding caucuses

In 2012, the Minnesota Republican Party exploited a loophole in the RNC delegate selection rules and held a non-binding caucus a month before non-carve-out states were supposed do so. Since the preference vote at those February precinct caucuses had no direct, rules-based bearing on the delegate allocation process -- the results did not bind delegates to candidates -- the party was able to skirt sanctions from the national party. Not only was the initial step in the caucus/convention process earlier than the RNC would have preferred, but because the delegates were unbound, it meant that there was ultimately a divergence between the preference vote winner (Rick Santorum) and the candidate who controlled the Minnesota delegates at the national convention in Tampa (Ron Paul).

The RNC made some rules changes in Tampa and at subsequent meetings in the time between then and late summer 2014. Many of those rules changes were intended to target the states just like Minnesota in 2012.2 Not only will Minnesota Republicans caucus about a month later in 2016 than the party did in 2012, but the delegates will be allocated and bound to candidates based on the preference vote at the March 1 precinct caucuses.

That means no fantasy delegates from Minnesota in 2016. But it does mean digging into a new delegate allocation formula.

As the Minnesota caucuses are scheduled for March 1, the party's initial step in its delegate allocation process will fall within the RNC's proportionality window. MNGOP will separately allocate statewide, at-large delegates and the congressional district delegates in a proportionate manner based on the results either statewide or within each of the eight congressional districts. Candidates qualify for delegates in those respective units -- again, statewide or within the congressional districts -- if they receive 10% or more of the vote. That is a hard 10%. A candidate with 9.5% of the vote cannot round up to 10%, for example, and be awarded delegates.

The exception to this is if a candidate wins 85% or more of the vote across the precinct caucuses statewide. Under the rules of delegate allocation in Minnesota, a candidate meeting that threshold statewide would be awarded all 38 delegates. Even in a field less crowded than the 2016 group of Republican candidates that 85% barrier is a high bar to surpass. Unless, something wild happens, then no candidate is going to trigger that winner-take-all allocation. Again, the bar is higher in Minnesota than in those states in which a simple majority triggers the allocation of all at-large and/or congressional district delegates to one candidate.

On the other end of that threshold spectrum, however, is that 10% bar to qualify for delegates. In terms of what is allowed under RNC rules -- a qualifying threshold up to 20% -- the Minnesota bar is pretty low. That, in turn, reduces that likelihood that just one candidate clears that hurdle. Obviously, with a large field of candidates, that outcome is more likely, but as the field of candidates winnows over the course of the February contests in the four carve-out states, just one candidate surpassing 10% of the vote statewide or at the congressional district level decreases.

Yet, it should be noted that there is nothing in the Minnesota Republican Party delegate allocation rules prohibiting a winner-take-all allocation either statewide or at the congressional district level should only one candidate crest above 10%. That differs from, say, Arkansas in the allocation of statewide delegates and Alabama, for example, with respect to congressional district delegates. Still, those structural differences across those states would tend to balance out in terms of their effects (which is to say, it would only tend to have an impact at the margins).

Delegate allocation (at-large/automatic delegates)
Both at-large and automatic delegates -- 14 delegates in total -- will be proportionally allocated to candidates with a vote share above the 10% mark. Based on the last poll conducted on the race in Minnesota (PPP's July poll), the statewide allocation would look something like this3:
  • Walker (19%) -- 4.22 delegates
  • Trump (18%) -- 4.0 delegates
  • Bush (15%) -- 3.33 delegates
  • Carson (11%) -- 2.44 delegates
  • Cruz (7%) -- 0 delegates
  • Huckabee (6%) -- 0 delegates 
  • Rubio (5%) -- 0 delegates 
  • Paul (5%) -- 0 delegates 
  • Christie (4%) -- 0 delegates
  • Fiorina (3%) -- 0 delegates 
  • Kasich (3%) -- 0 delegates
  • Jindal (1%) -- 0 delegates 
This actually ends up nicely capturing how rounding would work under the Minnesota rules. First, the allocation is done in descending order according to how the candidates finish. Fractional delegates of .5 or greater would be rounded up. The combination of a sequential allocation and rounding is one of the potential hidden advantages in these rules across states.

In the above example, no one has a remainder greater than .5, so no one rounds up. That means Walker ends up with 4 delegates, Trump 4, Bush 3 and Carson 2. That is a total of 13 delegates, leaving one delegate out of the original 14 unallocated. In some states, that unallocated delegate is awarded to the top finisher. In still others, the candidate with the largest remainder is given that last delegate. Minnesota falls in latter category. Carson, with a remainder of .44, would gain that final delegate, pushing his total up to 3.

Carson gains in that instance, but if those in front of him had had larger remainders or fractional delegates above .5, Carson would have been at a disadvantage by virtue of being the last over the threshold (and thus last in the sequence to be allocated delegates). Those toward the end of the sequence have the potential of being squeezed out of delegates dependent upon how qualified candidates with higher vote shares statewide round.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
Allocating the congressional district delegates is easier or harder. If there are multiple candidates above the 10% threshold and they are clustered together, then the top three in the vote count within the district will be allocated one delegate each. If we extend the above statewide results to the congressional district level, Walker, Trump and Bush would be allocated one delegate and Carson, despite being over 10%, would be on the outside looking in. That is the easy way of thinking about this.

It gets more complicated when considering the possibility of one candidate receiving enough support in a congressional district so as to win two delegates. It should be noted that this is less likely too. To accomplish this, a candidate would have to win more than half of the vote among the candidates over 10% (as opposed to using the votes cast for all candidates as the denominator). That is something that would be conditioned by how many candidates break the 10% threshold. If only two candidates are above 10%, then it would only take the top finisher one more vote than the candidate in second place in the district to be allocated two delegates. More candidates above 10% pushes the margin necessary to be allocated two of the three delegates upward.

Delegates from Minnesota under these rules are bound to their candidates through the first ballot at the national convention. If a candidate with delegates from Minnesota withdraws from the race, then those delegates would attend the national convention unbound. Interestingly, should a withdrawn candidate return to the race, those delegates would return to that candidate. That return contingency is unique to Minnesota so far as FHQ can tell.

One fun side note is that congressional district delegates under these rules can be allocated based on the statewide results rather than congressional district results. This is a little like the idea behind the National Popular Vote plan, but more likely operates like a blanket proportional allocation of all delegates, regardless of distinction, based on the statewide vote. What's "fun" is that the rules do allow for some variation. There could be some districts that would tether the allocation of their delegates to the statewide result while others would allocate theirs based on the results within the congressional district.

But that -- a decision to allocate congressional district delegates based on the statewide preference vote results -- can only happen if the party Executive Committee on the congressional district level makes that decision before August 31 of the year prior to the presidential election. That option was meaningless for the 2016 cycle, though. The allocation rules, including this option, were not adopted until September 17, 2015, after that August 31 deadline.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 If no candidate reaches the 10% threshold either statewide or at the congressional district level, then the threshold is lowered by rule to 0%. In practice, though, to qualify for delegates a candidate would have to be closer to the top votegetter's vote share than zero. That is particularly clear at the congressional district level where only three delegates are available in each district. Statewide, if the winner is below 10%, then there would presumably be a great number of candidates around 9%. If Minnesota was the first contest on the calendar that would be one thing, but being positioned a month after Iowa kicks off the process means that the winners -- statewide and within the districts -- will be above the 10% barrier.

2 To some extent Iowa was also similarly hit by the rules changes. As Iowa is a carve-out state, though, the Hawkeye state was only affected by the addition of the binding requirements the RNC put in place for the 2016 cycle.

3 This poll is being used as an example of how delegates could be allocated and not as a forecast of the outcome in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Obviously, Scott Walker is unlikely to receive 19% of the vote at the Minnesota caucuses.

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