Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: VIRGINIA

Updated 3.1.16

This is part fourteen 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: 49 [13 at-large, 33 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional
Threshold to qualify for delegates: Technically, there is no threshold. Mathematically, a candidate would have to win at least 1.087% of the statewide vote to round up to a full delegate.
2012: proportional primary

Changes since 2012
The presidential primary in the Commonwealth of Virginia occupies the same first Tuesday in March spot on the calendar it did just four years ago, but the rules for how national convention delegates will be allocated to the various candidates are different for 2016.

Much of the impetus behind that change at the state level is attributable to how the Republican National Committee tweaked its 2012 definition of proportionality for the 2016 cycle. Four years ago states could comply with the proportionality requirement by only allocating their at-large delegates in a proportionate manner. The way the national party rules were constructed for 2012, a winner-take-all allocation at the congressional district level was still possible. That is not the case in 2016. Now, a state like Virginia cannot merely proportionally allocate a little less than a third of its total number of delegates (13 of 49 total) and then allow the winners of each of the commonwealth's 11 congressional districts to take all three of the delegates from those congressional districts.

That was how the Virginia Republican Party approached the newly instituted proportionality requirement in 2012. And they were not alone. That ended up being the most popular response among the early (before April) states that had to make rules changes in 2012 in order to comply with the new national party requirement. It was the path of least resistance for most states.

But Virginia differs from many of the other states FHQ has already examined in how it has adapted to the stricter RNC definition of proportionality for 2016. As opposed to some of its SEC primary compatriots -- Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas come to mind as examples of state-level plans that were overly proportional under the old definition of proportionality in 2012 -- Virginia Republicans have dropped the separate, unit-specific allocation of delegates altogether.

The apportionment of delegates from the RNC to Virginia may differentiate between the 13 at-large/statewide delegates, three automatic delegates and the 33 congressional district delegates, then, but the allocation of delegates, according to the new state-level rules, does not. All that means is that Virginia has pooled all of their delegates and will allocate them based on the results of the statewide primary. Virginia Republicans will do that in 2016 rather than proportionally allocate the at-large delegates based on the statewide outcome in the primary and the congressional district delegates based on the results in each of the congressional districts.

The threshold for qualifying for delegates in the Old Dominion has also changed. In 2012, a candidate had to win at least 15% of the statewide vote to qualify for any of the 13 at-large delegates. Of course, given that only two candidates -- Mitt Romney and Ron Paul -- were able to make the 2012 Virginia primary ballot, that threshold was next to meaningless. A candidate could also have won all of the at-large delegates if they received a majority of the statewide vote. Again, given the conditions of 2012 -- only two candidates -- it was much more likely that someone would (and Mitt Romney did) cross that majority threshold.

That would have operated in a much different manner in 2016 with many more candidates on the ballot.

Alas, those two thresholds -- the qualifying threshold and the winner-take-all threshold -- are no more in Virginia for 2016. That there are more candidates in 2016 than was the case in 2012 and the fact that there is no qualifying threshold means that Virginia is much more likely to be a wide open contest this cycle. That is even true once one accounts for the very likely winnowing the field will undergo throughout February.

Delegate allocation (at-large/congressional district/automatic delegates)
The at-large, automatic and congressional district delegates -- 49 delegates in total -- will be proportionally allocated to candidates based on the outcome of the March 1 presidential primary in the state. Based on a poll conducted on the race in Virginia (the mid-November University of Mary Washington poll), the allocation would look something like this1:
  • Carson (29%) -- 14.21 delegates (14 delegates)
  • Trump (24%) -- 11.76 delegates (12 delegates)
  • Rubio (11%) -- 5.39 delegates (5 delegates)
  • Cruz (10%) -- 4.90 delegates (5 delegates)
  • Bush (5%) -- 2.45 delegates (2 delegates)
  • Fiorina (5%) -- 2.45 delegates (2 delegates)
  • Paul (4%) -- 1.96 delegates (2 delegates)
  • Huckabee (4%) -- 1.96 delegates (2 delegates)
  • Christie (4%) -- 1.96 delegates (2 delegates)
  • Kasich (1%) -- 0.49 delegates (0 delegates)
Now, there are a couple of related caveats to this. "Don't Know" received 2% support in that Mary Washington poll. That and the rounding leaves three delegates (of 49) unallocated. One of those three delegates would go to Don't Know, only Don't Know is not and will not be on the Virginia presidential primary ballot. Counting Don't Know leaves two unallocated delegates.

In the event of an unallocated or overallocated delegate the extra delegate is either added to (unallocated) or taken away from (overallocated) the candidate nearest the rounding threshold. In this case, that would be the .5 delegates level. For example, if there was an unallocated delegate with the above data, John Kasich would claim it by virtue of being closest to the rounding threshold with a remainder of .49. However, if there had been an overallocation, the superfluous delegate would be removed from Ted Cruz's total. At .76, Trump would have the lowest remainder of all the candidates who rounded up to the nearest whole number.2

And to be clear here, the rounding rule is that fractional delegates are rounded to the nearest whole number. Anything .5 or above rounds up. Anything below .5 rounds down.

The Virginia delegation will be bound to the candidates who qualified for delegates based on the results of the presidential primary during the first ballot at the national convention in Cleveland. Presumably, delegates bound to candidates who have withdrawn from the race, suspended their campaigns and/or released their delegates will be unbound at the national convention. However, that is not clear here or here.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 This poll is being used as an example of how delegates could be allocated under these new rules in Virginia and not as a forecast of the outcome in the Old Dominion presidential primary.

2 If "Don't Know" is included, there actually would have been an unallocated delegate. With 2% support, Don't Know would have qualified for one delegate (rounding up from .98). That would have left two unallocated delegates that Kasich and then either Bush or Fiorina would be awarded for being the candidates closest to the rounding threshold.

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