This is part seventeen 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: caucus/convention
Date: by March 11
Number of delegates: 28 [22 at-large, 3 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: determined by state convention
Threshold to qualify for delegates: n/a
2012: non-binding caucuses
Changes since 2012
Like Colorado and Wyoming, Republicans in North Dakota will skip the caucus-level preference vote that had in the past been part and parcel of the standard delegate selection procedure in those states. But in 2016, such straw polls, under RNC rules, would bind those states' national convention delegates. That was not the case in 2012 or before. So whereas in 2012, Colorado, North Dakota and Wyoming all held a preference vote at some juncture in their respective delegate selection processes, the delegates were not bound to any particular candidate (at least not in a way that corresponded with outcome of the straw poll).
That the ultimate delegate selection and allocation did not line up with the original vote in the precinct/district/county caucuses led to some variation in how those states were treated in the 2012 delegate count. Too often those delegate slots were prematurely allocated to particular candidates before the delegates were actually selected at a congressional district or state convention. That discrepancy and the resultant chase for these fantasy delegates (in part) prompted the Republican National Committee to include in the rules package the 2012 national convention in Tampa voted through a provision that tethered the allocation of delegates to any statewide vote in a primary or caucus.
But there was no requirement in the RNC rules for states to actually hold a preference vote; only an assumption that states would have one.
The biggest change for North Dakota, then, is that Republicans in the Peace Garden state have opted to join Colorado, Wyoming, the American Samoa and Guam in not conducting a preference vote in 2016.
North Dakota Republicans, though, are a bit different than their counterparts in Colorado and Wyoming. No, none of the three will have a presidential preference vote at any point in the caucus/convention process, but only North Dakota will have a truly unbound delegation. That is a function of how delegate candidates file to run as delegates. Part of the filing paperwork for potential delegates in Colorado and Wyoming is a section asking the delegate candidate the presidential candidate to whom they are or will be pledged. The Republican National Committee is binding those delegates selected in Colorado and Wyoming to the candidates to whom they are pledged. The only way to circumvent that stipulation is for a delegate to either refuse to pledge (or to run as uncommitted) or to have the candidate they were pledged to withdraw from the race (as is the case in other states).
Again, though, North Dakota Republicans operate under a different set of rules.2 There is no delegate filing process in North Dakota similar to the paperwork delegate candidates file in Colorado or Wyoming. Rather, the North Dakota Republican Party Committee on Permanent Organization (NDGOP CPO) will put forth a slate of delegates to be voted on at the April state convention. The governor and any members of Congress from North Dakota -- if Republican -- are automatically presented on the slate.
Otherwise, delegates can apply with the NDGOP CPO prior to the convention to be on the slate or be nominated from the floor. The catch to that latter route -- nomination from the floor of the state convention -- is that a delegate candidate nominated from the floor must have applied with the NDGOP CPO but not included in the slate presented by the committee.
That places a premium on having applied to the committee in the first place. However, that also highlights the fact that applying does not mean inclusion on the slate.
Let's try to lay this out a bit more clearly. There were more than 800 delegates and attendees at the 2014 North Dakota Republican state convention. We'll use that number. If we assume that all 800 state convention delegates apply with the NDGOP CPO to be national convention delegates, then there is a pool of 800 candidates (plus any Republican governor and members of Congress) to be included in that original slate of 25 presented to the convention. 3 Once that 25 delegate slate is presented to the state convention additions can be made from the floor from the remaining 775 potential delegate candidates who originally applied with the NDGOP CPO. If half of those -- or any number for that matter -- are nominated from the floor, those names will be added to the ballot the convention will vote on. Furthermore, those names will be added to the ballot in order of nomination and after the slate of 25 delegate candidates who were presented to the convention by the NDGOP CPO.
If a lot of names are added -- say the 400 mentioned above -- then those first 25 from the original slate and those delegate candidates with better name recognition among the state convention delegates will stand a better chance of making it through the vote. Only the top 25 in the vote count would be elected national convention delegates.
This would be slightly more complicated if there was an organized rival slate put forth to challenge the slate presented by the state party through the NDGOP CPO. That would theoretically limit the number of potential delegate candidates appearing on the ballot, making it easier for sides to marshal their supporters behind certain slates.
FHQ raises this issue -- the importance of the slate and the parameters behind its selection -- because the 2012 North Dakota Republican state convention was rather contentious. The slate that was presented to the state convention did not align with the vote in the precinct caucuses that had taken place a month prior. Instead of a slate that favored Santorum and Paul to Romney, the slate was weighted more toward elected officials, donors and volunteers, delegate candidates more likely to favor the eventual nominee and former Massachusetts governor.
This footnote from the 2012 Republican presidential nomination process is worth raising in 2016. First, though they are not bound, the delegates to ultimately be chosen at the North Dakota Republican state convention are most likely to be pledged to some candidate. That pledge means some measure of loyalty to a candidate, but also some freedom at a national convention.
Under normal circumstances that process tends to function in a similar fashion to how delegates accrued by candidates and subsequently released do: They vote for the presumptive nominee at the national convention. But in a more contested environment, both an unbound but pledged group of North Dakota delegates and an unbound group of released delegates from any number of other states will be free to vote for whichever candidate they choose on the first roll call ballot at the national convention.
In the meantime, district conventions will be occurring across North Dakota between now and March 1 to select delegates to attend the state convention in April. That group of state convention delegates will make the decision on who comprises the national convention delegation. Both the membership of the state convention and the state of the overall race for the Republican nomination in early April will have a bearing on who those delegates are and more importantly with whom they are aligned.
State allocation rules are archived here.
1 By state party rules, district conventions to select delegates to attend the state convention are to be held between January 1 and March 1 in the year of a presidential election. The North Dakota Republican (Endorsing) state convention that will choose the national delegate slate will fall on April 1-3, 2016.
2 Here are the relevant sections of Rule 11 of the North Dakota Republican Party Rules (as revised on June 6, 2015):
3 That is 28 total delegates minus the three automatic delegates.