Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: IDAHO

Updated 3.8.16

This is part twenty-two 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 8
Number of delegates: 32 [23 at-large, 6 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 20% (statewide)
2012: proportional caucus

Changes since 2012
The date is much the same -- it amounts to the same first Tuesday after the first Monday in March date -- but the mode of delegate allocation is different in Idaho in 2016 than was the case in 2012. Republicans in the Gem state traded in their early caucus for an earlier presidential primary (moved from the traditional mid-May point where it was consolidated with the primaries for other offices).

Idaho Republicans also switched out some funky caucus allocation rules for a set of rules that is more in the mainstream of how other states are allocating delegates in 2016. Gone is the more or less instant runoff method that netted Mitt Romney a winner-take-all allocation. That has been replaced by a proportional allocation based on the statewide results of the March 8 presidential primary in Idaho. As has been witnessed in other states, though, what constitutes proportionality varies quite widely.

Much of that variation in the application of proportionality is attributable to a couple of factors. First, is the delegation pooled or separated for the purposes of allocation? The former typically means that a state will end up closer to a true proportional allocation of delegates than not. The latter opens the door to the bulk of the wild delegate allocation plans out there. Secondly, however, is there a threshold that the candidates must meet to qualify for delegates? With a threshold comes limitations in terms of how many candidates end up with delegates.

But that fact is tempered by the distinction raised in the first question. States that have separated allocation -- distinctions made between the allocation of at-large and congressional district delegates -- and a threshold have been the most complex. Many of the SEC primary states fit this description. Idaho fits somewhere in between states with that type of allocation and those with a proportional allocation of pooled delegates without a threshold.

It is that kind of allocation that ends up being perhaps the least complex. For example, then, Idaho Republicans will pool all of their delegates rather than invite complexity through a separate allocation of at-large delegates and the six delegates in just two congressional districts. The rationale is similar to the that of other small states. Power comes through allocating a small bloc (or blocs) of delegates rather than a much more decentralized proportional allocation.

Gem state Republicans will accomplish this through pooling their delegates but also by layering in a couple of thresholds. First, to qualify for any of the 32 delegates, a candidate must win at least 20% of the vote (before rounding) in the Idaho presidential primary. That will have the effect of limiting the number of candidates who receive delegates to likely four or fewer. If no candidate clears the 20% threshold, then the allocation would be carried out as if there was no threshold at all.

Not expressly prohibited by the rules is a backdoor to a winner-take-all allocation. While the "if no candidates clear the threshold" contingency is described, the "if only one candidate clears that qualifying threshold" is not. What that means is that there is a backdoor winner-take-all option on the table in Idaho. And since the delegates -- all 32 of them including the automatic delegates -- are pooled Idaho is the one state before March 15 where just one candidate surpassing the qualifying threshold could net that candidate all of the delegates from that state. The others to this point on the calendar that have allowed for a backdoor winner-take-all option, but the allocation was split into statewide/at-large and congressional district delegates. That makes Idaho a potentially powerful, pre-March 15 piece in the allocation puzzle. Things would have to fall right -- a crowded field with little winnowing or separation between the candidates, for example -- but a potential +32 coming out of Idaho could be more valuable to a campaign than a split of, say, the 155 delegates in Texas.

Finally, Idaho also has a true winner-take-all trigger as well. Should one candidate win a majority of the vote statewide, that candidate would also be entitled to all of the delegates from the state. This may or may not be likely in a less crowded field. The last two winners in Idaho received more than 50% of the vote.1

Delegate allocation (at-large, congressional district and automatic delegates)
The Idaho Republican delegates will be proportionally allocated to candidates based on the outcome of the March 8 primary in the Gem state. Based on the last poll conducted on the race in Idaho (the late August 2015 Dan Jones and Associates survey2), the allocation would look something like this3:
  • Trump (28%) -- 32 delegates 
  • Carson (15%) -- 0 delegates
  • Bush (7%) -- 0 delegates
  • Cruz (7%) -- 0 delegates
  • Rubio (6%) -- 0 delegates 
  • Paul (5%) -- 0 delegates 
  • Christie (4%) -- 0 delegates 
  • Fiorina (3%) -- 0 delegates
  • Kasich (2%) -- 0 delegates
This captures the perfect storm sort of scenario for a backdoor winner-take-all allocation of the Idaho delegation. Trump would barely get half of the total necessary to win a true winner-take-all victory, but because he is the only candidate over 20% (in this simulated allocation), he would win all of the delegates from the state; a backdoor to a winner-take-all allocation.

The arrival at such an outcome is a bit unconventional in Idaho. The allocation calculation calls for the candidate's share of the vote to be divided by the total statewide vote. That would mean that Trump, in the above example, would only receive a 28% share -- or 9 -- of the total number of delegates. That is not winner-take-all by any account. However, the rules also call for the unallocated delegates -- those not allocated to Trump above -- to "be apportioned proportionally among candidates who clear the 20 percent threshold." That would award the remaining 23 delegates to Trump, giving him the full allotment of delegates.

Were the backdoor winner-take-all allocation trigger not tripped multiple candidates crossed the 20% barrier -- or none did -- the Idaho Republican Party rules are not clear on how the rounding would be handled (though the allocation would be proportional without any threshold). The only reference to rounding is that a candidate must have 20% of the vote to qualify. 19.9%, for instance, would not round up to 20% and qualify any such candidate for delegates.

It is not clear, then, if the rounding is always up to the next whole number or simply to the nearest whole number. Additionally, there is no outline for a sequence to the rounding procedure or a contingency for unallocated or over-allocated delegates. That contingency coming into play is a function of how many candidates clear the threshold. Anything more than two candidates raises the likelihood that there will be an under- or over-allocated delegate.

If, however, the threshold is lowered to 15% to include Ben Carson in the allocation, then Trump would round up to 9 delegates, Carson would round up to 5 and the remaining 18 delegates would be uncommitted. That is due to the allocation equation laid out in the Idaho Republican Party rules. Only candidates over the threshold qualify for delegates, but a candidate claims delegates based on their share of the statewide vote divided by the total statewide vote for all candidates, not just the qualifying candidates. If the threshold is lowered to 7% to pull in Bush and Cruz, then Trump and Carson would be allocated the same 9 and 5 delegates respectively and Bush and Cruz would both round down to 2 delegates each. 14 delegates would be unallocated and would remain uncommitted. While the rounding in Idaho retains some operational question marks, the combination of simple rounding rules -- rounding up above .5 and down below it -- and not allocating delegates for those under the 20% threshold simplifies things to some degree.

Though the party rules use pledged rather than bound, the intent is the same with regard to how the Idaho delegates act at the national convention. Delegates are bound to the candidate who "proposed them on their list" or were pledged to by the Idaho Republican Party Nominating Committee on the first ballot of the roll call voting at the national convention. Like Hawaii, the candidates have some say in who their Idaho delegates will be. Candidates submit a list delegate candidates  -- a slate essentially -- equal to 80% of the total delegation (26 delegates). Should a candidate win all of the delegates and/or fail to submit a list (or the requisite fee), then the Nominating Committee would select and pledge delegates to that candidate. In the event of a winner-take-all scenario, that would mean the remaining 20% of delegate slots not covered by the 80% slate. In the case of a candidate not filing a slate, that would mean how ever many delegates allocated to that candidate. In a straight proportional allocation of the delegates, the 80% slate is likely to contain enough delegates to cover the candidate. Again, that is 26 of the 32 delegates.

It is a little quirky, but it does highlight that the candidates would mostly retain some power over who their delegates are. That has implications for the national convention should it go beyond just one vote. Most of those delegates would be more loyal to the candidate than delegates selected and bound to a particular candidate but who prefer another.

Additionally, a candidate's withdrawal from the race or suspension of their campaign makes their delegates uncommitted. This is clear if the withdrawal/suspension occurs after the selection but before the convention. In that case, the Idaho Republican Party rules clearly release the delegates. However, if the withdrawal occurs before the selection process described above, then the Nominating Committee may fill those slots with as many uncommitted delegates as the withdrawing candidate was entitled to.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 Granted, McCain had already wrapped up the nomination by the time Idaho voted in May 2008 and Romney benefitted from the aforementioned, quirky caucus allocation rules in 2012.

2 Though the 17% of respondents who fell into the "Don't Know"/undecided category in the Dan Jones poll would also not have qualified for delegates, distributing that fraction to other candidates in a primary could have pushed others over the 20% qualifying threshold.

3 This polling data is being used as an example of how delegates could be allocated under these rules in Idaho and not as a forecast of the outcome in the Gem state primary.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all this. A wealth of info. Great job and Thanks again!