Saturday, March 12, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

This is part twenty-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: convention
Date: March 12 
Number of delegates: 19 [16 at-large, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional (with majority winner-take-all trigger)
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15% (districtwide)
2012: winner-take-all primary

Changes since 2012
Quite a bit has changed with the way Republicans in the District of Columbia will allocate delegates in 2016 as compared to 2012. First, the District government shifted back the primary from April to June. The second Tuesday in June on which the primary falls in 2016 is outside of the window in which nominating contests can occur under Republican National Committee rules.

Faced with sanctions from the national party, DC Republicans opted out of the June primary election, replacing it with an earlier convention to select, allocate and bind delegates to the national convention. Curiously, the party scheduled that convention just inside the proportionality window on the tail end. That normally is of little consequence, but in this case it meant the DCGOP giving up its traditional winner-take-all method of delegate allocation. Instead of the party allocating all 19 delegates to the winner of the primary as in the past, in 2016, those delegates will be proportionally allocated. That cuts into the already small power and influence of the delegation. 19 delegates bound as a bloc is more beneficial to a candidate and the party is more meaningful than a proportional split of those 19 delegates.

To qualify for a proportional share of those 19 delegates, under DCGOP rules, a candidate must first win at least 15 percent in the presidential preference vote at the district convention. Should no candidate reach the 15 percent barrier, then the threshold is lowered to ten percent. There is an additional contingency in place if no candidate reaches ten percent -- dropping the threshold to eight percent -- but with a winnowed field, it seems likely that those alternate thresholds are little more than insurance.

Additionally, there is nothing in the rules of the Washington, DC Republican Party delegate selection plan prohibiting a backdoor winner-take-all outcome if only one candidate surpasses whatever defined threshold above is being used. Yet, a winnowed field makes it less likely that any candidate will take a backdoor to all 19 delegates.

And while the timing of the convention forced the party to abandon its past winner-take-all allocation method, such an option -- some candidate winning all 19 delegates -- is still on the table, but only if a candidate wins a majority of the vote districtwide. As the field of candidates shrinks, the odds of only one candidate reaching the 15 percent threshold decreases, but the chances of the winner-take-all trigger being tripped increase.

Delegate allocation (at-large and automatic delegates)
The allocation calculation the Republican Party is using in the district divides the candidate share of the vote by the total qualifying vote; just those over 15 percent (or whatever threshold is being used). The smaller the field is, the less likely it is that any candidate will receive anything more than a proportional share of the 19 delegates. But if any candidate or candidates fall(s) below that threshold, the delegate share for the qualifying candidates increases beyond a simple proportional share. All that really means is that as the unqualified share of the vote increases, the share of the delegates allocated to those above the threshold increases as well.

Candidates have to win at least 15 percent of the vote to qualify. One cannot round up to that threshold from 14.8 percent, for example.

Fractional delegates are rounded to the nearest whole number. If the allocation results in an overallocation of delegates, then the superfluous delegate is removed from the total of the candidate furthest from the rounding threshold. In the event of an under-allocation, an extra delegate -- one to get the total to 19 delegates allocated -- is awarded to the candidate closest to the round threshold. Compared to other states, these rounding rules do not by default favor those at the top of the vote order in the preference vote.

The binding rules hold delegates in place -- bound to a particular candidate -- through the first ballot at the national convention. There are only a couple of exceptions to that rule. For starters, when candidates withdraw from the race, any delegates allocated to that candidate are released and immediately unbound for the convention. However, if only one candidate's name is placed in nomination at the national convention, then the DC delegates are bound to vote as a bloc for that candidate.

Delegates will not only be allocated and bound at the March 12 convention, but they will be selected as well. In a vote similar to the one called for in the Virgin Islands rules, the top 16 votegetters become national convention delegates and the next 16 in the order are the alternates. Candidates for delegate file to run on their own, but can accept the endorsement the candidates and their campaigns along the way. The delegate candidate either affirms that endorsement or does not. In the case of the former, the delegate is listed on the convention ballot with the candidate they are supporting listed with the delegate.

Even if an endorsement is not accepted by the delegate candidate or is not made in the first place, a delegate still has to sign an affidavit that he or she will support the candidate to whom they are bound by the results of the convention. The endorsement part of that would tend to help the candidates to handpick delegates or at the very least indirectly influence who their delegates are. But in the end, the delegates would have accept the endorsement and be elected in the delegate preference vote. That means that there could emerge from the DCGOP convention delegates who prefer another candidate, but are bound to another.

State allocation rules are archived here.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

No comments: