Tuesday, March 15, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: NORTH CAROLINA

This is part thirty-three 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 15 
Number of delegates: 72 [30 at-large, 39 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional
Threshold to qualify for delegates: no official threshold
2012: proportional primary

Changes since 2012
The period between 2012 and 2016 was a bit of a roller coaster ride with respect to the process for allocating national convention delegates in North Carolina. In the late summer of 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation (that was ultimately signed into law) tethering the presidential primary in the Tar Heel state to the South Carolina primary. As the latter is a carve-out state, that moved North Carolina out of compliance with the national party rules regarding the timing of delegate selection events.

That also set off an eventual 2015 discussion about untethering from South Carolina and changing the non-compliant primary date to avoid sanction. Revisiting the primary date issue gave rise to an additional wrinkle: changing state law to shift from a proportional allocation to a winner-take-all allocation. Legislation coupling the winner-take-all provision with a March 15 primary -- the first day following the close of the proportionality window when states have the option of awarding delegates in a winner-take-all fashion -- made its way through the general assembly and was signed into law.

But then the North Carolina Republican Party overrode the legislative decision on the method of allocation, opting in a September 2015 Executive Committee meeting to continue with the traditional proportional method of allocation.

The long and winding road ended up pushing the North Carolina primary -- the presidential one along with the primaries for state and local offices -- up seven weeks on the primary calendar from May but maintained a proportional allocation of delegates. The state party also decided to continue allocating delegates with no qualifying threshold. North Carolina is the last of the truly proportional states -- no threshold -- on the Republican presidential calendar. It is also the final southern state primary.

Delegate allocation (at-large, congressional district and automatic delegates)
With no threshold, there is little to the North Carolina method of delegate allocation. Every candidate still in the race will qualify for some delegates. The real question is how the rounding rules work. The  North Carolina Republican Party plan of organization does not include the specifics, but in consultation with the Republican National Committee and the North Carolina Republican Party, the rounding operates under a closest to the threshold rule. Any fractional delegate above 0.5 is rounded up and anything below is rounded down.

In the event that the rounding leads to an overalloation of delegates, then the superfluous delegate is removed from the total of the candidate with the remainder (fractional delegate) closest to the rounding threshold. Should the total rounding lead to fewer than the full North Carolina apportionment of delegates being allocated, then the under-allocated is added to the total of the candidate closest to the rounding threshold. These rounding rules are consistent with those used in neighboring Virginia.

There is a lack of clarity at this time as to what the release procedure is for delegates bound to candidates who have withdrawn from the race, and furthermore how long delegates would be bound to a candidate at the national convention (the number of ballots). As of now, the tentative judgment of the North Carolina Republican Party is that the delegates would be bound all the way through the balloting with no release procedure (similar to Iowa). However, that is not set in stone.

State allocation rules are archived here.

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