Saturday, March 19, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: ARIZONA

This is part thirty-five 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 22 
Number of delegates: 58 [28 at-large, 27 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: winner-take-all
Threshold to qualify for delegates: n/a
2012: winner-take-all primary

Changes since 2012
Much of what has already been written about Florida applies to Arizona as well. Like the Republicans in the Sunshine state, the 2012 presidential preference election in Arizona was scheduled in a non-compliant position on the primary calendar. Like Florida, Arizona Republicans traditionally have allocated the delegates apportioned them by the Republican National Committee in a winner-take-all fashion and did so in 2012. And as was the case with Florida four years ago, Arizona, too, was guilty of violating the rules of the Republican Party twice; once based on the timing of the primary and again for allocating all of the Arizona delegates to the winner of the statewide primary before the March 31 close of the 2012 proportionality window.

The problem then from the perspective of the Republican National Committee was that the national party rules only equipped the party to penalize one of those two violations. Arizona lost half of its delegation for the timing violation, but the RNC had minimal tools at its disposal to prevent a winner-take-all allocation in the Grand Canyon state.

The RNC changed that dynamic for the 2016 cycle by upping the penalty for a timing violation and adding a 50% penalty for would-be rogue states seeking to deliver more than a (Republican Party definition of) proportional share delegates from within the proportionality window on the early part of the calendar.

Those changes from the national party level, though they were not finalized at the time, seem to have triggered a change in Arizona. In the spring of 2014, the state legislature there passed legislation (that was ultimately signed into law) shifting back the date of the 2016 Arizona primary. The move from a late February non-compliant position in 2012 to a late March slot for 2016 pushed the primary back far enough that it was not only rules-compliant but outside of the proportionality window. That, in turn, allowed the state party to continue with its traditional winner-take-all allocation formula.

Delegate allocation (at-large, congressional district and automatic delegates)
The shorter version of the above is that the Arizona primary is later in 2016 and the delegation is not penalized as a result. What is the same is the winner-take-all allocation of delegates. As has been the case with other winner-take-all states, the process is quite simple and stands in stark contrast to some of the complexities in the more proportional states.

There is not a lot to this. The candidate who wins the statewide primary -- regardless of whether that is with a majority or plurality of the vote -- wins all 58 delegates on the line in the Arizona primary.

Comparing the delegate allocation/selection process across states, some state parties defer more to state law than others. Some state parties, such as the New Hampshire Republican Party, opt into the guidance provided in state law on the timing of the primary, the filing of slates of delegates and the formula for allocating delegates to candidates based on the results of the primary. However, in other states -- South Carolina, for instance -- the only factor covered by state law is that the state picks up the tab for the primary. Everything else is set by the state party.

The Arizona process is closer to New Hampshire than South Carolina on that continuum. State law in the Grand Canyon state dictates much of the process. That includes the date of the primary, but also provides instruction on the allocation, obligation and release of delegates. The Arizona Republican Party defers to that guidance.

As such, the state party allocates delegates in a winner-take-all manner and binds those delegates to that candidate until he or she is nominated. There are, of course, exceptions as the winner in the Arizona primary is not necessarily the same candidate who will ultimately be nominated at the national convention.

If a candidate who has won in Arizona (and thus has been allocated all of the delegates) withdraws from the race and/or releases those delegates (before the convention), then they are freed from the bond and able to pledge to vote for a still-active candidate of their preference (and change that pledge thereafter if they so choose). Those delegates are unbound.

If the winner of the Arizona primary takes those bound delegates into the national convention, they are only bound to that candidate through the first roll call ballot.

That means that the selection process -- the part of this that fills the delegate slots allocated to the winner with actual human beings -- is important if the overall primary season has proven inconclusive in terms of identifying a presumptive nominee. Arizona is a state where the Republican Party does not require the submission of delegate slates/candidates by the presidential campaigns at any point in the process. Instead the campaigns (and not just the winning one) are forced to fight to fill as many of those delegate slots -- regardless of the binding -- with supporters in the district caucuses and at the state convention.

Arizona, then, files into that category of states where the candidates and their campaigns have a less direct influence over who their delegates are. That gives rise to the possibility that a delegate who supports one candidate may be bound to another for the first ballot at the national convention.

State allocation rules are archived here.

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