Saturday, March 26, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: WISCONSIN

This is part thirty-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: primary
Date: April 5 
Number of delegates: 42 [15 at-large, 24 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: winner-take-most/winner-take-all by congressional district
Threshold to qualify for delegates: n/a
2012: winner-take-most primary

Changes since 2012
After a brief, if unserious, flirtation with returning to a February presidential primary date in 2015, the Wisconsin legislature kept the 2016 primary in April. In addition, the state party carried over to 2016 virtually the same delegate allocation and selection rules it utilized in 2012.

The one under-the-radar change that may have an impact in Wisconsin is a subtle alteration the Wisconsin Republican Party made with respect to the selection process for congressional district delegates. In 2012, a district party chairman would consult with the District Executive Committee and representatives from the winning candidates campaign to select a group of delegate candidate from which three delegates and three alternates would be chosen. This process, under the 2012 rules, would occur after the primary results were in.1

However, that is not how the process will operate for 2016. Before the 2016 primary, the Wisconsin rules call for the district party chair and the District Executive Committee to choose a list of possible delegate and alternate candidates. That happens without consultation with the candidates or their campaigns.

It is only after the primary -- once there is a district winner -- that the winning candidate has any input in the selection process. But those winning campaign's preferences are affected by the pool of delegate and alternate candidates put before them. In 2012, that pool would have included at least some delegate/alternate candidates the candidate/campaign had selected. But there is no such guarantee for 2016. The winning candidate and his or her campaign may only have a choice of delegate/alternate candidates that are aligned with another candidate.

What is clear is that the candidates have lost some of the past influence they held in the selection process in Wisconsin before. Still, it should be noted that the candidates do have a right of final approval over the at-large delegates that are bound to them. Additionally, all Wisconsin delegates regardless of distinction have to file an affidavit with the state party that among things requires them to abide by the rules (most importantly that they are bound to a candidate). That and the instruction given to the secretary of the national convention in the current national party rules to record roll call votes as bound prevent any potential rogue delegate activity. Of course, that only holds so long as the Wisconsin Republican rules bind those delegates. [More on that below.]

What the campaigns have lost in Wisconsin from 2012 to 2016 is early influence/approval over the delegate selection process that might mean unbound, later-ballot delegates, but ones who might still be sympathetic or pledged to a candidate. Without that step, there may be delegates who would abandon that candidate on later ballots.

Given the winner-take-most rules the Republican Party of Wisconsin operates under, there are no thresholds to qualify for national convention delegates. Winning a with a plurality statewide or at the congressional district level is sufficient to win all of the at-large/automatic or congressional delegates.

There is no winner-take-all threshold statewide to qualify for the allocation of the full delegation.

Delegate allocation (at-large, congressional district and automatic delegates)
Echoing the Thresholds section, the plurality winner of the statewide vote is entitled to all 18 at-large and automatic delegates. Furthermore, the plurality winner of a congressional district is allocated the three delegates from that district.

In the past two cycles, no more than three of the eight congressional districts have gone to any candidate other than the statewide winner. Santorum won three congressional districts in 2012 and Huckabee took two four years earlier. But because of the "bonus" the statewide winner receives -- the at-large cache of delegates -- the allocations end up lopsided. Bear in mind that the statewide margin was around 7 percent in 2012 and nearly 18 percent in 2008. A closer result, then, may yield a slightly tighter delegate count in the state (as compared to four and eight years ago). The Missouri allocation in 2016 is, perhaps, a good example of this.2

District delegates are selected in the manner described above. The at-larges delegates are selected by a committee representing the winning candidate of the statewide vote and ratified by the state executive committee. The candidate then has final approval over those delegates and alternates.

Those delegates -- whether at-large, automatic or district -- are bound to the statewide and/or district winner(s) until released by the candidate or until the candidate to whom they are bound receives less than one-third of the vote in any roll call nomination vote at the national convention. There is no fixed number of ballots through which the delegates are bound. Nor is there a specified procedure for the release of any delegates (whether suspension is sufficient or a more formal withdrawal is required, for example).

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 What is interesting about the 2012 Wisconsin delegate selection process is the reference to a March 9 deadline for the winning candidate's to have selected their three delegate and three alternate preferences from the list created in consultation with members of the district party. That would have preceded the April 3 primary in 2012. It is either a typo where March was intended to be May or this section of the rules was leftover from the 2008 process when the presidential primary was in February (and thus March 9 would have succeeded it). It could be either.

What is certain is that the web page that held the Republican Party of Wisconsin constitution (which contains the delegate rules) in 2012 when FHQ pulled them (and later posted them here) first made its appearance in May 2011. That is a date consistent with the revision schedule the party uses. Changes for 2016 were made in May 2015, for example. That indicates that the rules were current, but that the March reference may have been missed when those changes for 2012 were being made.

2 Missouri raided its at-large pool of delegates to increased the delegates won in each congressional district, though. That cut down on the "bonus" the statewide winner got.

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