Tuesday, March 8, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: MISSISSIPPI

This is part twenty-six 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: 40 [25 at-large, 12 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: proportional
Threshold to qualify for delegates: 15% (statewide)1
2012: proportional primary

Changes since 2012
While there was an attempt to shift the Mississippi presidential primary up a week to join other southern states as part of the SEC primary, it remained just that: an attempt. Neighboring Alabama moved and left Mississippi as the lone southern state on the calendar between the two dates -- March 1 and March 15 -- with the most delegates at stake this cycle.

The Mississippi Republican Party, then, has the same primary date as 2012 -- second Tuesday in March -- but has also mostly carried over its rules from the 2012 cycle. The allocation is proportional and still split across congressional districts and statewide. There are some subtle changes, but those will be dealt with below.

The first of those subtle alterations has to do with the thresholds to qualify for delegates. Statewide, a candidate must reach 15 percent of the vote to receive any of the at-large and automatic delegates. A new wrinkle for 2016 is that the party has inserted a lower threshold of 10% as a fall-back option should no candidate surpass 15 percent of the vote. This is not an uncommon response on the state party level given how large the field of Republican candidates was when rules were being finalized in the late summer/early fall of 2015. But as a field winnows, the necessity of that fall-back, lower threshold decreases.

There is no winner-take-all trigger in Mississippi for a candidate who wins a majority of the statewide vote in the primary. However, there also is no prohibition on a backdoor winner-take-all scenario. If only one candidate receives more than 15% of the vote, then that candidate would claim all 28 at-large and automatic delegates. The usual winnowing caveats apply. As the field shrinks, so too do the odds that only one candidate will receive more than 15% of the vote.

At the congressional district level, there just one threshold; a winner-take-all trigger. Should a candidate receive more than 50% of the vote in any of Mississippi's four congressional district, then that candidate is entitled to all three of the delegates from that district.

Delegate allocation (at-large and automatic delegates)
There is not a lot of intrigue here. Again, candidates above 15% of the vote will receive a proportional share of the 28 at-large and automatic delegates based on the statewide vote in the primary. The allocation equation divides the candidates' shares of the statewide vote by the qualifying vote (the votes of just those over the threshold). If all candidates reach 15 percent, then the allocation is roughly proportional to the candidate's statewide share of the vote. Yet, as the share of the vote outside of the qualifying vote grows, the shares of the delegates for the qualifier increase as well.

For example, if one candidate misses the cut with 14 percent of the vote, that 14 percent of the delegates is distributed to the candidates who qualified. That would give them a share of the statewide delegates that is greater than their raw share of the statewide vote.

The rounding rules are fairly simplistic. Any fractional at-large and automatic delegates are rounded to the nearest whole number. If that results in an overallocation of delegates, then the superfluous delegates are subtracted from the last qualifier -- the one with the fewest votes -- to square the delegate distribution/count. In the event that the rounding results in an under-allocation, then those delegates would become unbound. This is counter to how a number of other states have handled similar, under-allocation situations. The norm is that when fewer delegates are allocated than a state has that the under-allocated delegate is added to the total of the top votegetter (see Michigan for example). That is not the case in Mississippi. That delegate (or delegates) would be unbound.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
Some states have had a number of ways of allocating their congressional district delegates. As FHQ has been fond of saying, though, there are only so many ways to allocate three delegates. The Mississippi Republican Party has kept the process pretty basic. If no one wins a majority of the vote in a congressional district, then the winner is allocated two delegates and the runner-up one. There is no threshold to qualify. There is, however, a winner-take-all threshold. Should a candidate win a majority, then that candidate would be allocated all three delegates from that district.

All that matters is whether someone wins a majority and, barring that, how the candidates place. Being in the top two is of the utmost importance. Third place (or lower) on the congressional district level is no place to be because such candidate would be left out of the delegates.

The Mississippi Republican Party requires delegate candidates to file with the party and affiliate with a candidate in the process. In addition, the candidates (or their representatives) have some input at the state convention over who ends up filling their allocated delegate slots. The campaigns have more influence in getting "their guys" through to the national convention as compared to other states.  Due to that connection -- based on the filing requirements and the candidates' say -- the Mississippi delegates are bound until released. If no one drops out, then the delegates remain bound. There is no limit to how long this bond lasts in terms of a number of ballots. It depends entirely on whether the candidate or their campaign releases the delegates from the binding.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 If no candidate reaches the 15 percent threshold, then it is lowered to 10 percent.

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