Sunday, April 24, 2016

2016 Republican Delegate Allocation: PENNSYLVANIA

This is part forty-two 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 26 
Number of delegates: 71 [14 at-large, 54 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: winner-take-all (at-large/automatic), directly elected (congressional district)
Threshold to qualify for delegates: n/a
2012: loophole primary

Changes since 2012
Looking back over the post-reform era, Pennsylvania is the model of consistency. On the calendar, the Keystone state has rarely packed it up and moved away from its traditional fourth Tuesday in April primary position. And even then, the only break in the pattern was a shift to just the first Tuesday in April for the 2000 cycle. For delegate allocation/selection, Pennsylvania Republicans have always used some variation of the loophole primary method that allows delegates to be directly elected.

However, it is on that front -- delegate allocation/selection -- where Pennsylvania Republicans have made some changes since 2012. The primary date is still the same, and the bigger question was how many states would join Pennsylvania, rather than whether and where the primary in the commonwealth would be moved.1 Yet, due to changes in the Republican National Committee delegate selection rules, Republican Party of Pennsylvania had to change business as usual for 2016.

The RNC -- or rather the delegates at the 2012 convention -- closed off many of the unbound delegate loopholes: eliminating non-binding caucuses and primaries. However, the national party allowed those states -- whether parties and/or governments -- to continue directly electing delegates and exempted any delegates that filed and ran as uncommitted delegates. If a delegate candidate in Illinois or West Virginia filed to run as a delegate aligned with Cruz or Kasich or Trump, then that delegate candidate from either of those states is bound to that candidate.

But Pennsylvania is different. The delegate candidates do not align with a campaign when filing and are uncommitted on the ballot. Directly elected congressional district delegates, then, are unbound. That is the same as it has always been in Pennsylvania, and the RNC change did not alter that.

What changed is the treatment of the similarly traditionally unbound at-large and automatic delegates. In the past, the at-large Pennsylvania delegates were selected by the PAGOP state central committee, but without regard for the vote in the primary election.2 Furthermore, those delegates were to remain unbound as if the primary had only been advisory at best or a beauty contest at worst.

Of course, that practice was and is not consistent with the changes to the national Republican delegate rules 2016. The Republican Party of Pennsylvania could leave well enough alone with the congressional district delegates, but had to tether the selection and allocation of the at-large and automatic delegates to the results of the statewide primary. Instead of being unbound as in 2012 (and before), those 17 delegates will be allocated to the winner of the Pennsylvania primary in 2016.

One other small change is that there were a handful of two and four delegate congressional districts in 2012 to go along with mostly three delegate districts. There is complete uniformity across districts in 2016. All 18 will have three delegate slots at stake.

As the congressional district delegates are directly elected and the at-large and automatic delegates are allocated to the winner of the primary statewide, there are no thresholds at play in the Pennsylvania primary.

Delegate allocation (at-large and automatic delegates)
The 71 delegates are not pooled in Pennsylvania, and as such, different delegates are allocated/treated differently. Pennsylvania, like Illinois, South Carolina, Wisconsin and others both separately allocates at-large and automatic delegates and awards them all to the statewide winner.

Delegate allocation (congressional district delegates)
While the Pennsylvania process has a winner-take-all element to it, the plan also contains a wholly unique method of selecting -- not allocating -- congressional district delegates. Unlike other loophole primary states, Pennsylvania delegate candidates have no official affiliation with a particular presidential candidate or their campaign. That is official in that there is no pledge process associated with filing to run as a delegate candidate. As the delegate candidates are running as uncommitted -- unofficially pledged to a candidate or not -- they are treated as unbound by the RNC as a result. The 54 unbound delegates on the line in the primary in the Keystone state represents the largest cache of unbound delegates in any state. In light of the very close chase for 1237 delegates, that means that the election of these delegates takes on an added level of importance.

It is important to note that, though delegate candidates can pledge to a presidential candidate, that in no way binds them to that candidate. And while they can change their minds if/once elected, those delegates tend to be loyal to the candidate to whom they have pledged (if they have pledged).

It is clear, then, that the majority of delegates -- nearly three-quarters of them -- are unbound coming out of the Pennsylvania primary. Those congressional district delegates would be free to shift alliances with candidates before the convention and before the first ballot vote at the convention. However, the remaining 17 delegates will be locked in and bound to the winner of the statewide primary for the first ballot at the convention according to Rule 8.3 of the Rules and Bylaws of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. Should the first ballot prove inconclusive -- no candidate gets to the 1237 delegates needed -- then those 17 delegates would become unbound and join the remainder of the Pennsylvania delegation in that distinction.

The at-large delegates will be selected by the Pennsylvania Republican state central committee at a previously scheduled May 21 meeting.

State allocation rules are archived here.

1 There was an effort to move the Pennsylvania primary from April to March that had the support of some Republicans in the state legislature, but that proposal faced opposition from both state parties and was basically dead on arrival in Harrisburg.

2 That is not a fair characterization of the process really. Typically, the selection of the at-large delegates has been done after the point at which a presumptive nominee had emerged. That places less emphasis on ensuring that delegate candidates are either proportionally is disproportionately selected from various competing campaigns when the end result is that everyone will head to the national convention to vote for the eventual nominee. In truth, the Pennsylvania primary has tended to be on or after the point at which a presumptive nominee has emerged. That, in turn, increases the likelihood that the Pennsylvania winner is the presumptive nominee and takes the bulk of the delegate to the national convention anyway.

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