This is part forty-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: May 10
Number of delegates: 36 [24 at-large, 9 congressional district, 3 automatic]
Allocation method: winner-take-all
Threshold to qualify for delegates: n/a
2012: caucus/convention/beauty contest primary
Changes since 2012
There have been a number of changes since 2012 to the method by which Nebraska Republicans will select, allocate and bind delegates for 2016. Changes in national party rules and in state law prompted most of the alterations that been made over the last four years.
First, the custom in Nebraska has been to hold a primary as called for by state law, but to make its results only advisory to the selection of Republican national convention delegates. In other words, the sequence was to hold a May primary and then a July state convention. At the latter event, the national convention delegates were chosen (with the early primary election having no direct influence).
However, that practice, or rather that sequence, is not consistent with the delegate selection rules that came out of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Under the revised Rule 16(a)(1), delegates are to be allocated and bound based on any statewide vote. Nebraska Republicans were sending bound delegates to past national conventions, but selecting those delegates at an event -- the state convention -- that essentially ignored the primary results. The change made in Tampa was intended to tie the allocation and binding to the most participatory election in a state.
That change served as a catalyst to state parties like those in Colorado, North Dakota and Wyoming, each of which opted to skip presidential preference votes at the beginning stages of their caucus/convention processes. Those moves were made in an attempt to preserve a tradition of sending unbound delegations to the national convention. Nebraska, though, does not fit into that category. The local practice among Republicans in the Cornhusker state has always been to send a bound delegation to the national convention, but select, allocate and bind those delegates in one fell swoop at the state convention.
The problem for NEGOP in the lead up to 2016 was that to comply with the newly tweaked national party rules, the state party either had to completely opt out of the statewide primary in May or to tie the results of the preference vote in that election into the delegate allocation and binding process. As it turned out, state government basically forced the hand of the state party by changing state law to require state parties to have the delegate allocation reflect the vote in the primary.
It was those changes -- to national party rules and state law -- that pushed the Nebraska Republican Party transition from a beauty contest primary to a winner-take-all primary election. The delegates to the national convention will still be selected at the state convention, but will be allocated based on the May 10 primary.
It should additionally be noted that in order to complete the delegate selection process in time for the July national convention, the state convention in Nebraska had to be shifted from July to the weekend after the primary in May. The primary/state convention sequence is still in place, but the meaning of the two contests has transformed and the window between them has significantly shrunk since 2012.
The move to a winner-take-all primary means that there is no threshold either for qualifying for delegates to trigger a winner-take-all allocation. Very simply, the plurality winner statewide is entitled to an allocation of all 36 Nebraska delegates.
Delegate allocation (at-large, congressional district and automatic delegates)
Win the most votes statewide and win all of the delegates. The statewide winner takes them all.
Nebraska delegates by state party rule are bound for two ballots at the national convention. The only exception to that is if the winning candidate to whom the Nebraska delegation has been bound receives less than 35 percent of the vote on the first ballot. They would become unbound early if those conditions were met.
The selection process is different in 2016 than it has been in the past. Though not a part of the section of the state party constitution pertaining to the selection of national convention delegates (Article VII, Section 3), the new winner-take-all provision the Nebraska GOP is utilizing this cycle is an extension of the broad powers granted to the Nebraska Republican Party State Central Committee in that section. Article VII, Section 3(f) allows the NEGOP SCC to adopt any rules to implement Section 3 so long as they are consistent with the national party rules and state law.
FHQ mentions that because the addendum to the constitution that lays out the winner-take-all allocation method also has a bearing on the selection process. The last sentence of the lone paragraph of guidance on the 2016 allocation method reads:
Only candidates for National Convention Delegate and Alternate Delegate who have been pledged to the Presidential candidate who won the Nebraska Primary may be elected to the National Convention.All other descriptions of the selection process included in the Rule 16(f) filing the Nebraska Republican Party submitted to the Republican National Committee are silent on this matter. However, the above clause is restrictive, limiting the pool of delegates to those pledged to the primary winner.
Of course, there is something of an out buried in all of this. Before 2016, national convention delegate candidates had the option of filing as pledged to a candidate or simply uncommitted.1 That uncommitted option is gone for 2016. Instead, the form delegate candidates have to complete and submit to the state party require that candidate to either pledge to a particular candidate or to pledge to the winner of the primary. The latter is a kind of TBD -- to be determined -- option.
But what that means is that the winning candidate may or may not have delegates sympathetic to him or her at the national convention. A winning candidate having sincere delegates behind them long term at the convention is dependent upon how many of those delegates selected are specifically pledged to the winner. If they filed as Cruz or Kasich or Trump delegates, then yes, but if they filed as pledged to a winner to be determined later (via the primary), then they may not be as loyal.
The practical implication here is that if, say, Cruz wins the Nebraska primary, then the Trump and Kasich delegate candidates are sidelined. Only the Cruz and "pledged to the winner" delegate candidates would be eligible to be elected to one of the national convention delegate slots.
Again, regardless of that distinction, those 36 delegates are bound through at least one ballot and perhaps two if the Nebraska primary winner receives more than 35 percent on the the first vote.
State allocation rules are archived here.
1 An uncommitted delegate elected at the state convention would attend the national convention unbound.
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