RNC Rules Committee Today: What Are They Doing to Our Election Process?

Boenher_with_gavelThe Republican National Committee has finally released the language of controversial rule amendment proposals to its committee members, just hours before the RNC Rules Committee is asked to cast their vote on the changes. So what exactly is it that they will be voting on at 3pm today? The six amendment proposals coming from the RNC Rules Subcommittee are as follows:

1) Rule 17(f)
Strike Rule 17 (f) in its entirety

Rule 17(e) specifies that the RNC may hold a hearing if the RNC Chairman does not act upon a violation of the rule governing election state election timing guidelines and allocation of delegates (rule 16c). During the hearing, a vote of the body will be taken as a final determination on whether a legitimate violation that has taken place. Under the rules as they stand, Rule 17 (f) then follows to state:
17(f) If a state or state Republican Party is determined to be in violation: (1) No member of the Republican National Committee from the offending state shall be permitted to serve as a delegate or alternate delegate to the national convention. (2) After the Republican National Committee members are excluded from being part of the offending state’s delegation to the national convention, the state Republican Party shall determine which of the state’s remaining delegates (and corresponding alternate delegates) are entitled to serve as part of the state’s reduced delegation to the national convention.

Broken down: The striking of 17(f) would ensure that committee members are not excluded from their state’s delegation to the National Convention in the situation that a state incurs a loss of delegates for violating election timing or delegate allocation guidelines. This amendment would serve to eliminate a discrepancy within the rules in that elsewhere it is determined that if a state is penalized for violating election timing guidelines, the state’s reduced delegation shall still include the state’s RNC committee members.

2) Rule 20(a)
Amend Rule 20 (a) to change the words “thirty-five (35)” to “forty-five (45)”

Rule 20 (a), in its current form, reads: All delegates and alternate delegates shall be elected or selected not later than thirty-five (35) days before the date of the meeting of the national convention.

Broken down: This amendment would reduce the length of time that states are allotted for holding their delegate selection process. In a letter sent to RNC members requesting support for the subcommittee’s proposal, RNC Special Counsel member James Bopp implies that this amendment will provide an “increase” to the time allotted for the delegate “certification period,” but from the language of the proposed amendment, we see that the change would actually set an earlier deadline by which states must hold their delegate selection process, amounting to a decrease in time allotted to the state parties to choose and certify their delegates. When acting in conjunction with an earlier National Convention schedule, as Bopp states is the intention of the proposal, the date by which states are required to hold their delegate selection process would change from mid to late July to as early as mid-April.

3) Rule 16(c)(2)
Amend Rule 16(c)(2) to strike “April 1” and insert “March 15” and strike the word “may” and insert the word “shall.”

Rule 16(c)(2), which pertains to primary election timing and delegate allocation guidelines, currently reads:
(2) Any presidential primary, caucus, convention, or other process to elect, select, allocate, or bind delegates to the national convention that occurs prior to April 1 in the year in which the national convention is held may provide for the allocation of delegates on a proportional basis.

Broken down: The stated intention of changing the language “may” to “shall” is to prohibit states from engaging in a “winner take all” election result process; however, in effect, the amendment determines that the early-voting states must bind their delegates to the state’s straw poll or preference poll. This would force states such as Minnesota and Maine to eliminate their tradition of sending their delegates to the National Convention unbound. Note, though, that elsewhere in the rules, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada (referred to as the “carve-out states”) are exempted from the binding/timing provisions of this rule. Also of note is that another of the proposals later outlined (amendment proposal #5) counters the intention to avoid winner-take-all elections.

4) Rule 20 – Create Rule 20 (d)
Amend Rule 20 by adding Rule 20 (d) to allow for a waiver:
“The Executive Committee of the Republican National Committee may grant a waiver to a state Republican Party that is out of compliance with the deadlines imposed by Rule 20 as of the date the start of the convention is set and, where, after reasonable efforts were made to comply, the state as of the date set forth in Rule 16(f)(1) remains out of compliance with the deadlines imposed by Rule 20 and the Executive Committee of the Republican National Committee determines that such a waiver is in the best interests of the Republican Party.”

Broken down: Rule 16(f)(1) determines that a state must file their convention/caucus/primary course of action plan by October 1 of the year before the National Convention. This proposed new rule 20(d) would specify that if the plan set forth at that time (on or before October 1, 2015) is out of compliance with the provisions on delegate selection timing for the 2016 process, the state may be granted a waiver from the selection process timing guidelines if it is determined that there is a beneficial reason to do so.

5) Rule 16 – Create Rule 16(c)(3)
Amend Rule 16 by adding Rule 16(c)(3) to define proportionality:
Amended Rule 16(c)(3) would read:
Proportional allocation of total delegates as required by Rule 16(c)(2) shall be based upon the number of statewide votes cast or the number of congressional district votes cast in proportion to the number of votes received by each candidate.
A state may establish a minimum threshold of the percentage of votes received by a candidate that must be reached below which a candidate may receive no delegates, provided such threshold is no higher than 20%.
A state may establish a minimum threshold of the percentage of votes received by a candidate that must be reached above which the candidate may receive all the delegates, provided such threshold is no lower than 50%.

Broken down: Though the changes outlined throughout this packet determine that delegates will be bound to a straw poll or primary result, the proposed new rule 16(c)(3) would allow the state party a great amount of leeway in determining how they determine their binding, and will certainly lead to a greatly skewed calculation of “proportion.”

For example, North Carolina’s primary results in 2012 were as follows: Mitt Romney 65.62%, Ron Paul 11.12%, Rick Santorum 10.39%, Newt Gingrich 7.64%, No Preference 5.23%. NC’s 55 delegates would have been proportioned as follows: Romney 36, Paul 6, Santorum 6, Gingrich 4, no preference 3. If the proposed new rule had been in place at the time, North Carolina could have determined that since Paul, Santorum, and Gingrich all fell under the 20% threshold, they would receive none of North Carolina’s delegates, and since Romney received greater than the 50% threshold, he would receive all of North Carolina’s 55 delegates, giving one candidate a gain of 19 delegates from a single state. If the state party decided under the new rule to make such a determination, the delegates of the state would be required to cast their votes accordingly.

The amendment also specifies the two different data sets that a state party may use to calculate their proportionality, specifying that the delegates must be bound proportionally to the election results either on a congressional district basis or by the data from a statewide election. The likely purpose of this amendment is to prevent a state party from attempting an alternate method of binding calculation.

6) Rule 17(a)
Amend Rules 17(a) to strike the following language:
The amended rule 17(a) reads:
“If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(1) of The Rules of the Republican party, the number of delegates to the national convention shall be reduced for those states with 30 or more total delegates to nine (9) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state, and for those states with 29 or fewer total delegates to six (6) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state. The corresponding alternate delegates shall also be reduced accordingly.

Broken Down: Rule 16(c)(1) directs that a state may not hold its election process prior to March 1; the current form of rule 17(a) imposes a penalty for violation of 16(c)(1), but is in conflict with the rule in that it presents the prohibited election period as anytime prior to the last Tuesday in February; the proposed amendment rectifies this discrepancy. The amendment also eliminates prior language which specified the penalty for a violation of rule 16(c)(2), the rule on delegate binding for states whose conventions are held prior to April 1 (or March 15 by subcommittee proposed amendment #3), excluding the carve-out states. The provision specifying a separate penalty for violation on states with fewer than 30 delegates is also new and aims to impose a penalty of greater impact for violating timing guidelines, as the smaller-delegation states would be less affected by a delegation reduction to 12 members than would a state with 30 or more delegates prior to the cut.