GOP Primary Reform

(promoted from diaries)

There is a lot of talk and lamentation lately about Trump and how we got to this point.  Mostly, it is disappointment given the number of more qualified potential candidates than Donald Trump.  Perhaps it was the fact he happened upon a message that resonated with primary/caucus voters during the nominating process.  Or, perhaps it was a flaw in the process itself.


Thinking about it and comparing it to the Democratic Party’s process, the GOP is clearly more “democratic” in that primary voters have a greater say in the eventual nominee.  In the Democratic Party, they place a greater emphasis on Party leaders through an “unpledged” super-delegate system regardless of primary outcome.  It is actually these people who pushed Clinton over the finish line.

For the GOP, there should be a happy medium between the purely democratic method currently used while increasing the power of uncommitted delegates the Democratic Party currently uses.  To this writer, the problem starts with the allocation of delegates per state in the GOP process.

There is an inherent inequity.  As it stands now, each state gets three delegates per Congressional district to start, then they receive bonus delegates for each statewide-elected official.  For example, New Jersey has 12 Congressional districts so they get 36 delegates right off the bat.  Alabama has 9 districts but get 27 automatic delegates.  Alabama is a decidedly more Republican state than New Jersey yet gets penalized by virtue of their overall population.  Although the current rules try to equalize things somewhat by awarding bonus at-large delegates, the inequities still exist.

Consider this:  in 2016, AR-1 delivered about 169,000 votes to the GOP.  The NJ-8 delivered about 49,000.  They both get three delegates.  Is that fair?


Under the Alabama above example, New Jersey got a total of 51 delegates and Alabama got 50.  Yet in the general election, Alabama delivered 62% of the vote to Trump compared to 42% in New Jersey.  On a regional basis, there is also a discrepancy.  Three regions- the West Coast (including Hawaii and Alaska), New England and the Mid-Atlantic states (including West Virginia) send 31.3% of all delegates to the convention.  Yet only two states in this block- Alaska and West Virginia- were won by Trump.

While overall population should still be a consideration, perhaps a better system of allocation based on demonstrated GOP performance should be used.  Using 2016 as an example, perhaps one delegate for every 200,000 GOP presidential votes is a better system.  The total number of delegates would certainly decrease in a method like this, but less people at a convention is not necessarily a bad outcome.

As a proportion of the total delegates awarded to states, 21 of the 30 states Trump won would get an increase (mainly low population states would see a relative decrease).  Conversely, only three of the 20 states Clinton won would see an increase- Colorado, Minnesota and Virginia.  Two of them are considered swing states so giving them increased relative influence is not such a bad idea.

Under my proposal, states would be allocated one delegate for every 200,000 GOP votes plus 1 per every Congressional district held by a Republican.  At-large, unpledged delegates would be awarded for every US Senator elected from the state plus one if a GOP Governor and one per state legislative house with a GOP majority.  The unpledged delegates would be truly unpledged and not bound by the results of the primary outcome.  In this proposed system, Texas (a red state) and Florida (a swing state) would get more delegates than California (a blue state).


Second, the allocation of delegates should be on a proportional basis throughout the primary calendar.  In 2016, excluding the states where Cruz, Rubio or Kasich were no longer on the ballot and/or had suspended their campaigns, Trump won NO states with greater than 50% of the primary vote.  His closest call was Massachusetts at 49%.  In that same time span, Cruz won two states with greater than 50%.  In many states, Trump failed to exceed even 40% yet because of state rules, all delegates went to him.  ONLY in the case of a candidate getting 50%+1 of the vote should all delegates be allocated to the candidate.  The winner-take-all delegate system creates conflict within the party where about 55-65% of actual voters did not vote for the “winner.”

Third, states should go to a straight primary system instead of the caucus or convention system.  But, that would lead to suggestion four.

Fourth, Republicans are choosing their candidate for the highest office in the land.  Therefore, ONLY Republicans should have that say-so in the decision.  All primaries should be closed primaries.  That means, only registered Republicans should vote in a Republican primary.  Only voters registered as Republican as of December 31st in the year prior to a presidential election should be allowed to vote in the GOP primary.  The only exception should be first-time voters who register between January 1st and the primary date who must declare their party preference at that time.  Registered “independents” or registered Democrats who switch party affiliation at the last minute should not be allowed to vote in a GOP primary.


Fifth, and finally, the entire process should be condensed in order to get a consensus candidate before the general election campaign begins in earnest to solidify a message and party unity.  Perhaps a series of Super Tuesdays is in order.  Some have suggested this be done on a regional basis.  However, that would give individual regions an undeserved advantage.  Instead, states from varying regions would vote on these Super Tuesdays (8-10 states per).  Make the first one the original “starters-” New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina.  This way you have four diverse regions voting up front.

It is hard to run a simulation of the 2016 process because candidates other than Trump had dropped out or suspended campaigns before the primaries were completed.  It is possible that under this proposed scenario there would have been a brokered convention with Cruz and/or Rubio and/or Kasich and/or unpledged delegates holding the keys.  Of course, nothing would prevent any of the candidates with delegates leading into the convention from releasing their’s to another candidate or leaving them uncommitted.

The convention should be a means of choosing a candidate, not a coronation unless a coronation is a foregone conclusion leading into that convention.

The 2016 process was a clown car without clowns except one.  It seems fitting in some perverted sense that the clown would be the nominee.  But if the GOP wants to get serious about nominating serious, qualified candidates to be President, they need to make sure that true Republicans with a Republican record receive the nomination and that clowns do not hijack the process by getting a large number of delegates with 35% of the primary vote.  If nothing else, the convention would be a more manageable one with fewer delegates, increase its importance and make things a whole lot more interesting.




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