Substantial virtual ink has been spilled here and elsewhere on the benefits of a Primary v. Convention. The truth is a decision will be made this coming weekend regarding the 2016 presidential nomination in Virginia without all of the logistical details worked out. [read_more] (Post updated at 2:30 pm to correct certain deadlines).
Nonetheless, the RPV State Central Committee does have sufficient information about the timeline to make an informed decision. What follows is an explanation of the timeline and potential effects if the SCC decides to move forward with a nominating convention.
I have heard all the arguments for and against primaries and conventions over and over. The point here is not to rehash those arguments. I am pro-convention. I say this simply to let the reader know my bias, and not to suggest a persuasive purpose to this piece. Although intrigued by the idea of a convention to bind Virginia’s National Delegates in 2016, I have had serious doubts about the timing of a convention. Having discussed the issue of timing with David C.F. Ray and another member of the SCC (who is not a contributor to this blog), and conducting my own verification, below is the timeline for conducting a Primary v. Convention.
What is at stake?
What Virginia Republicans (and hopefully only Virginia Republicans) will be selecting is not a presidential candidate, but two things: 1. The delegates to the Republican National Convention, and 2. Who those National Delegates will vote for on the first round of presidential balloting at the Republican National Convention [RNC]. Virginia Republicans will select 33 delegates (3 per congressional district) at the congressional district conventions [CDCs] and 13 at large delegates at a state convention. This is unlikely to change regardless of the choice of having a primary or a convention. Rule No. 14 RNC Party Plan. The RPV party plan does not appear to require that the delegates from each congressional district be elected at the CDCs, but that is how things are traditionally done. The choice of Primary v. Convention is really about how those delegates are bound to vote on the first ballot at the National Convention.
When must each convention/primary be held?
Some of these answers are clearer than others.
If a presidential Primary is held, it will be held on March 1, 2016. Va. Code § 24.2-544(A).
Under the RPV party plan we must have Congressional District Conventions in 2016 to elect Chairmen and members of the SCC. If a CDC will be used to nominate a congressional candidate then the timing of that CDC must at least be after March 31, 2016 pursuant to Va. Code § 24.2-522(A). The most reasonable reading of the statutes mandates that the (non-primary) nomination may not occur until 47 days before when the primary would have occurred, or April 28, 2016. Va. Code § 24.2-510. This means that for a few Congressional districts that would select a Congressional nominee by convention, their Convention can not be held until the end of April (unless they hold two Conventions, which may be an attractive option for some). Any other Congressional district that selects their Congressional nominee by a primary could hold its District Convention at an earlier date. We understand the Convention-based proposal in front of SCC envisions these District Conventions taking place on March 5.
RPV is considering holding its statewide convention on March 19, 2016.
[UPDATE] Under the RPV party plan the call for unit committee conventions and mass meetings must be issued at least 30 days in advance and must be issued after January 1, 2016. RPV Party Plan Art VIII §A.2. This means that unit committee meetings will have to be held in February 2016 at the earliest.
The Timeline for a Primary
January/February – County and City unit committees select delegates to State Convention and CDCs.
March 1 Primary is held, delegates are not selected but are bound by this vote.
March 19 13 at large delegates are selected. They are already bound by the March 1 vote.
March 1 to June 11 Conventions are held in those Districts that choose a method of nomination other than a convention for a Congressional nominee. National Delegates are selected. They are already bound by the March 1 vote.
April 28 to June 11 CDC’s are held on those districts that choose a convention method of nomination for its Congressional candidate. National Delegates are selected. They are already bound by the March 1 vote.
Under RNC rules the March 1 vote will bind delegates in a proportional manner (not winner-take-all). Rule No. 16 c.2. RNC Party Plan. The proportional allocation has yet to be determined by the SCC.
The Timeline for a Convention
January/February – County and City unit committees select delegates to the State and District Conventions.
March 19 13 at large delegates are selected. They are bound by the vote at the State Convention. This can be done on a proportional or winner-take-all basis. This can be done with multiple ballots, instant runoff voting, or a single ballot as to be determined by the SCC.
March 1 to June 11 Conventions are held in those Congressional Districts that choose a method of nomination other than a convention for a Congressional nominee. Delegates to the National Convention are selected. They could be bound by the statewide totals of a Presidential Preference Ballot at each of the 11 District Conventions, or by the March 19 vote at the State Convention (whichever comes first, under RNC rules). I understand the plan is to try to have all the District Conventions in early March (something like March 5) to capitalize on the energy and enthusiasm around the Presidential race.
April 28 to June 11 Conventions are held in those Districts that choose a convention method of nomination for their Congressional candidate. National Delegates are selected. They could be bound by the statewide totals of a Presidential Preference Ballot at each of the 11 District Conventions, or by the March 19 vote at the State Convention (whichever comes first, under RNC rules).
Key effects of the timeline
A Primary will allow Virginia to voice a preference earlier in the process and the delegates will be bound in a proportional manner.
A Convention allows for more flexibility in allocation of bound delegate votes at the Republican National Convention, and could allow a consensus candidate to emerge (i.e., a candidate who breaches the 50% threshold via instant runoff balloting). A March 19 date puts it at just after the point when 50% of the delegate votes have been awarded, potentially making it very important to some candidates.
When voting this upcoming weekend, members of the SCC that are concerned about gamesmanship of the process should be prepared to raise concerns about the details. These are items that can be clarified in advance
See the timeline differently? Disagree on the interpretation of the law or governing documents? Feel free to chime in in the comments.