At the meeting of the Virginia GOP’s State Central Committee on Saturday, elected representatives from all 11 Congressional Districts adopted a 2016 Convention Call quite unlike any adopted before. Instead of merely setting forth the place and time of the convention, and the delegate counts and other mundane details, this time the Convention Call took the extraordinary step of specifying certain procedures which must be followed when local party bodies elect their delegates to state and district conventions next year.
The Call and other measures passed on Saturday are required by Republican National Committee rules to be submitted to RNC no later than October 1.
Passed without any opposition or “no” votes, the Call will specify that the mass meetings (or conventions, or canvasses) electing delegates must elect all qualified delegate candidates, and if not, that they must have a separate vote for each individual being excluded. This provision is aimed squarely at the type of practice we saw last year in numerous localities, typified in the extreme by the Virginia Beach mass meeting that excluded 900+ properly filed and qualified delegate candidates in favor of a slate of 32 “establishment” insiders and their wives. To repeat that feat in 2016, the slaters would have to get a majority vote more than 900 times in a row from the attendees at the mass meeting to exclude their fellow Republicans. This is theoretically not impossible, but pretty difficult, especially considering that such motions are debatable, meaning it could take an extreme amount of time to complete. Anyone participating in this would know exactly what they were doing and would have to consciously and specifically participate in the exclusion of their neighbors from the process.
Overfiles: In the event a particular unit has more people file to be a delegate than it has available delegate seats (what is known as an “Overfile” situation), the 2016 Call requires that the delegation must include a full complement of delegates, regardless of how it chooses who will be among those delegates. So, for example, in the hypothetical Jefferson County, let’s assume the mass meeting is charged with electing up to 100 delegates. Candidate A has recruited 60 people to pre-file as delegate candidates to the convention, and Candidate B has also recruited 60 candidates, so we have an overfile. If one candidate’s supporters constitute a majority at the mass meeting, they can choose to elect all 60 of their candidate’s delegates, but they must also elect 40 delegates for the opposing candidate, because they must send the maximum number of allowable delegates (100).
“Slating Insurance”: Further increasing the difficulty for would-be slaters is a provision relating to payment of the requested $35 delegate candidate filing fee. Delegate candidates who have not paid that filing fee cannot be elected until all those who have paid that filing fee are elected, except in cases of failure of those paid delegate candidates to qualify to participate under Article I of the RPV Party Plan. This is why the requested filing fee has been dubbed “Slating Insurance.” In order for slaters to be assured they could control an entire delegation, they would have to (i) force an overfile and have the maximum number of “their” people signed up to stand for election as a delegate; (ii) make sure all those people paid the requested $35 fee; and (iii) ensure they had a majority present at the mass meeting (or whatever other proceeding is called to elect delegates). In the case of Virginia Beach, this would mean signing up at least 3,015 delegate candidates, and making sure they paid a total of $105,525 in filing fees to RPV, and even then they still couldn’t do it unless they had a majority at the Virginia Beach mass meeting. Again, doing all of this is not impossible in theory, but it’s a pretty steep hill to climb in practice.
Congratulations to the State Central Committee for taking a positive, constructive stand to preserve the ability for all Virginia Republicans to unify around our prospective nominee, without the specter of the fratricidal madness that characterized certain of our processes in 2014. I firmly believe this was the biggest single service RPV could have done to boost the chances that our nominee in 2016 will take Virginia. Well done!
Other Important Business
Centralized Pre-Filing: The 2016 process will be different than past years in another crucial respect. Most units require that delegates to district and state conventions make some sort of pre-filing to declare their intention to seek election as a delegate. In years past, this deluge of paperwork on the unit chairman and/or the secretary or other officers has resulted in a lot of confusion with record keeping, which in turn has led to controversy. (Think about all the “lost” prefiles, or the ones where there was dispute about whether they arrived on time, etc.).
To solve this problem, next year local units will have the option to utilize RPV as a centralized filing hub, including by having their delegates pre-file electronically via the RPV website. When a delegate candidate prefiles on the website, the candidate, the local unit chairman, the district chairman, and RPV all get a copy of the filing automatically by email, thus eliminating any dispute about whether or when someone filed. There will always be complete accuracy and transparency. Plus, in contrast to past years when key data are lost through mis-transcription when people are keying in information from handwritten forms, the online process will give each level of the party immediately usable data, helping us to reach a goal of having a complete, accurate, and centralized census of our activist base for the very first time.
Candidates will have the convenience of avoiding the postal mail, and of being able to pay their filing fee online, while local units will have a huge mess of paperwork taken off their plates, and everyone will be able to have full confidence that they know who did and didn’t prefile on time. A win-win-win, all around.
Delegate Allocation Method: The SCC adopted a truly proportional method of allocating delegates to the 2016 National Convention. In contrast to the “proportional” method chosen in 2012, in which the winner of the primary vote in any Congressional District could take all three of the delegates from that district, in 2016 all 46 of the elected delegates will be bound in strict proportion to the overall statewide total (more details available via this post). This ensures that no single candidate in a fractured race who might be leading in the polls, but who only has a relatively small percentage of the vote (e.g., 25%) walks away with a majority of Virginia’s delegate votes. All candidates who get close to or exceed 2% will get at least one delegate vote from Virginia on the first ballot. (Note: the 2% is not an actual defined threshold, but is a function of how we have to round to the nearest whole person to assign a delegate to a candidate…a candidate with less than 2% may be rounded out of the delegate hunt).
Congratulations to my colleagues on the State Central Committee for taking these important, forward-looking steps to improve the health and operations of our party in the crucial election year of 2016. We still have some work to do to fix this completely, and permanently, but this is a fantastic first step.
Now, on to expanding our Senate majority in 2015!