We featured an article on here a few days ago regarding the possibility of Ron Paul winning delegates in Michigan, and whether or not it would be possible based on GOP rules.
After a ton of comments and emails back and forth with various sources, we have a clearer picture on what the rules are and how we might expect them to be interpreted.
Rule 38 and the Unit Rule
First there is the infamous Rule 38 of the Rules of the Republican Party which states, “No delegate or alternate delegate shall be bound by any attempt of any state or Congressional district to impose the unit rule.” So this sounds like delegates can not be bound to vote for a particular candidate, right? Well, first let’s look at what the unit rule is.
The unit rule prohibits states from forcing all delegates to vote as a unit. In other words, a state can not bind all delegates together and force them to vote a certain way. However, states get around this rule by having one or more at-large delegates which are not bound and free to vote however they want.
So…Are Bound Delegates Really Bound?
So what about the regular delegates – the ones not so lucky to be a token unbound delegate? Surprisingly, we were unable to find anything that indicates that any of the delegates can actually be bound at the national convention. Initially we had heard reports that delegates could simply abstain during the first round of voting, but it appears they may not even have to do that.
Mitt Romney had this very issue come up in 2008 while running against John McCain in Utah. Mitt Romney won almost 90% of the votes in the primary, but the Utah Republican Party voted in a standing rule that effectively bound all of those delegates to vote for John McCain at the national convention, since Romney had dropped out of the race.
However, one of those delegates refused to vote for McCain and that prompted a letter from Jennifer Sheehan who is legal counsel for the Republican National Committee to Utah National Committeewoman Nancy Lord. In it, Sheehan said “The RNC does not recognize a states’ binding of national delegates, but considers each delegate a free agent who can vote for whoever they choose.” She continued, “The national convention allows delegates to vote for the individual of their choice, regardless of whether the persons name is officially placed into nomination or not.”
What Does the Law Say?
Another fascinating tidbit is the fact that there are no laws that cover this. Election laws do not apply because the delegate process is handled by the Democratic and Republican national organizations. So don’t expect the courts to get involved, but do expect to see all sorts of shenanigans pulled at the Republican national convention. If Mitt Romney doesn’t have 1,144 actual delegates secured, and its increasingly beginning to look like he may not, then not only is the door opened for Ron Paul, but it’s essentially opened for anyone else as well. That could include candidates that have dropped out, or other power brokers in the Republican Party that never entered the race.
Our state convention will be held this Friday and Saturday, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the delegates actually fall, but its unlikely that Romney will get a majority of them despite winning the state primary in February. If all of this seems different than how you thought our political process worked, you’re not alone. And to complicate matters more, when it comes to collecting delegates, Ron Paul just keeps on winning…