This year’s Republican National Convention is set to be the most dramatic in decades. With each passing delegate contest, it seems more and more likely that neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz will hit the majority threshold of 1,237 delegates. With the possibly of an open or “contested” convention rising, many people are looking closely at party rules for the first time.
Each state party sets its own rules and the national committee has an overall set of rules that govern the nominations process from a big-picture perspective. In this sense, think of the GOP as operating under a system of federalism – like our actual government is supposed to.
With this very peculiar set of circumstances in 2016, it is easy to get lost in the technicalities of the situation. In fact, it can be downright confusing. Here are the essentials to understanding how Alabama’s rules fit in with the RNC’s at the upcoming historic gathering.
The National Rules Commmittee
Every time the party hosts a national nominating convention, the national convention rules committee must create a brand new set of rules. Each state or territory sends one man and one woman to the site of the convention – Cleveland, OH – a week before it is called to order. There, the representatives will write the rules for the 2016 event.
State Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) and Laura Payne were elected earlier in the month to represent the Yellowhammer state on the committee. Both individuals are pledged delegates for Donald Trump. Generally speaking, most of the rules of order adopted are the same every four years, but there are almost always “tweaks” made to address the issues of the previous cycle. That leads us to the national rules themselves.
The National Rules
The rules that go into effect this cycle will play a crucial role because they can be swayed favorably or unfavorably in the direction of one candidate or another. The biggest debate – at the national level – will be over Rule 40 and whether or not it should continue to exist.
The controversial Rule 40, which governs the presidential nominating process, has been subject to persistent scrutiny and suggestions that it may be rewritten.
Subsection ‘b’ of the rule states that a nominee must demonstrate the support of a majority of delegates from eight or more states. Before the 2012 convention, only five states delegates’ support was required. The rule was put in place by Mitt Romney’s delegates, which many GOP sources have described as an attempt to squash Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s supporters.
Both Trump and Cruz have campaigned with the goal of exceeding the eight-state threshold, and altering the rule to allow additional competitors to gain a shot at the nomination would spark outrage from Cruz and Trump supporters.
Alabama’s Rules about its Delegates
You may have heard talk about the degree to which the delegates are “bound” to their particular candidate. The term “binding delegate” means that a delegate is required to vote for a specific candidate — at least for a certain amount of time. A contested convention without the ability to unbind delegates makes no sense; if no candidate came in with a majority and no delegates are allowed to change their support, the convention would never nominate anyone.
The question then becomes how and when can candidates break their binding ties to their original candidate. This is where state rules come into play.
Under Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) rules, delegates can be released in one of two ways:
1. The presidential candidate writes a certified letter to ALGOP releasing said delegate(s); OR
2. Two-thirds of the Alabama delegation votes for release.
It is important to note that the delegates are not released after a certain number of ballots. They can only be released if one of the above happens.
For ALGOP’s full statement clarifying its rules, you can visit their website here.
Alabama’s Current Delegate Breakdown
It is also important to realize that Rubio’s delegate will not be reallocated simply because he has suspended his campaign. Unless one of the above happens, that delegate is still bound to Rubio.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who is backing Trump, was elected to lead Alabama’s delegation to the convention. That, combined with Alabama’s delegate rules, will likely make the Yellowhammer State a lock for Trump, even if the billionaire businessman falls short of the nomination on the first ballot.
Regardless, of what happens this summer in Cleveland, Alabama’s delegation will play an important role. For more on how it can help Trump specifically, take a look at the article linked below.