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About Delegates Unbound
There has been a lot of discussion about whether delegates to the July 18-21, 2016 Republican Party National Convention are bound to vote for a specific candidate. A new book, Unbound: The Conscience of a Republican Delegate identifies the historical and legal basis for the authority of the delegates attending the convention. The book makes a strong case that delegates are not bound to vote for any particular candidate based on primary and caucus results, state party rules, or even state law. The book documents the nearly 240 instances at past conventions in which delegates have invoked their right to vote their conscience.
GUIDANCE FOR DELEGATES ON THE VOTE FOR THE REPUBLICAN 2016 NOMINATION:
1. Under Rule 37(b) of the rules adopted for the 2016 Republican National Convention, each state delegation is required to assemble before the roll call vote on the presidential nomination so that each delegate is able to cast their vote. Demand such a vote if the chair does not confirm one will take place, and demand that it be a secret ballot, i.e. on paper. You may want to invite the press to observe the process, and you can notify the press if your delegation chair refuses to even allow a real vote.
2. Each delegate is free to cast their vote according to their conscience at this particular stage of the process. No delegate can be forced at this point to vote for any candidate they do not wish to vote for. That happens later.
3. The delegation chair should announce to the delegation the true and accurate results of the voting, and should inform the delegates of how your state’s vote will be announced.
4. Because your state’s votes may be bound under the newly-adopted convention rules, the announcement of the vote and/or the Secretary’s recording of the vote may be different than the true and accurate votes of the delegation.
GUIDANCE FOR DELEGATES ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE VOTE
5. There may be “unbound” delegates in your delegation (for example, those released by a candidate who has suspended their campaign). Their votes must be accurately announced.
6. If you believe the announcement of your delegation’s vote was inaccurate, such as an unbound delegate’s vote not being properly announced, any delegate (not just an unbound delegate) may seek the recognition of the convention chair and state they believe the announcement was inaccurate and request a poll of the delegation. The recommended language is:
“Mr./Madame Chair, I challenge the correctness of the vote as announced by the delegation chair. I request a poll of the delegation under Rule 37(b).”
GUIDANCE FOR DELEGATION CHAIRS ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE VOTE
7. The chair may opt to declare the true and accurate vote totals as the preference of the delegation, and then declare that pursuant to the recently adopted convention rules he is required to announce the vote total as 19 for Trump.
8. The chair may opt to declare the true and accurate vote totals as the preference of the delegation, and then declare that pursuant to the recently adopted convention rules he will allow the Secretary of the convention to announce and record the delegation’s vote.
9. The chair may declare that pursuant to the recently adopted convention rules, he will allow the Secretary of the convention to announce and record the delegation’s vote.
10. The chair may opt to simply announce the vote as 19 for Trump.
The key points:
- The language adopted at the 1880 convention, specifically to ensure delegates could not be bound by the unit rule, instructions from the state party, or other methods of binding, have been part of the convention rules for 136 years and remain part of the temporary rules heading into Cleveland as Rule 37(b). There is no language supporting binding in the temporary rules of the convention, which are the only rules that matter.
- The Republican Party has rejected state laws purporting to bind delegates to primary or caucus outcomes from the beginning, starting with the 1912 convention when the Illinois and Oregon delegations voted contrary to the primary results and in defiance of their state laws.
- On the single occasion in which the Republican National Convention recognized binding, 1976, it required a rule change to the original 1880 language, and that rule change was promptly removed in 1980 reverting back to the original language.
Simply stated, barring any rules changes at the convention, delegates can vote their conscience on the first ballot.