by Morton Blackwell
January 12, 2016
TIME-SENSITIVE: The following letter is from Republican National Committeeman Morton Blackwell, concerning urgent RNC rules changes needed to prevent a disaster later this year in our Presidential nominating process. Please read it thoroughly and act. — RDM
January 12, 2016
At the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, a great many Delegates’ votes were not counted in the convention’s tally of the ballot for the presidential nomination.
After loud cries of outrage from the convention floor in Tampa, hundreds of Delegates went home furious at the Romney campaign.
As the national Rules of the Republican Party now stand, something similar would certainly happen again at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. This time, even more Republicans would be mad at their party.
Perhaps worse, as the Rules of the Republican Party now stand, the 2016 Republican National Convention could nominate a candidate who does not receive the votes of a majority of the duly elected Delegates. The party faithful and many other people would be disgusted with the Republican Party.
I ask for your help in amending the current national rules to make sure that the vote of every duly elected Delegate is counted at the Cleveland convention as cast according to state party rules and state law.
Let me explain how this situation developed.
Many years ago, Republican National Conventions often featured “favorite son” presidential candidates, where a state’s delegation was pledged to vote for, say, that state’s governor or for one of its U.S. senators.
To put together a convention majority, a major presidential candidate might choose a “favorite son” candidate from a big state as his vice presidential running mate. And it was always at least possible that a deadlocked convention, with multiple ballots for the presidential nomination, might nominate a “dark horse” candidate who came to the national convention initially supported only by his own state delegation as their “favorite son.”
When television networks began broadcasting live coverage of national conventions, it became obvious that nominating favorite son candidates and having floor demonstrations for each of them was not very interesting to the viewing audience.
So the idea arose to change the rules and require a candidate to prove substantial support from a number of states in order to qualify for nominating speeches and floor demonstrations.
Such requirements were written into the national rules and changed from time to time.
As the 2012 Republican National Convention began in Tampa, in order to qualify for nomination speeches and floor demonstrations, the national rules required a candidate to prove plurality support (more delegate votes than any other candidate) from the delegations of at least five states.
Having a compliant majority of the Convention Rules Committee in 2012, the Romney campaign amended the rules as the convention began in Tampa and changed the requirement from having a plurality of the delegations in five states to having a majority of the delegate votes in at least eight states.
They knew that this rules change would prevent a nominating speech and a floor demonstration for Ron Paul or anyone else except Mitt Romney.
The Romney campaign also changed the rules and prohibited even the recording or tallying of delegate votes for any candidate who could not, before the ballot, prove support from a majority of Delegates from at least eight states.
That meant that not only could there be no votes counted for Ron Paul, but the votes of the many other Delegates elected or pledged for the other candidates who won delegate votes couldn’t be counted either. And so they weren’t counted at the 2012 national convention.
The position of the Convention Chairman, the Convention Secretary, and the Romney campaign was that Rule 40(b), as adopted by the 2012 national convention, required that only candidates who had the support of a majority of the delegate votes in at least eight states could be formally placed in nomination as our presidential candidate and that, therefore, under new Rule 40(d), votes could not be counted for any candidate not meeting the threshold of eight states.
To repeat this abusive procedure at the Cleveland convention would be a national scandal and would certainly damage the Republican ticket.
At no time, not even at the 2012 convention, when any such threshold requirement was proposed, debated, passed, or amended, was there any suggestion that the national rules would prohibit the casting, recording, and counting of the votes of duly elected Delegates who cast their votes according to their state party rules and their state law.
Yet the votes of delegates voting for Romney were the only votes announced by the 2012 Convention Secretary and counted in the final tally.
This caused the roars of protest from Delegates from the convention floor. Huge numbers of people, including Delegates properly elected to vote for other candidates, went home fuming.
Here is how a candidate could receive the Republican presidential nomination without winning the support of a majority of the 2016 national convention’s delegate votes.
Assume that Candidate A wins 38% of the delegate votes at the national convention, that Candidate B wins 39% of the delegate votes, and that Candidates C, D, E, F, and G among them win the remaining 23% of the delegate votes. With many states binding their delegate votes proportionally to their presidential primary votes, this could happen.
Assume also that none of the five candidates whose numbers made up that 23% of the convention votes won the majority of delegate votes in at least eight states. That would be likely.
Then assume that a big majority of the Delegates whose votes were bound to Candidates C, D, E, F, and G would vote for Candidate A on a second ballot.
That couldn’t happen because there wouldn’t be a second ballot. Under the current rules, the votes for Candidates C, D, E, F, and G wouldn’t be counted.
Candidate B would receive the presidential nomination with the votes of only 39% of the duly elected Delegates, although a majority of the total number of Delegates preferred Candidate A over Candidate B.
The national party rules must be changed to prevent any possibility of such a situation.
The current national party rules, which should be open, transparent, and fair, would instead produce the disastrous result I just described.
For a complete copy from an RNC website of the current national Rules of the Republican Party, click here.
Amending The Rules of the Republican Party goes through four successive steps: The RNC Standing Committee on Rules; the RNC itself; the Convention Rules Committee; and adoption by the Republican National Convention itself. Amendments may be made at any step of the process.
No doubt there are other good amendments that can and should be made in the existing rules, but on this important matter the sooner this problem is generally understood and fair rules are adopted, the better.
We must debate and openly settle the matter now and make sure the rules are fair and (little “d”) democratic. Doing that now would tend to make it too costly politically for anyone later to make a grab for power by manipulating the rules for the benefit of any candidate or against others.
Below are amendments to The Rules of the Republican Party I shall introduce at the January 12-16, 2016, RNC meeting in Charleston, SC, at the RNC Standing Committee on Rules:
Amend Rule 16(a)(2) as follows:
1 In the first sentence, delete “these rules,”.
2 In the second sentence, delete “these rules,”.
3 After “… shall not be recognized.” add a new sentence to read: “Notwithstanding the provisions of Rule 40 regarding formally placing a name in nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States, the votes of all credentialed delegates properly cast according to state party rule and state law shall be reported by the state delegation chairman, repeated by the Convention Secretary, and included in the Convention Chairman’s announced tally of votes on that ballot.”
Amend Rule 40(d) as follows:
After the words “the chairman of the convention shall announce the votes for each” delete the remainder of the sentence and replace with “person receiving delegate votes cast in accord with their respective state party rules and state law.”
The RNC voted in 2014 to change Rule 16(a)(2) to prevent a repeat of the shocking problem in 2012 of many credentialed Delegates’ votes not being recognized or counted during the roll call of the states for the presidential nomination. The RNC meeting agreed that this problem must be fixed, but the change we adopted then does not solve the problem.
The recently changed Rule 16(a)(2) now begins: “The Secretary of the Convention shall faithfully announce and record each delegate’s vote in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under these rules, state law, and state party rule.”
Stakes are high in the nomination process at the convention. To win a nomination that might otherwise be lost, a major candidate would maintain that the wording “these rules” incorporates all the other provisions of The Rules of the Republican Party, including Rule 40(b) and Rule 40(b).
With the same justification deliberately used in the presidential nomination roll call in 2012, that major candidate, the Convention Chairman, and the Convention Secretary could all agree that, because of Rule 40, no votes could be counted for anyone who did not meet Rule 40(b)’s requirements for having his or her name formally placed in nomination.
They would maintain that Rule 16(a)(2) itself contains wording by which any of the other existing rules – including Rule 40(b) and Rule 40(d) – trump Rule 16(a)(2).
Put another way, the powers that be could maintain that no delegate votes could be counted unless they were cast for a candidate who had been formally nominated under Rule 40(b). That intention was not avowed by those who wrote and hastily passed Rule 40(b), but events showed that they understood its effect and intended that no delegate votes would be counted in Tampa for anyone other than Mitt Romney.
No such rule had ever been applied at any other Republican National Convention. At all previous conventions, to win the Republican presidential nomination, a candidate had to receive a majority of all the legitimately-elected and credentialed Delegates’ votes.
Yes, there would be an uproar if legitimately elected Delegates’ votes were not counted again in 2016, but there was an uproar, to no procedural effect, when this was done in 2012.
If our first ballot in Cleveland produces a nominee who wins without receiving the votes of a majority of Delegates, we would have a situation far worse for us than in 2012.
Bad rules should not be used to disenfranchise legitimate Delegates.
I ask for your help in passing my proposed amendments to the current rules.
Virginia Republican National Committeeman