Reforming Republican Nominations

Whatever happens in the presidential election in 2016, Republicans ought to take the opportunity offered by the chaos and rancor of this year's nomination process to completely reform the 2020 Republican nomination.  Several different reforms are needed.

First, the different methods of choosing delegates ought to be discarded.  It is not so much that there are mysterious political bosses who choose the delegates as it is that there is a perception that these imagined bosses are pulling the strings.  If all delegates are chosen by primaries, then the perception of smoke-filled rooms – already an anachronism – is ended. 

Indeed, there is no reason to choose "delegates" at all.  Simply have voters in primaries pick a specific candidate.  Eliminate the anachronism of delegates.  This rationalizes how Republican nominees have long been chosen for nearly every statewide elective office in America. 

We do not expect gubernatorial candidates to be chosen in each state by a complex pattern of caucuses in some counties, primaries of one type in other counties, and primaries of another type in still other counties in a state.  We do not elect "delegates" to vote for a particular candidate for the gubernatorial nomination.  We vote directly for a candidate for the nomination. 

Second, the primary to select delegates ought to be closed.  There is no reason to allow voters who are not even committed enough to the Republican Party to register as a Republican to vote in that party's primary election.  Registration as a Republican also ought to be a certain period of time before the primary election. 

Third, the allocation of delegates to presidential candidates ought to be strictly proportional.  Combinations of "winner take all" and "winner take most" and "proportional" and elected by congressional districts are confusing and let candidates profess outrage and suspicion.  Everyone understands proportional distribution of delegates at the statewide level.

Fourth, there should be a single national primary day.  Again, the example of how gubernatorial and senatorial candidates have long been chosen is instructive: how would Republican voters feel if, to choose a gubernatorial candidate, there was a series of county primaries throughout the state? 

Fifth, the "primary" to choose a nominee should be just that: the "primary."  If after the votes are counted on the national primary day, no candidate had a majority of the delegates, then have a runoff between the top two candidates.  Quickly and finally determine which candidate for the nomination is the one most Republicans nationally really want.

Sixth, simplify how delegates are allocated among states.  The formula used today rewards states that elect Republicans to a variety of offices, but for the presidential nomination, the easier way to reward Republican-voting states is simply to multiply the percentage of the popular vote that the Republican nominee got in the last presidential election by the electoral votes of that state.

New York, which gave Romney 35% of the vote in 2012 and has 31 electoral votes, would have 11 votes in the nomination.  Texas, which gave Romney 57% of the vote in 2012 and has 34 electoral votes, would have 19 votes for the nomination.  This is not awfully different in result from the delegate allocation now.  New York today has 61% of the delegates that Texas has under the convoluted allocation formula.  Under the proposed streamlined formula, New York would have 58% of the delegates that Texas has this year. 

It does make the formula very easy for everyone to understand, and – this could impact presidential elections in the future – it would give Republicans in states like New York and New Jersey a strong incentive to support the eventual presidential nominee, because that would directly affect the states' influence in choosing the next presidential nominee.

Seventh, simply abolish national conventions.  These are expensive, unnecessary, and distracting.  Formally allow the nominee to pick his running mate, and dispense with things like platforms, which no one reads or cares about anymore. 

Could the RNC "make" states adopt these changes?  Could Iowa and New Hampshire be compelled to give up their jumpstart?  No, but the allocation of delegate strength to these states could be reduced or even discounted completely, depending upon how far the state strayed from the basic plan.

People are upset with the nominating process in both parties this year.  The party that first reforms the choosing of the presidential nominee earliest will have a strong case as the party that listened to the voters in the 2020 presidential election. 

Whatever happens in the presidential election in 2016, Republicans ought to take the opportunity offered by the chaos and rancor of this year's nomination process to completely reform the 2020 Republican nomination.  Several different reforms are needed.

First, the different methods of choosing delegates ought to be discarded.  It is not so much that there are mysterious political bosses who choose the delegates as it is that there is a perception that these imagined bosses are pulling the strings.  If all delegates are chosen by primaries, then the perception of smoke-filled rooms – already an anachronism – is ended. 

Indeed, there is no reason to choose "delegates" at all.  Simply have voters in primaries pick a specific candidate.  Eliminate the anachronism of delegates.  This rationalizes how Republican nominees have long been chosen for nearly every statewide elective office in America. 

We do not expect gubernatorial candidates to be chosen in each state by a complex pattern of caucuses in some counties, primaries of one type in other counties, and primaries of another type in still other counties in a state.  We do not elect "delegates" to vote for a particular candidate for the gubernatorial nomination.  We vote directly for a candidate for the nomination. 

Second, the primary to select delegates ought to be closed.  There is no reason to allow voters who are not even committed enough to the Republican Party to register as a Republican to vote in that party's primary election.  Registration as a Republican also ought to be a certain period of time before the primary election. 

Third, the allocation of delegates to presidential candidates ought to be strictly proportional.  Combinations of "winner take all" and "winner take most" and "proportional" and elected by congressional districts are confusing and let candidates profess outrage and suspicion.  Everyone understands proportional distribution of delegates at the statewide level.

Fourth, there should be a single national primary day.  Again, the example of how gubernatorial and senatorial candidates have long been chosen is instructive: how would Republican voters feel if, to choose a gubernatorial candidate, there was a series of county primaries throughout the state? 

Fifth, the "primary" to choose a nominee should be just that: the "primary."  If after the votes are counted on the national primary day, no candidate had a majority of the delegates, then have a runoff between the top two candidates.  Quickly and finally determine which candidate for the nomination is the one most Republicans nationally really want.

Sixth, simplify how delegates are allocated among states.  The formula used today rewards states that elect Republicans to a variety of offices, but for the presidential nomination, the easier way to reward Republican-voting states is simply to multiply the percentage of the popular vote that the Republican nominee got in the last presidential election by the electoral votes of that state.

New York, which gave Romney 35% of the vote in 2012 and has 31 electoral votes, would have 11 votes in the nomination.  Texas, which gave Romney 57% of the vote in 2012 and has 34 electoral votes, would have 19 votes for the nomination.  This is not awfully different in result from the delegate allocation now.  New York today has 61% of the delegates that Texas has under the convoluted allocation formula.  Under the proposed streamlined formula, New York would have 58% of the delegates that Texas has this year. 

It does make the formula very easy for everyone to understand, and – this could impact presidential elections in the future – it would give Republicans in states like New York and New Jersey a strong incentive to support the eventual presidential nominee, because that would directly affect the states' influence in choosing the next presidential nominee.

Seventh, simply abolish national conventions.  These are expensive, unnecessary, and distracting.  Formally allow the nominee to pick his running mate, and dispense with things like platforms, which no one reads or cares about anymore. 

Could the RNC "make" states adopt these changes?  Could Iowa and New Hampshire be compelled to give up their jumpstart?  No, but the allocation of delegate strength to these states could be reduced or even discounted completely, depending upon how far the state strayed from the basic plan.

People are upset with the nominating process in both parties this year.  The party that first reforms the choosing of the presidential nominee earliest will have a strong case as the party that listened to the voters in the 2020 presidential election.