Posted by: Ann Corcoran | March 30, 2012

How delegates to the Republican National Convention are chosen in Maryland

If you are like me, you opened your sample ballot a week or so ago and wondered just how this delegate thing works here in Maryland.  First, I called friend Bob and got some good information and then contacted Heather Olsen and asked her to write something for Potomac Tea Party Report so that you all would know before you vote on April 3rd.

Heather is the Second Vice Chair, Republican Central Committee for Prince George’s County and was an Alternate Delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention.

In light of some recent controversies in other states, and questions she had received from Maryland primary voters unfamiliar with the process, Ann asked me to write a guest column explaining how the delegate selection process works in Maryland.

Maryland’s delegation will consist of 37 delegates and 34 alternate delegates, including 24 delegates and 24 alternate delegates (three from each of our eight congressional districts) elected in the primary election on April 3; ten delegates and ten alternate delegates elected by the Republican State Central Committee at the state party convention in Solomans Island on April 28; and our three Republican National Committee members. Both delegates and alternates attend the convention in Tampa, but only delegates can vote. If a delegate must drop out for any reason, an alternate takes their place and can vote.

To vote in the April 3 Republican primary in Maryland, you must be a registered Republican. When you receive your primary ballot, in addition to having the opportunity to vote for your preferred candidate for President, US Senate, and the US House of Representatives, you will have the opportunity to vote for three delegates and three alternate delegates to represent your congressional district at the Republican National Convention.

In order to appear on the ballot, candidates for delegate or alternate delegate had to file with the Board of Elections by last January. Each presidential campaign then had the opportunity to designate up to three delegates and three alternate delegates who were supporting that campaign. The presidential candidate’s name will appear on the ballot in parenthesis next to the delegate or alternate delegate they have designated.

If a candidate for delegate or alternate does not have a presidential candidate’s name next to their name, they have not been designated. This could be because they chose not to endorse a presidential candidate; it could be because the presidential candidate they were endorsing dropped out before the ballot was finalized; or it could be because the campaign they were supporting picked others to designate.

If your preferred presidential candidate has fewer than three delegates and three alternates designated in your congressional district, that candidate was probably unable to recruit the needed delegates or alternates by the filing deadline. I was involved in recruiting delegates and alternates for my preferred candidate in 2008.

It was not easy because that candidate was way down in the polls at the time of the filing deadline. It took lots and lots of phone calls, but we did have a full slate. Most people will vote for the delegates and alternates designated by their preferred presidential candidate, but you are under no obligation to do so.

Delegates and alternates are bound to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in their congressional district on the first ballot or until released, whichever comes first. At every convention since 1948, our nominee has been elected on the first ballot, but if we were to ever have a convention where the nominee is not known in advance, your delegates would be free to vote as they think best on the second ballot. In that case, who you chose as delegate could really matter!*

At the April 28th state party convention in Solomans Island, the Republican State Central Committee (composed of the members of the county committees from each of Maryland’s counties) will elect ten at-large delegates and ten at-large alternate delegates. These are bound to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in the primary statewide on the first ballot or until released, which ever comes first. In order to run at large, you must be nominated by three central committee members from three different counties. Nominating petitions are due at state party headquarters on April 13. Often, delegates elected at-large are elected officials who preferred not to endorse in the primary or supporters of candidates not elected in the primary, chosen in order to foster party unity.

Finally, our three RNC members: State Party Chairman Alex Mooney, National Committeeman Louis Pope, and National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes are delegates by virtue of being RNC members. These three are bound to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in the primary election statewide on the first ballot or until released.

Once all the delegates and alternates have been elected, there will be a meeting in May or June at which the delegates will elect a delegation chair, and then will elect one male delegate and one female delegate to serve on the platform committee, one man and one woman to serve on the rules committee, one each on credentials, and one each on permanent organization. Delegates who are elected to these roles need to arrive at the convention a few days early for committee meetings. The committees tend to be where the real decisions get made, as it is generally considered to be bad form to make amendments to the platform or rules from the floors, with the press watching.

Thanks so much Heather!  And, now readers you know if you want in on this process in 4 years, you need to get on the ballot early!

*My friend Bob emphasized that given the volatility this election cycle, it’s very important to vote for people who you know represent your views regarding policy since they may be chosen to help set the party platform.  And, it’s always possible that this year could make the history books and the convention go to a second ballot.  In that case you want to vote for people whose judgment you can trust.


Responses

  1. So does anybody have a guide to the delegates on the ballot? Like whether they’re conservative or not? Has the Tea Party endorsed anybody?

    • Judy, I will ask around. I’m guessing its more a matter of either choosing those who are pledged to vote for a certain candidate, or you would have to know the people… I haven’t heard anything about the Tea Party making recommendations.

  2. Thanks! … been voting for more than 40 years and never knew.

  3. I don’t think the TEA Party would be making recommendations for this case, unless they were encouraging those voting to select unaffiliated aspirants. In our case it doesn’t matter who you’re representing if the “first-ballot” rules apply – for example, all three Romney picks from my 1st District could get in but if Santorum won here (a decent possibility) they would have to vote for Rick – so that could be something to address before the 2016 campaign at a party level. (And I bet they would vote for Romney anyway.)

    It’s especially true because Rick didn’t fill out his lineup card in every district, so you could have Rick-Rick-Mitt delegates as your top three.

    I suspect that rule falls into the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” category so I think it needs to be worked on.

  4. Thank you for this post, and thank you Heather. Though I will admit that I am just about as confused now as I was before. If a person, for example, wanted to vote for Santorum, which delegates should that person choose? Certainly not those dedicated to one of the other candidates. Choosing 3 of the undesignated delegates would seem to me to be a crap shoot, since they display no allegiance to anyone. I love the American political system, make it so damned complicated that no one can figure it out.

  5. Greg: suggest you contact the campaign, they may be able to advise you. In CD4, I know Holly Henderson, who filed as a Perry alternate, is now supporting Santorum. I believe the same may be true of Don Murphy, who filed as a Perry delegate in 7.

    Michael:my understanding from John McCullough is that Bob Ostrum (now former party general counsel) made a “that’s that way we’ve always done it” argument for ramming it through the Ex Comm last fall, because the deadline for submitting a plan was pending.

    All: information is power. Never forget that. If you know what the rules and deadlines are, and your opponent doesn’t, that gives you an advantage.

    • Thks Ann!

  6. @Heather: I seem to recall that now. We had to do it right then; never mind it could have been brought up at any EC meeting before that point. Of course, November was conveniently after Romney had gotten the endorsement of several party officials and had his 25% in the polls.

  7. Thank you for this post, but like others I was just as confused as I was before. However, I just came across a web site that should give some insight.

    http://www.evoter.com/md/alternate-delegates-to-the-republican-national-convention,-district-6-office/

    I just found this but I am going to back to it and also put in the delegates since I put in Sylvia Darrow’s name and it came up. Good luck – I have been searching for something to help for 3 hrs.

  8. Sorry. The evoter site was not helpful.Only person with a profile to read was
    Thomas M. Tippet. Most were listed but no info

  9. This is a great post, but I am still very confused.. Based on this paragraph:

    “Delegates and alternates are bound to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in their congressional district on the first ballot or until released, whichever comes first. At every convention since 1948, our nominee has been elected on the first ballot, but if we were to ever have a convention where the nominee is not known in advance, your delegates would be free to vote as they think best on the second ballot. In that case, who you chose as delegate could really matter!*”

    If I voted for Santorum for President, but the Ron Paul delegates (Let’s presume that EVERYONE in my district did the same, just to make this question easy) does that mean that the Ron Paul delegates would go, but be bound to Santorum for the first vote in Florida, but then could vote for Ron Paul after that first vote?

    Since Santorum is out of the race now, does that change anything? (Or is that the reason why they “suspend” a campaign, rather than dropping out?)

    Is there a chart somewhere that shows what delegates are being sent from Maryland, and who they represented? Also, is there a chart that shows what candidate won each of the 8 districts?

    Thanks!

    • Steve, I’ll see if I can get you answers—I sure didn’t know much about the process myself until our guest columnist explained some of it!

  10. Steve,
    First, Romney won every congressional district in MD, and won statwide, so all MD delegates are pledged to vote for Romney in the first ballot. If, hypotheticaly, as you suggest, a Ron Paul delegate was elected, but Santorum carried your congressional district, the key question would be whether Santorum had released his delegates. If Santorum released his delegates, the individual delegate would be free to vote however they chose on the first ballot. If not released, they would have to vote for Santorum. In practice, once a candidate has enough delegates to get the nimination, the other candidates usually release their delegates, allowing them to vote for the nominee.

  11. Will alternates to the National GOP Convention be allowed to be on the convention floor with the delegates?

  12. Dale, the official seats for the alternates are in the lowest balcony, rather than on the floor. The view is actually usually better for the alternates.The usual practice in Maryland is for delegates and alternates to “trade” credentials now and then, so that alternates get time on the floor (and delegates get time with the better view). Also, if delegates are wandering around, some alternates can be brought down to fill the empty seats. As an alternate in 2008, I was on the floor about half the time, maybe even a little more than half.


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