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.