Are Delegates Bound or Unbound?
The issue commanding the most attention as delegates head to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention is whether delegates will be “bound” to vote for a particular candidate to become the Republican Presidential nominee. Adding fuel to the fire, a federal judge ruled on July 11 that Virginia’s law requiring delegates to vote based on the results of the state primary is unconstitutional. While this particular decision only involves one state, it certainly has raised eyebrows. The case was brought by a Ted Cruz supporter who doesn’t want to vote for Donald Trump as a delegate at the national convention. This ruling is likely to do one of two things: first, decision makers on the Rules Committee could adopt a rule that makes it absolutely clear that delegates are free to vote their own conscience. Alternatively, they could leave in place the current rule that requires delegates to vote according to the results in their state's primary.
In Idaho, this isn’t a significant concern because of our state party rule, which binds delegates to the outcome of the Idaho Republican Primary. The 20 Cruz delegates are required to vote for Ted Cruz; the 12 Trump delegates are required to vote for Donald Trump. That's what the state party rule requires. Additionally, each campaign is entitled to name 80% of the delegates that they have earned, while working with the state party to select the other 20%. Idaho has a very defined process and our marching orders are clear. That's why we don't have much controversy. There’s really no mystery about how the delegates are going to vote, regardless of being “bound” or “unbound” under the Rules of the Republican National Convention.
Closed Primaries and RNC Rules
There are numerous other issues coming out of the Committee on Rules & Order of Business that are being presented on the Convention floor in Cleveland this week. This includes proposed amendments to provide incentives for states to provide for "closed" primaries, where only registered Republicans are allowed to choose the Republican candidate for President. Other proposals focus on decentralizing power within the Republican National Committee, to devolve power from Washington, D.C. to the state parties.
The Drive for Party Unity
The big question is whether and to what degree the Republican nominee will be able to unify the Party as we head to the general election in November. All eyes are on the presumptive nominee to see what he has in store, and how he plans to work with members of the Republican Party to defeat Hillary Clinton. One thing is for sure: there is a lot of exciting debate here in Cleveland!
Norm Semanko is a current member of the RNC Committee on Rules & Order of Business, former General Counsel for the Republican National Committee and a former Chairman of the Idaho Republican Party. More of his commentary will be available on the Red State Solutions blog throughout the 2016 GOP Convention. Read online at: redstatessolutions.com.