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August 23rd, 2012

Proposed RNC Rule Change Would Wreak Havoc On Nominating System

By Craig Robinson

The boys over at Buzz Feed got my attention with a headline that reads, “Republicans Plot Assault On Iowa Caucuses.”  The article focuses on a proposed RNC rule change that will be debated in Tampa on Friday.  What the boys at Buzz Feed forgot to mention in their headline is that the rule change will effect more than the Iowa Caucuses and other caucus states if adopted.  In fact, at least 36 states would be substantially affected by the proposed rule change

The rule change being proposed by Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett reads as follows.

Proposed Change to Rule 15(c)7

Any process authorized or implemented by a state Republican Party for selecting delegates and alternate delegates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates shall use every means practicable to guarantee the right of active duty military personnel, and individuals unable to attend meetings due to injuries suffered in military service the opportunity to exercise their right to vote in that process.

A couple things to note:

1. The phrase, “shall use every means practicable” is not as forceful as a simple compulsory statement such as “must” or “shall.”  This means this rule would be up to much interpretation.  Who decides what is “practicable”?  What if there isn’t a “practicable” way to accomplish this?  This rule could be interpreted to have no teeth whatsoever, in which case, it is simply a political ploy to make caucus states look bad by voting against something that is perceived to be pro-military.

2. The proposed rule change has nothing to do with directly voting for a presidential candidate.  It only deals with military personnel being able to vote in delegate selection.  That means a caucus state like Iowa doesn’t have to make absentee ballots available in its presidential preference poll, only in the selection of delegates, which happens in most states after the primary or caucus.

Only six states and territories would be totally unaffected by the rule change.  Ten other states would have to make slight changes in how they select alternate delegates.  Thirty-six states would have to make major changes in how they elect delegates and alternate delegates.  Since the only way to comply with the new rule would be to put slates of delegates on a primary ballot, this also means it would cost states a substantial amount of money.  In essence, it would be an unfunded mandate from the Republican National Committee.

The Buzz Feed article makes it seem like Iowa is the main target of the rule change, but primary states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Oregon, and Washington would be impacted as much as Iowa.  If this is an “assault” on Iowa and other caucus states, it sure creates a lot of other casualties.

States that would not be largely impacted by the rule change include:

District of Columbia*
New Hampshire*
New Jersey
New York*
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
West Virginia

*State committee selects a portion or all the alternate delegates, which would not be allowed under the proposed rule change.

The following states would have to make wholesale changes in how they select delegates and alternate delegates:

New Mexico
North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota

Allowing active duty military personnel to participate in the presidential nominating process is a noble and worthwhile goal.  The problem is that this proposal doesn’t ensure that they can vote for their candidate of choice.  Instead, it focuses on allowing them to vote for delegates.

There are other ways to make sure that active duty military personnel can participate in the process.  In regards to delegate selection, states can and should take steps to ensure that the caucus or primary results are reflected in their delegate selection process.

There is simply no way to allow an absent individual the opportunity to vote on delegates in states that use a convention process.  Moving to an Ohio system where people must run campaigns to become delegates does nothing to make the system more accessible, accountable, and open.  Instead it would increase the cost of being a delegate to a point where only someone of means or high name ID could participate.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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