In July, the individuals elected as delegates to their party’s conventions will show up in Cleveland and Philadelphia to select the nominees of their party. As noted in Part One, each party has temporary rules: the Republican rules contained in the “Rules of the Republican Party” and the Democratic Rules contained in the “Call for the Convention.” These temporary rules do include several committees that will meet before the convention to work on some of the details of the convention, including a rules committee for drafting the permanent rules.
The rules for both parties have some similarities. There are two big differences, however. The first involves the composition of the convention committees. The second involves the process for voting on a nominee.
As noted above, the convention process begins with the meeting of the convention committees. On the Democratic side, each state has a number of slots on each committee and those slots are allocated to supporters of the candidates proportionately to each candidate’s support in that state (with the candidates having the right of approval over the committee members allocated to that candidate). However, about 14% of the membership of the committees will be party leaders chosen by the DNC.
On the Republican side, however, Rule 41 establishes that each state delegations shall elect two members (one male and one female) to each committee. There is no requirement that the committee members reflect the support for the candidates in that delegation or giving the candidates any role in the selection of the committee members.
Once the convention begins, the initial stages of the two conventions are roughly similar. A temporary chair calls the convention to order. The committee reports are then considered in the following order: 1) credentials; 2) rules; and 3) platform. Under the current Democratic rules, the permanent chair (and other officers of the convention) are elected after the adoption of the report of the rules committee. Under the current Republican rules, the report of the committee on the permanent organization of the convention (which includes the proposed officers of the convention) may be considered at any time after the credential report. Both current sets of rules have a provision allowing for the suspension of the rules.
The big differences between the two parties under the current rules come into play when the convention begins the process of nominating the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
On the Democratic side, a candidate may file request to have his or her name formally placed in nomination. by 6:00 p.m. on the day before the roll call. Such a request must include a pledge of support of at least 300 delegates (with no more than 50 from any single state). Any candidate who meets this threshold gets twenty minutes total for nominating and seconding speeches. The Democratic rules count as valid any vote for a presidential candidate (as defined elsewhere in the Call) — even though a delegate is suppose to “in good faith” represent the wishes of the voters that the delegate represents). A presidential candidate is anybody who has won delegates to the convention whom the DNC chair believes has substantial support and is a Democrat. The rules reflect that there could be individuals whom qualify as presidential candidates but do not have enough support for a nomination speech. Similar rules apply to the vice-presidential nomination (other than a deadline of 9:00 a.m. on the date of the roll call for submitting the request for formal nomination).
On the Republican side, the rule for placing a candidates name into nomination is Rule 40. The current rule (adopted in 2012) requires that a candidate have the written support of the majority of delegates in eight separate delegations. In theory, Rule 16 (which is not part of the rules of the convention) direct the Secretary to disregard any written pledge of support from a delegate who is pledged to a different candidate (e.g., a Trump delegate signing a pledge of support for Kasich). The necessary documents are due one hour before the start of the nomination process. If a candidate meets the requirements of Rule 40, that candidate gets fifteen minutes for nominating and seconding speeches. After formal nominations, the chair calls the roll of the delegations. Again according to Rule 16, the secretary is to disregard any vote that is contrary to the binding pledges of the delegates and to record the vote as if cast in accordance with the delegate pledges. Rule 40 is ambiguous about delegates pledged to candidates who do not meet the requirements of Rule 40 (other than not requiring the chair to announce the votes cast for those candidates). The rules for the vice-presidential nomination are the same except that the chair need not call the roll if only one person qualifies as a candidate for vice-president.
It should be noted that the Republicans have frequently changed the required demonstration of support. Before 2012, a candidate only needed a plurality of five delegations to have his name placed formally in nomination. Additionally, as noted before, Rule 40 does not expressly address whether delegates can vote for somebody who has not formally been placed into nomination. Further, while Rule 16 requires the convention to recognize state binding rules, Rule 16 is not part of the rules of the convention. As noted in Part Two, the delegate selection rules do not assure the selection of delegates who are loyal to their pledges. Finally, as discussed above, the rules do allow for the suspension of the rules. If the convention is deadlocked, there is always the possibility of a recess and the re-opening of the submission of potential candidates.
As many observers of the primary process have noted, the rules for each nomination cycle typically reflects attempts to “fix” what went wrong in the previous cycle. The Republicans have shown a historical tendency to modify the rules for the current convention to reduce potential conflicts at the convention caused by the results of the current cycle. In this cycle, the Republicans may have to change the rules to avoid boxing themselves in by the indeterminate results of the current cycle. The next and final post of this series will attempt to speculate on what changes might emerge from the rules committee.