A Republican Primary Primer


As we head towards Presidential Primary Day in Rhode Island, Anchor Rising/Ocean State Current would like to do its part to reduce the number of surprises that people might experience during the Republican primary and corresponding delegate selection process.

1. On April 26, Republican voters will be voting in not one, not two, but three separate elections. Not only will voters select a Presidential candidate, but they will also choose the state’s delegates to the national convention in two separate elections. Each Republican primary voter will have the opportunity to mark their ballot for…

  • One Presidential candidate,
  • Up to 3 Congressional-district delegates, and
  • Up to 10 statewide delegates.

The total number of delegates chosen in the RI Republican primary will be 16, 10 statewide plus 6 in total from the two Congressional districts. In addition, Rhode Island has, as does every state, 3 “automatic” delegates; the state party chair, the national committeeman and the national committeewoman, for a total of 19 delegates.

But the important thing to remember is to vote in all 3 elections.

2. With respect to the allocation of delegates, the most important number to watch for on primary night will be 10%. According to the state party rules for Congressional delegate allocation (rule 3.02, to be specific), if 3 or more candidates receive at least 10% of the vote in a Congressional district, then the top-three vote-getters in that district are awarded one delegate each (that is, unless the top candidate gets 67% or more of the vote, thereby receiving 2 delegates, but this outcome is unlikely).

For allocation of statewide delegates, once clearing the 10% threshold, a candidate receives a number of delegates in rough proportion to his vote total, as a percentage of the number of votes that went to qualifying candidates (I call it a rough proportion, because some round-off is necessary to convert continuously-valued vote percentages into whole people).

In concrete terms, this means that if John Kasich and/or Ted Cruz get more than 10% of the vote in both Congressional districts (which implies more than 10% statewide) they would receive at least 3 delegates.

3. Finally, Rhode Island’s GOP primary voters should keep in mind that they are not limited to voting only for the delegates who support the Presidential candidate they mark on their ballots; voters are free to choose any of the delegates running statewide and in their Congressional district. In other words, a Donald Trump voter does not have to use all 10 of his or her statewide delegate votes on Donald Trump delegates.

Remember, if no one has a majority of delegates heading into the convention, all delegates become free-agents after the first ballot is cast, and each delegate will be making his or her own choice about who to vote for. So, when casting their delegate votes…

Trump voters might want to think about which Kasich or Cruz delegates would be most likely to come their way, if Kasich or Cruz drops out, and use a few of their 10 statewide votes on them, and…

Cruz voters might want to think about which Trump or Kasich delegates would be most likely to come their way, if Trump or Kasich drops out, and use a few of their 10 statewide votes on them, and…

Kasich voters might want to think about which Cruz or Trump delegates would be most likely to come their way, if Cruz or Trump drops out, and use a few of their 10 statewide votes on them, and, finally…

…all Republican primary voters might want to think about which potential delegates across all of the camps would best represent the Rhode Island Republican Party, if put into the position of making an individual decision at a brokered convention.

  • 13citizen13

    Are the delegates marked as Trump, Kasich, or Cruz?

  • ArtNorwalk

    If there is more than one ballot, when & how are RI delegates released to vote their preferences?

    • OceanStateCurrent

      After the first vote, they’re released. My understanding of the rules is that the vote for the candidates means they can have delegates, and then the top vote-getting delegates from their lists get to go. I’m not 100% sure what happens if the candidates get more votes than they have delegates. Trump only has 1 delegate running in each congressional district, so if he wins two or three, I’m not sure what happens. It looks to me like the rules would lead to his simply losing that second or third delegate.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        Ann Coulter has an interesting column today. She claims to have demanded of several Republican committees to “Show me the rule”. She claims very, very, limited success.

        looking at the sample ballot linked above, I am not sure how Trump can get more than one delegate per district. There will be some confusion in the booth.

        • Two quick points:

          1. Given the facts on the ground, the only probable scenario where Trump gets more than 1 Congressional delegate per district is if Ted Cruz gets less than 10% in either district; I’m not really sure what the odds of that are.

          2. Even if Trump does need more than 2 Congressional delegates, GOP Chairman Brandon Bell pointed out to me that the last part of Rule 5 provides for the appointment of additional delegates by a candidate’s screening committee, if a candidate wins more delegates than he has named on the ballot.