The Delegate Race: Arizona and Michigan, and "Brokered" vs. "Open" Conventions
Tuesday, February 28th marks the next phase in the GOP election process, with the primaries in Arizona and Michigan. It is becoming clear to many that the likelihood of an open convention is increasing. A "brokered" convention and an "open" convention are two very different things, and this has been miss-reported by the major media. Of note is that both of these states will pay a penalty of half of their Delegates due to the date of their elections. First, on to Arizona!
Arizona has 29 Delegates available after the penalty for holding their primary early. This is a closed primary. It is unclear as to the final method of compliance with RNC rules (a state holding a primary before April 1st is required to award Delegates proportionally) but as it stands, all 29 Delegates go to the popular vote winner, and are bound for the 1st ballot at the National Convention. Here is the official Arizona Republican Party Bylaws.
Michigan losses half of their Delegates due to the date of their primary. They will award 30 Delegates proportionally based on the following formula: 28 Delegates come from the 14 Congressional Districts (2 per District) and are awarded to whoever gets the most votes in that District. The remaining 2 Delegates are "State" Delegates and are awarded proportionally, with a threshold of 15% to be eligible (which means that the party is trying to skirt the proportional rule and be a winner take all state). All 30 Delegates are bound for the 1st ballot at the National Convention.
An issue that needs to be addressed is the growing concern there will be a "brokered" convention in Tampa. This is not possible - and is an attempt to create confusion and control the process of selecting the nominee. A "brokered" convention would be like this: during the 1st ballot (where each State is called on by the Chair) no candidate receives a majority. The candidates and other powerful party types then get together and make deals to come up with a nominee, and the candidate pledges his Delegates to someone else to achieve a majority. So, for example, Jon Huntsman received 2 Delegates in New Hampshire, and he could pledge those to Mitt Romney, giving Romney 2 more Delegates to get to a majority. Except, he can't. It no longer works that way. His 2 Delegates are now "unbound" and may vote their conscience.
From Michigan's rules on Delegates (via The Green Papers): Delegate binding: Delegates are bound to their Presidential preference from the start of the nominating process through the end of the first ballot at the Republican National Convention. Delegates may not amend their Preference unless released from that commitment.
Delegates become officially uncommitted if their Presidential candidate is either not allocated delegates or looses his/her delegates.
Presidential candidates may not be allocated National Convention delegates if they withdraw, suspend their campaign, endorse another Presidential candidate, or seek the nomination of another political party for any political office.
Most states have similar rules, but it is different for each one, so check your state or keep checking here. What this means is that after the first ballot, Michigan Delegates are officially and legally UNBOUND. Some states (Maine with 24 Delegates, for example) are unbound from the start.
Instead of a Brokered Convention which is no longer possible by GOP rules, if no candidate on the 1st ballot gets a majority we will have an OPEN convention. Each Delegate will then be legally able to vote their conscience, based on the rules from their states.
The Establishment fears an Open Convention more than anything, for it means the actual Delegates will chose instead of politicians, the media, or back room power brokers. The Convention can then nominate ANYONE, whether they have been a candidate or not up to that point, or they can unite behind one of the current candidates. It will certainly be an interesting convention!