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Legal Council for the RNC Jennifer Sheehan's letter to Nancy Lord (Utah committeewoman) regarding unit rule

Does anybody know where I can find the ORIGINAL letter that this excerpt is taken from?

Jennifer Sheehan, Legal Council for the RNC, wrote a letter to Nancy Lord, Utah National Committee-Woman, asserting:

“The RNC does not recognize a state’s binding of national delegates, but considers each delegate a free agent who can vote for whoever they choose, and the national convention allows delegates to vote for the individual of their choice, regardless of whether the person’s name is officially placed into nomination or not.”

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here is the letter


The sentence "The RNC does not recognize a state’s binding of national delegates, but considers each delegate a free agent who can vote for whoever they choose" is not included in the letter. Those sentiments are not expressed in the letter. Somehow it was erroneously added to the blog post that people were referencing and attributed to Jennifer Sheehan. People should stop using that quote to prove anything, since it is fictitious.

It is very clear from the correspondence that Rule 38 was not intended in any way to prohibit states from binding delegates to specific candidates. That is part of the message being sent by the RNC and that message was received and accepted by Nancy Lord.

The other key part of the question sent by Nancy Lord is this:

"1. Do the RNC Rules require a state's delegation to follow its state laws or state party rules in the matter of binding of their national delegates to vote for a particular candidate? (I believe the answer is no; the RNC Rules are silent on this issue. My understanding is that any “legal" or “moral” obligation of the delegates, under either state law or state party rules, is simply that -- a state party matter. The RNC will not get involved in any such issue unless it deems that there is a violation of Rule 38 - an attempt to invoke the "Unit Rule" - during the time of the national convention.)"

The RNC counsel replied saying that Nancy Lord was correct in her interpretation.

What this means is that states are allowed to bind delegates but the RNC isn't going to be the one that enforces the binding. That is up to each state. The RNC will only get involved if a state is imposing a unit rule on all the delegates (in other words, if they are trying to force delegates to all vote for a specific candidate but not all are bound to that candidate) or breaking one of their other rules.

The context of the letter is key. In Utah in 2008 (which is the source for this letter), Romney won the primary and all delegates were bound to him. But he dropped out shortly thereafter and released his delegates. The Utah RNC then tried to force all the delegates to vote for McCain, but that would have been a violation of the unit rule, and the RNC is telling them in this letter that this is not allowed. Their delegates were allowed to vote for anyone they wanted, including John McCain, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Mickey Mouse. BUT, that doesn't mean that they weren't allowed to be bound in the first place. If Romney had stayed in the race, the delegates in the state would have been bound to vote for him. It was fully within the rights of the Utah GOP to require the delegates to do so. But if the delegates went against those requests and the Utah GOP didn't do anything about it, the RNC wasn't going to step in and force them to.

It really comes down to individual state rules. In some places (Georgia and Massachusetts, for example) it is state law to vote for the person to whom you are bound, and that's fine according to the RNC. In Texas, delegate votes on the first ballot are automatic, based on the proportional distribution from the popular vote, and only uncommitted delegates in that state get to actually vote on the first ballot - and the RNC is fine with that. In Oregon, if anyone votes contrary to their binding on the first ballot, their state party rules allow the chairman to ignore that incorrect vote and cast it for the candidate to whom the delegate is bound - and again, the RNC accepts that. In some states, they probably don't care at all who the delegates vote for or have any rules about abstaining, and the RNC accepts that as well. As long as states are following the basic apportionment rules set out by the RNC, they are in control of their own delegations.