Each year on April Fools’ Day I intersperse some false but plausible news stories among the real ones on my Election Law Blog. Last year, I got a number of prominent election-law attorneys and activists to believe a false report that a federal court, relying on the Supreme Court’s controversial campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, held that the First Amendment protects the right to literally bribe candidates. This year, among false posts, was one in which I had Donald Trump declaring that he would not abide by the results of the Electoral College vote if he was the popular vote winner. The made-up story had him plotting with his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to seize power in the event of a popular vote/electoral vote conflict. Many people believed the post, and it even made aWashington Post list of debunked April Fools’ stories that people fell for. It’s not a surprise. Trump railed against what he perceived as the unfairness of the Electoral College when President Obama won re-election in 2012. And he has consistently whined about what he perceives as unfairness in the electoral process. Combine that with his inflammatory rhetoric, and the idea of a Trump coup is not so crazy.
An adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign on Wednesday clarified that the campaign will file a complaint with the Republican National Committee (RNC) over the selection of delegates in the Louisiana primary, not a lawsuit, as Trump suggested in a Sunday tweet. Trump’s lawsuit threat followed a report that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) could gain up to 10 unbound delegates from the Louisiana primary, five of which were previously committed to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) before he dropped out of the presidential race. Trump won the primary, but could end up with fewer delegates than Cruz. Delegates supporting Cruz have also secured five of Louisiana’s six slots on the rules committee for the Republican convention.
New Hampshire: How New Hampshire Used the Wrong Math and Gave One of Rubio’s Delegates to Trump | The New York Times
After the polls closed in New Hampshire on Feb. 9, the Republican primary had a clear winner: Donald J. Trump. It took nearly two weeks for the state to award its 23 delegates, and in the end it gave Mr. Trump 11, John Kasich four, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush three each and Marco Rubio two. But there’s a small problem: It looks as if New Hampshire gave Mr. Trump a delegate that actually belongs to Mr. Rubio. To understand how this works, it helps to know that there are no national rules in the Republican Party for awarding delegates. Each state makes up its own rules. In New Hampshire, the rules seem pretty straightforward. A candidate must get at least 10 percent of the vote to be eligible to win a delegate, a threshold cleared by both Mr. Trump (who earned 35.6 percent of the vote) and Mr. Rubio (who earned 10.6 percent). Then the candidates are awarded delegates in proportion to the total vote, with the statewide winner — in this case Mr. Trump — getting any delegates left unallocated.
The Republican National Committee has started preparing for a contested national convention, which would follow the primary season should no GOP candidate for president win enough delegates to secure the party’s nomination. While calling the need for such plans ultimately unlikely, several GOP leaders at the party’s winter meeting in South Carolina told The Associated Press on Wednesday that such preliminary planning is nonetheless actively underway. They stressed it had little to do with concerns about the candidacy of billionaire businessman Donald Trump, describing the early work instead as a necessary contingency given the deeply divided Republican field. With less than three weeks to go before the Feb. 1 leadoff Iowa caucuses, there are still a dozen major Republican candidates in the race. “Certainly, management of the committee has been working on the eventuality, because we’d be wrong not to,” said Bruce Ash, chairman of the RNC’s rules committee. “We don’t know, or we don’t think there’s going to be a contested convention, but if there is, obviously everybody needs to know what all those logistics are going to look like.”
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is lending his support to an initiative that would change the way Utah political parties choose their candidates. In an e-mail to former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R), Romney said he supports Count My Vote, an initiative that would require party nominees to be chosen in primaries rather than through a convention system. “I want to tell you that Ann and I are supporters. Since the election, I’ve been pushing hard for states to move to direct primaries,” Romney wrote in an e-mail first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune. “Caucus/convention systems exclude so many people: they rarely produce a result that reflects how rank-and-file Republicans feel. I think that’s true for Democrats, too.” Romney said the Count My Vote initiative could “count on us to help financially.”
No remedies have yet been put in place to heal the Iowa GOP’s black eye from the vote-count embarrassment that unfolded after the 2012 Iowa presidential caucuses. Two years ago today, Rick Santorum was announced as the official winner based on a certified vote, reversing Mitt Romney’s eight-vote win announced after 1 a.m. on caucus night. Both Republican and Democratic leaders say Iowa’s leadoff spot in presidential voting is assured for the 2016 cycle, but beyond then, its privileged position remains precarious. The 2012 GOP debacle escalated ever-present criticism, and other states constantly maneuver in an attempt to grab the leadoff voting prize. Iowa Republican Party officials say changes in caucus procedures will be made this spring. They’ve been carefully weighing options, working in concert with the national party, Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker said.
Utah Republicans pushing reforms in their state caucus and convention system are weighing their next move after the GOP rejected efforts that would force more candidates into primaries. Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt is among the prominent Republicans in the group Count My Vote, which wants to increase the number of votes required in a nominating convention before a candidate can forgo a primary. GOP delegates rejected proposals on Saturday to raise the current 60 percent threshold to either 66.6 percent or 70 percent.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio persuaded state lawmakers to make a last-minute change eliminating Florida’s early presidential primary – a race in which the Republican could be on the ballot. Rubio’s main concern was shared by lawmakers and operatives from both parties: Ensuring that Florida’s 2016 primary vote counts. The measure, barely discussed, was tucked in an election-reform bill that passed the Legislature by wide margins Friday. Right now, the Sunshine State’s early primary violates Democratic and Republican national party rules, which penalizes the state by severely devaluing the vote of its delegation to nominate each party’s presidential candidate.
In an unexpected political twist, a move to include overseas military personnel and wounded warriors in the presidential nominating process could threaten the caucuses in Iowa and other states. At both the Republican and Democratic national conventions over the summer, delegates proposed rules changes to enhance the ability of overseas service members and injured troops to participate in the caucuses. A Republican rules change asserting that states “shall use every means practical to guarantee” the participation of overseas and injured service members in the presidential nominating process was designed to enhance military voting. But in the case of Iowa and other caucus states, where voters must be present to participate, it also has the side effect of forcing changes in traditional procedures — and raising questions about the future viability of the caucuses themselves.
The Republican party is on the brink of dealing a major blow to Iowa’s traditional caucus system, with the process’ critics pointing to recent battles over military voting rights to make the case for ending traditional nominating contest. Chris Brown, Chairman of the Young Republican Federation of Alabama and a member of the Republican Convention’s Rules Committee, is expected introduce a measure tomorrow requiring states to use “every means practicable” to ensure that military voters can cast ballots in any process used in the Republican presidential nominating process, according to a person involved in the effort. The measure will be seconded by influential Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett, who has been a member of the RNC for more than two decades, the source said. Caucuses — by definition in-person voting systems — would not satisfy the proposed rule, requiring dramatic changes to the process in Iowa and other caucus states, if not their outright abandonment. “The Rule will simply guarantee the right of military voters and wounded warriors to vote in the process of selecting the delegates who will choose our party’s presidential nominee,” wrote former RNC Chairman and former VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in an email to members of the Rules Committee, which was obtained by BuzzFeed, asking that they end “the inexcusable practice of disenfranchising military voters in our party’s presidential delegate selection process.”
On November 6 or 7, two American men in suits will appear on television. Even with the sound off you will be able to tell, by the expression on their faces, which of them has been elected president and which has not. And, on an unspecified date between now and the end of the year, an unspecified number of Chinese men in dark matching suits will applaud themselves on to the stage of the Great Hall of the People. From the order in which they appear, experienced onlookers will be able to tell who is president, who is premier and who has which of the other jobs on the Politburo’s standing committee, China’s pre-eminent ruling body. My colleague Richard McGregor, in his enthralling book The Party , says the spectacle provides “something rare in modern China, a live and public moment of genuine political drama”.
Texas: Texas-style redistricting vexes voters, puts map boundaries in perpetual motion | The Washington Post
More than in any other state in the union, the redrawing of congressional district lines in Texas is a partisan blood feud that turns the once-a-decade event of redistricting into a protracted, almost continuous, political and legal battle, sometimes with dire consequences. Take the small example of Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the new 35th House District. Sylvia Romo, the tax collector in Bexar County, has had trouble convincing voters here that she really is in a primary contest against the nine-term Democratic incumbent, Rep. Lloyd Doggett. As far as many of these voters are concerned, Doggett is not their congressman — he’s the guy from Austin, 80 miles away. But the primary race here is, in fact, between the congressman from Austin and the tax collector from San Antonio. “This has been a weird election, the timing, the confusion,” said Romo, tracing her hands along the strange map of the new congressional district. “It is so weird the way this thing just kind of developed. What were they drinking?” But weirdness and confusion are the hallmarks of redistricting in Texas.
Utah: Hatch Forced Into Primary At Utah GOP Convention – 32 votes short | International Business Times
Veteran U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah will face a Republican primary fight after delegates to a party convention on Saturday denied him the nomination, forcing him into an election with a Tea Party-backed challenger who finished second. Hatch, 78, won the day over nine challengers, but narrowly fell short of reaching the 60 percent of the vote needed in a pairing against his number two challenger, Dan Liljenquist, to win the nomination outright and avoid the primary, Reuters reported. Heavily Republican Utah last elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate more than four decades ago, so the Republican nominee is usually considered the presumptive winner of the general election. The nominating convention held in Sandy, Utah, marked a test for the continuing strength of Tea Party activists, who played a decisive role nationally in the 2010 mid-term elections and helped unseat then-Republican Senator Bob Bennett of Utah. In a final delegate vote on Saturday, Hatch took 59.2 percent of the votes to 40.8 percent for Liljenquist, a former state senator with a Tea Party following. Hatch was only 32 delegates short of getting the required 60 percent vote that would have allowed him to avoid a primary contest. A total of 3,908 delegates participated. In the first round, eight challengers were eliminated.
Members of the Republican National Committee considered — and rejected — changes to their presidential nominating process for 2016 after a contest this year that some members say was too long and drawn out. At a meeting here of the R.N.C.’s rules committee, members debated whether to abandon the proportional voting that gave Mitt Romney’s rivals the ability to try and accumulate delegates even as they failed to win the nominating contests. Sue Everhart, a committee member from Georgia, proposed the change, citing concerns about the length of the competition. She suggested changes that would have allowed states to hold winner-take-all contests in 2016, potentially bringing the contest to a close more quickly.
The State Republican Party could have a lawsuit on their hands. Brian Jenkins, who is running against U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz, says he is upset about the possibility of electronic voting being used at the upcoming Republican state convention. Jenkins says the electronic method can be manipulated and he’s worried about the inability to check the votes after they are cast. “I actually think that if we can verify, there won’t be any skullduggery,there won’t be any kind of cheating if there is true verification,” Jenkins says. ” But if there is not verification the temptation to alter the outcome is almost irresistible.”
Election officials in West Virginia are scrambling to fix a major mistake on the Republican primary ballot that is affecting all 55 counties. Hancock County Clerk Eleanor Straight explained to NEWS9’s Kelly Camarote that the problem was revealed to county officials during a four-hour conference call with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office. “We always double check, but there’s always a margin for error,” said Straight. “It was previously stated there were 18 delegates to be chosen for the primary election. The actual total was 19.” The mistake was found by state Republican party leaders after Hancock County already printed and sent absentee ballots to military personnel serving outside the county. “We were allowed to put a sticker over the one little sentence that said 18,” said Straight. “And to make it 19.” Straight said the voting machines need to be reprogrammed as well.
Rick Santorum, trying to keep his presidential hopes alive despite increasingly long odds, is looking for the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass from Texas Republicans. A group of Texas party activists, led by Santorum supporters, are waging an uphill battle to change the rules of the May 29 primary so that whoever wins would get all 152 delegates up for grabs in the contest. The activists say they have enough support to force an emergency meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee, though major hurdles loom beyond that. The Republican National Committee would have to approve the last-ditch move to change the delegate selection process because of the late date of the request, officials say. An RNC official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Thursday that would be highly unlikely. Later, the RNC communications director, Sean Spicer, said there is “no basis” for a change and that Texas would “remain a proportional state,” according to a posting on Twitter from The Washington Post. The change might also require approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Rick Santorum, trying to keep his presidential hopes alive despite increasingly long odds, is looking for the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass from Texas Republicans. Santorum has noted in recent days that some Texas party activists are waging an uphill battle to change the rules of the May 29 primary so that whoever wins would get all 152 delegates up for grabs in the contest. The activists, led by Santorum supporters, say they have enough support to force an emergency meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee, though major hurdles loom beyond that. The Republican National Committee would have to approve the last-ditch move to change the delegate selection process because of the late date of the request, officials say. An RNC official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Thursday that would be highly unlikely. Later, the RNC communications director, Sean Spicer, said there is “no basis” for a change and that Texas would “remain a proportional state,” according to a posting on Twitter from The Washington Post. The change might also require approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Wisconsin: Political contributions flow into Wisconsin but less of it is going to presidential candidates | Appleton Post Crescent
Wisconsin’s charged political climate has sparked an unprecedented influx of cash in state politics, but presidential candidates have not reaped the benefits of that fundraising momentum. As the state’s April 3 primary nears, the latest data shows donations from Wisconsin residents in the 2012 presidential race have plunged more than 50 percent from levels four years ago. Through the end of February, Wisconsin donations per capita are the fourth-lowest among the 50 states. The comparisons are imperfect because many primary dates shifted — Wisconsin’s was in mid-February in 2008 — but there’s no denying Wisconsin is a dramatically different state than it was in 2008, said Arnold Shober, a political science professor at Lawrence University in Appleton. “One of the drawbacks of having so much state-level activity is that those races are sucking up … campaign donations here, and I think we’re starting to see some sense of political burnout here in Wisconsin with the increased level of political vitriol,” he said. “That level of animosity has really dampened some of the enthusiasm that often goes into politics, especially in big election years like this one will be.”
Texas should be playing a role in Republican politics this year as big as, well, Texas. The fast-growing state – the most populous by far in the Republican column – has four new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a big U.S. Senate race and more than a 10th of the delegates who will choose the party’s presidential nominee. But a racially tinged dispute over redrawing its congressional districts has delayed the Texas primary by almost three months, complicated the U.S. Senate and House contests and altered the race for the White House. A San Antonio court pushed Texas’ primary back to May 29 from March 6 after complaints that a new electoral map drawn by Republicans violated the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of blacks and Latinos. Three of Texas’ four new U.S. House seats were created in areas dominated by whites, even though Hispanics and blacks accounted for 90 percent of Texas’ population growth since 2000.
Mitt Romney’s vaunted organization nearly failed him in Illinois, where he only remained eligible for delegates on the ballot after a negotiated truce between his campaign and Rick Santorum’s people. The problems stem from the campaign relying on Illinois state Treasurer Dan Rutherford. He struggled to acquire enough signatures to qualify for Romney’s delegates and then had the statement of candidacy notarized out of state, which the Santorum campaign challenged despite having its own statement of candidacy notarized in Iowa. Had Santorum’s campaign been successful with its challenge to Romney, the error could have led to disqualifying Romney from winning any of the state’s delegates.
St. Charles County Republicans were working to salvage their role in the primary process a day after a frustrating caucus meltdown that many said could have been avoided. St. Charles County was to have been the biggest prize on what was the most important day for Missouri Republicans hoping to help select their party’s nominee for president. Instead, Saturday’s St. Charles County caucus was shut down when tension flared between members of the crowd and the local GOP activists who were running the meeting. The meeting adjourned without awarding delegates — leaving county Republicans with unwelcomed scrutiny, and an uncertain role in the nominating process. Most likely, the caucus will be rescheduled, but when and in what form is unclear. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, because I don’t think this has ever happened before,” said St. Charles County Council member Joe Brazil.
Crowds and chaos rattled Missouri’s GOP caucuses on Saturday, threatening to put further scrutiny on a process that was already a national anomaly.
In St. Charles County, which was to have been the biggest single prize of the day, the caucus was shut down before delegates were chosen after a boisterous crowd objected to how the meeting was being run, including an attempted ban on videotaping. Two supporters of presidential hopeful Ron Paul were arrested. At other caucuses, participants gathered outdoors as the appointed locations turned out to be too small to accommodate crowds or waited for hours as organizers worked through procedural questions.
With wild lead changes and candidates crashing spectacularly only to come back from the dead, nobody would call the GOP presidential race a smooth ride to the nomination. But it’s been almost as turbulent behind the scenes, where the actual process of coordinating and carrying out certain contests has hit snag after snag. Republicans around the country are struggling with an array of problems in states that use a caucus to determine their delegates this year, battling problems from low turnout to mysteriously missing votes. Caucuses, which require citizens to actively participate in a mini-convention with their neighbors in which supporters of each candidate make the case for their vote, are hailed by supporters as a way to energize the grassroots with a more involved approach than primaries. But they’re more time-consuming and complicated than simply dropping off a ballot, setting up more barriers to participation and creating more potential for things to go awry.
Pennsylvania: Not Penn. pals – Even if he wins his home state, Santorum could walk away without delegates | The Daily
As Rick Santorum desperately tries to make a dent in Mitt Romney’s formidable delegate lead, he faces an unlikely obstacle on the primary calendar: his home state of Pennsylvania. Yes, Santorum is currently favored — though hardly a lock — to win the popular vote in the state he represented in Congress for 16 years. But Pennsylvania’s non-binding primary rules for distributing delegates raise the prospect that Santorum, who has said he’ll win the vast majority of the state’s delegates, could actually come away from next month’s primary empty-handed at a time when he can ill-afford it. Which means the April 24 primary could represent yet another chance for Romney — who kicked off his Pennsylvania campaign this week by trotting out supportive Republican leaders — to finally deal Santorum a knockout blow.
Yesterday, Americans Elect was out with a press release that included the following claim (emphasis mine):
Americans Elect delegates, which now total more than 400,000 and counting, can draft and support a presidential candidate of their choice and nominate a presidential ticket that will appear on general election ballots nationwide this November.
Is this true? Does Americans Elect really have more than 400,000 identity-verified delegates? What evidence there is suggests that it possibly is not even close to that number. As I learned a couple of weeks ago, when I went to AmericansElect.org and completed the delegate verification process, becoming an Americans Elect delegate requires a bit of a commitment. It’s not as simple as just “signing up.”
If Mitt Romney proved anything last weekend with his victories in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands, it is that the Republican presidential nomination this year might not be won by high-profile triumphs in states such as Iowa and South Carolina, but rather by diligently and methodically amassing delegates in far-off contests. That makes Sunday’s primary in Puerto Rico more important than you might think. Twenty-three delegates will be up for grabs when voters in the island commonwealth head to the polls this weekend, nearly as many as there were in more publicized battles in Michigan – 30 – and Arizona – 29. It should come as no surprise, then, that Romney and rival Rick Santorum are set to campaign there only days before the primary. Newt Gingrich might soon follow.
Is the never-ending and ever-bitter 2012 Republican presidential race—which at this point seems to be alienating independent voters—Michael Steele’s revenge? In January 2011, Steele, the first African American chair of the Republican National Committee, was unceremoniously denied a second term by the party’s governing council, after a tumultuous two-year stint marked by the historic GOP takeover of the House but also multiple gaffes (Steele called Afghanistan “a war of Obama’s choosing”), blunders (spending $2000 in party funds at a West Hollywood bondage-themed nightclub), and charges of profound financial mismanagement. But during his rocky tenure at RNC HQ, Steele pushed for and won significant changes in the rules for the party’s presidential nomination process and shaped this year’s turbulent race. “I wanted a brokered convention,” Steele says. “That was one of my goals.”
Until this week, the last time Guam and Saipan were fought over was during World War II. However, as the GOP presidential primary season goes on and on and on and on, the caucuses held on Guam and Saipan, the main island of the Northern Mariana Islands, will loom surprisingly large. Because of the strange delegate math the GOP uses, these relatively unpopulated islands in the middle of Pacific Ocean will combine to send six more delegates to the Republican convention in Tampa as the crucial early state of New Hampshire. This normally would make for a quirky factoid, paired with the fact that Guam is apparently home to the world’s largest Kmart, or that Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, took off from the Northern Marianas. But the increasingly fraught nature of the Republican race means that their presidential caucuses tomorrow will actually matter.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney picked up nine more delegates Saturday, winning unanimous backing at the Guam GOP convention. Republicans on the tiny Pacific island decided to shun traditional paper ballots and all 215 eligible to vote at the convention backed Romney with a show of hands. Though Guam’s Republican National Convention delegates are technically uncommitted all nine had pledged to vote for the candidate chosen at the state convention, said Jerry Crisostomo, convention co-chair.