What If Delegates Simply Abstain From Voting for Trump?
The “Dump Trump” movement is not as dead as it seemed. After William Kristol promised a prestigious opposing candidate with a powerful organization, out sputtered the guy from down the hall—for a few days. Really? But with a never-give-up attitude, Kristol did everything he could to entice Mitt Romney to give it another try. No luck.
However, there are some new ideas out there. The debate has been whether elected and pledged delegates to the convention had to bow to the voters in their states, or whether they could “vote their conscience.” As reported here, Curly Haugland of North Dakota, a long time member of the RNC Standing Rules Committee, has argued all along that there is no such rule to force delegates to vote for the choice of their state’s voters. But who really wants to do such an undemocratic thing?
Now, there’s an amazingly obvious solution that doesn’t require going against the will of the people: Merely abstain on the first ballot. That’s the idea floated by supporters of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
The Rules Committee is not the only stop-Trump game in Cleveland.
Talk of efforts to dump Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention this month have focused on whether the key committee’s 112 members would support a measure to allow delegates to vote for whomever they want, instead of being bound to their state’s primary or caucus results.
If the Rules Committee passes that resolution, then the full convention would have to vote on the matter.
But while anti-Trump delegates based in Colorado and New Jersey spend their time on that path, another group of convention delegates based in Wisconsin is organizing to stop Trump on the floor of the convention — regardless of what happens to that Rules Committee resolution.
“I personally believe there are enough delegates who will abstain to keep Trump from getting the nomination on the first ballot, and I think that will open up a lot of options for the delegates,” said Dane Waters, an official with Delegates Unbound, a group formed this year. . .[The] group is reportedly well organized, even more so than the publicized efforts focused on the Rules Committee. If enough delegates abstain on the first ballot — or vote for another candidate — so that Trump does not get at least 1,237 votes out of the 2,472 delegates on the floor, the convention would have to hold a second round of voting.
It’s an interesting gambit. Just don’t vote. That way, it can’t be said you’re voting for—or against—anything or anyone. Trump forces are trying to bind the delegates to the primary outcome, but they don’t have enough people to pass it.
Randy Evans, an RNC member from Georgia, estimated that 890 delegates are “personally loyal” to Trump, another 680 oppose the presumptive Republican nominee and about 900 are undecided or undeclared, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Trump forces only have about a two-thirds of the number needed to force a binding vote. And that still couldn’t stop abstentions. Then, there’s the question of what do you do if delegates just don’t show up?
Running out of options to voice displeasure with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, some. . . simply won’t go. Among those who gave up their seats is Rhode Island delegate Dawson Hodgson, a former state senator and 2014 candidate for attorney general, who resigned as a delegate because he wants no part in nominating Trump. . .
In Ohio, Republican state Sen. Shannon Jones resigned from her convention spot, telling The Cincinnati Enquirer she didn’t want to participate in a process that would lead to Trump’s nomination. In Wisconsin, longtime Republican activist Michael Grebe, a close ally of Gov. Scott Walker and political mentor to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, also withdrew.
Trump needs 1237 votes to be nominated on the first ballot. Google reports that he has 1543. That means, they’d need to have a little over 300 Trump delegates either stay home or abstain. If that happens, there’d have to be a second ballot, and once we get beyond the first ballot, even Trump’s people admit that an increasing number of delegates will be unbound.
But that’s only one of the things Republicans will be fighting over this week and next, according to Politico.
The conscience clause: [Colorado’s Kendal] Unruh is proposing a change to the rules that would effectively free delegates to vote for any candidate for president. She and her allies argue that it’s actually a superfluous effort: the rules already permit delegates to vote freely. . .
Closed primaries: Republicans have long fended off nationwide attempts to shut out Democrats and independents from their primaries, deferring to each state to pick the process it prefers. . .
The primary calendar: Nevada’s days as an early state may be over. The caucus state has been hobbled by procedural errors and controversies for the past three presidential cycles, and goodwill among fellow early-state leaders in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina has run out. . .
The rule change to end rule changes: Oregon RNC Committeeman Solomon Yue has introduced language that would delay any rule changes from taking effect until the 2020 convention. This would set a new precedent to delay the impact of any significant rule changes and sap some of the urgency behind the committee’s decision-making. . .
Delegate selection: One issue certain to be revisited is the manner in which delegates are selected. In 2012, Rules Committee members fended off a proposal that would’ve allowed victorious primary candidates to choose their delegates, an attempt to ensure that the presumptive nominee isn’t blindsided by disloyal delegates at the convention. . .
The key issues:
Same-sex marriage: Since 2012, the Supreme Court has ruled that states can’t prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. Yet the GOP platform includes harsh language condemning such unions. . .
Trade: In 2012, the GOP pledged to pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Trump has made tearing it up a hallmark of his campaign. In fact, his protectionist sentiments have cut sharply against the GOP platform’s call for an expansion of free trade agreements. . .
Abortion: The GOP platform opposing abortion includes no exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. Trump, like Romney before him, came to his anti-abortion position later in life but continues to endorse those exceptions. . .
Mexico: The 2012 GOP platform salutes Mexico as an ally in combating drug trafficking and laments that the Mexican people “are bearing the brunt” of drug cartels. Trump has suggested the country encourages sending drugs into the United States and has treated America’s southern neighbor as an adversary more than a friend.
Dump Trump forces did have a minor victory Monday, when a federal judge struck down Virginia’s law requiring that delegates be bound.
A federal judge ruled in favor of a Republican delegate looking to free himself from Virginia laws that bound him to back a specific candidate at next week’s convention, a narrow victory for the “Never Trump” forces, yet one that has no direct bearing on party rules.
Judge Robert Payne in Virginia’s Eastern District Court ruled Monday afternoon that the state cannot punish GOP delegate Beau Correll if he votes for a different candidate on the convention floor. State and party laws had bound him on the first ballot to Donald Trump, who won the state’s March 1 primary.
Payne criticized the Virginia law binding delegates under threat of prosecution as a violation of Correll’s First Amendment right to free speech and association. . .
But while Correll and other Virginia delegates will be freed from punishments under state law, the ruling does not have an impact on Republican Party rules.
The party is effectively a private club, one that mandates its delegates must vote to reflect the primary results in each state. So nothing about the case specifically compels the party to change its rules.
Apparently, a government cannot “punish” a delegate for voting his or her conscience, but at the same time, the party has a right to make its own rules. That is, the party could “punish” you, but there is no legal risk. Therefore, the ruling probably makes little difference in the end.