What in the world is going on with Colorado and the Republican Convention?

It looks like the Republican National Convention is going to be contested—what does this mean for the presidential nomination and how are some states responding with their delegates?

Photo by 2016 Presidential Election Polls.

If you have been paying attention, you know that this has been quite the election season.  The Democrats have seen Hillary Clinton get knocked around by a self-proclaimed democratic-socialist while battling an FBI investigation into possible violations of national security law.  Compared to the Republicans, however, that seems like a walk in the park. Donald Trump, the definition of the “say anything to get attention” candidate has done just that.  From mocking Senator John McCain over his POW status, droves of Republicans have dropped out, and now mass confusion from the Trump camp about how the whole getting elected thing works.

To understand exactly what is going on and why a contested convention is so confusing, it is important to appreciate how much variance each state adds to the process, and how much power the national party itself has to change the rules as they please.

The primary process in Colorado is like no other state . . .

Last week, the Colorado GOP held their primary, and Ted Cruz won it all.  The primary process in Colorado is like no other state, and while Cruz’s win was totally legitimate, Donald Trump does not seem to agree.  In August of 2015, the Colorado State GOP decided to not allow Colorado Republicans to vote in a traditional voting booth, like many other states do.  Instead, Colorado uses a caucus system, and has been doing so since 2004.

This came in reaction to the Republican National Party amending their rules and requiring a state’s delegates to go to the candidate who wins that poll. This essentially told Colorado and other states that they could not hold faux polls that meant nothing in relation to how their delegates vote at the national convention.  With the rule change, Colorado GOP party leaders amended their own rules because it gave their state’s delegates the flexibility to support anyone they wanted to at the national convention as they had been doing, instead of having to follow the desires of the voters if that candidate seemed unlikely to beat the Democratic Party’s nominee.

 The Republican National Convention will be held July 18 through July 21 in Cleveland, Ohio.  

The Colorado primary is a small example of how confusing the election season can become.  As Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution makes clear, states have the power to control the election process, as long as their rules do not clash with Congressional regulation.  This makes understanding what happens at national conventions even more complicated, as their rules are often more complex.

The Republican National Convention will be held July 18 through July 21 in Cleveland, Ohio.  In order to become the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States, a candidate much reach a total of 1,237 delegates.  If this does not happen, the nominee will be decided at the contested convention.  A convention is “contested” if a candidate is unknown prior to the convention starting.  A contested convention is becoming more and more likely given the recent faltering of Donald Trump and the emergence of Ted Cruz.

So, what exactly happens if the Republicans have a contested convention?  The hard part about answering this question is that the rules can be changed before the convention, leaving onlookers in doubt.  Not to mention that no convention since the modern convention system came into place has ever progressed past the second round.

As the rules currently provide, around 95 percent of the delegates attending the convention are “unbound,” and must vote for the person their state selected.  This is the opposite situation of how the Colorado GOP decided to let their delegates vote.  The delegates will then start voting to elect a nominee.  The first round will most likely come up with a split decision, as 95 percent of the delegates must vote according to their state results, which has them at a contested convention in the first place.  To make things more complicated, states have their own rules about when their delegates can jump ship from their citizen’s preferences and vote as they please.

As Phillip Bump from the Washington Post notes, delegates from California become unbound if their candidate drops below the 10 percent threshold.  During the next rounds of voting, before a candidate reaches the coveted 50 percent mark, more and more delegates become unbound, according to Josh Voorhees of Slate.  If a nominee is not selected after the first round of voting, only 25 percent of the delegates will remain bounded, making the nomination process wide open.  This is where things can get messy, or maybe interesting, depending on your level of tolerance for unhinged politics.  Rounds of voting will continue until a candidate is able to secure 1,237 of the GOP’s 2,472 delegates.

At the end of the day, a contested Republican National Convention should be a lot of fun to watch, no matter which side of the isle you are on.

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About Alex Rector, Staff Writer (6 Articles)
Alex Rector is 2016 graduate and served as a Staff Writer for the Campbell Law Observer for the 2015-2016 academic year. He went to Campbell University and majored in Economics with a concentration in Pre-Law. Alex is originally from Hickory, North Carolina, and between undergrad and law school he worked at the Civitas Institute and the North Carolina General Assembly as the Clerk for the House Finance Committee.
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