RNC Rules Comm. Member: Every Delegate At GOP Convention Not Bound On First Ballot

Kerry Picket Political Reporter
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*Updated with additional quotes 1:30 p.m. 3/14/16

A Republican National Committee Standing Rules Committee member told the membership Friday that convention delegates are not bound to cast their votes at the convention according to primary vote results in the first round of voting.

Curly Haugland of North Dakota, a long time member of the RNC Standing Rules Committee,  sent a letter to the RNC membership at large about this issue. He explained how he came to the conclusion that all Republican delegates who participate in the 2016 Republican National Convention are unbound on each ballot round, including the first.

As most of you know, I have been defending the right of the delegates to the Republican National Convention to vote according to their personal choice in all matters to come before the Republican National Convention, including the vote to nominate the Republican Candidate for President, for several years.

Here is something I recently discovered that most of us did not know, including me!
Binding delegates to the results of presidential preference primaries first appeared in the Rules of the Republican Party in 1976.

Without the use of force to bind the votes of delegates to the results of the primary process, primaries are nearly worthless “beauty contests”.

A Republican candidate must attain at least 1237 delegate votes in order to become the party’s presidential nominee. Donald Trump is the GOP front-runner who has won the most primary contests and has the most “pledged delegates” supporting him. Texas Sen. [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore] is currently trailing him by about 90 delegates since Saturday night.

Haugland told The Daily Caller he does not believe Trump will earn 1237 delegates before the convention this summer in Cleveland.

A past Convention Rules Committtee member, Haugland explained to his fellow RNC members that delegates have been bound only one time in the history of the Republican Party — in 1976, during the Gerald Ford campaign.

Ford’s camp, Haugland laid out, was concerned about losing “pledged” delegates to Ronald Reagan. Ford used his available strong delegate support to force the adoption of the “Justice Resolution.” This resolution amended convention rules to bind the delegates to cast their convention votes according to the results of binding primary contests.

“This historic event was the first convention in the history of the Republican Party where the delegates were denied the freedom to vote as they wished in the nomination vote for President,” Haugland said.

Additionally, he noted that the 1976 convention was the final time time delegates were bound by convention rules to cast their votes to match the results of binding primaries. However, the “1980 convention rescinded the ‘Justice Resolution’ entirely restoring the prohibition of binding,” Haugland wrote, concluding “every delegate at the 2016 GOP convention is a Super delegate.”

Super delegates at the GOP convention are afforded the privilege of choosing which candidate they can cast their ballot for in the first round of voting, unlike regular delegates from states with binding primaries who must adhere to their state contests’ results, until the second round of balloting.

Haugland noted that the RNC’s Counsel’s Office Tom Josefiak Tom Josefiak cited current Rule 38, also known as Unit Rule, to RNC Rules Committee members on January 19, 2006, during an orientation session for Rules Committee members :

“One of the important rules changes over the last 50 years has been the unit rule prohibited…that change was made so that an individual delegate can vote his or her conscience.”

Josefiak was a panelists with other convention rules experts that included RNC lawyer Ben Ginsberg, then RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, and Rules Committee member Morton Blackwell. David Norcross, chairman of the RNC Rules Committee, oversaw the meeting.

How did members react to Haugland’s claim? The North Dakota Republican told TheDC, “Not a single word challenging either the past history or the present facts, nor even a single negative comment,” he said.

Haugland sent quotes to The Daily Caller from RNC members who responded to him.

“You don’t think delegates are bound on the first ballot?”

“Fascinating! Can I publish your letter?

“1976 battle was my first taste of politics…Can I post on my blog?”

“Thank you, Curly. That is insightful.”

“This is very revealing. Watch the establishment attempt to handle this with the Convention Rules Committee.”

“Nice work, Curly”

“Very good.”

“Thanks, Curly. I just don’t know what to think about all this.”


Haugland said of the various reactions, “I guess I am not surprised about the lack of negative comments. As has been said by many before me, ‘Facts are stubborn things.’

“This is something Curly has held for a long time. This is nothing new in terms of his interpretation to the rule…frankly I’m intrigued because 2006 wasn’t an election year. Curly has been advocating this position for a long time, but it’s up to the delegates…Tom Josefiak was a lawyer in 2006. That wasn’t a convention ruling,” RNC Spokesman Sean Spicer told The Daily Caller.

He added, “As Curly points out the 1976 thing he speaks about was during a convention. So what the lawyer said in 2006 was not at the committee…what one lawyer says in a panel is a lot different than what delegates decide.  That doesn’t change any rule. That’s a decision that gets made by the delegates. The delegates would decide how that’s interpreted, ‘Oh we’re doing that again or were not.’ When they go to rewrite those rules, that’s something that they could discuss.”

Haugland responded to an accusation that his claim is wrong from a legal stand point and the RNC rules are not the relevant rules guiding the issue of binding delegates to their primary election result, but that different state statutes are the primary authority.

“The United States Supreme Court has held several times that political parties enjoy protection from both the First and Fourteenth Amendments as they pursue their political objectives. The Republican Party is free to choose whether or not they want to be governed by state laws,” Haugland argued in a written statement.

He writes, “The case in point is the 1976 Republican National Convention that voted to bind the delegates to cast their convention votes according to the results of binding primaries. (State laws)The 1980 Republican National Convention voted to rescind the 1976 action based on testimony, stated in part, “The Supreme Court has spoken to this…they stated that party rules are supreme over state law. (Transcript of 1980 Convention Rules Committee, Page 67)”

He adds, “The Rules of the Republican Party prohibiting the binding of delegates have not been changed since the 1980 convention.”

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