On Delegates, Conventions and the Rules

delegatesThere is a storm brewing within the Republican Party of Iowa and over the selection of delegates to our District and State Conventions. This is nothing new, there was controversy in 2012 over District Delegates in Scott County (and others) and over National Delegates at our State Convention. In this particular case the center of the controversy is Polk County. Polk County has an unusual way of electing delegates to the District and State Convention.

As I understand it, in Polk County there is a  slate of At-Large Delegates (county party officers, elected officials, etc.) the remainder of the delegates are elected by (or from) their precincts. The controversial part is that the proposed slate of at large delegates included around 100 names. RPI Chairman AJ Spiker wrote ex-cathedra on this saying:

Conventions belong to the delegates. I am looking into allegations that campaigns may have instructed county parties to adopt specific rules that are designed to determine the election of district and state convention delegates. None of our candidates or duly elected delegates should have to fear disenfranchisement.
A.J. Spiker
Chairman, Republican Party of Iowa

With the possibility that the 3rd District Convention could nominate a US House candidate and that the State Convention could nominate a US Senate candidate (not to mention the fact that the State Convention will nominate a Lieutenant Governor candidate) the stakes could not be higher. The allegation is that campaigns are trying to game the system by encouraging counties to adopt rules and/or slates that are favorable to their candidate.

I see that Spiker is looking into these allegations. As a member of the Republican State Central Committee, I wonder what he is planning to do if he becomes convinced that these allegations are true. If there is substance to the allegations, I believe that these actions are both and unethical and improper — but, I do not believe they are illegal or violate any state law or RPI rules. By that I mean a campaign trying to influence a county party is not a violation of rule or law.

On the other hand, I think that the root of the problem is the way Polk (and other counties) elect delegates in the first place.

The Iowa Code (§43.97.3) defines one of the duties of the County Convention as to:

Elect delegates to the next ensuing regular state convention and to all district conventions of that year

Of course many will say, this is still an election, we just have a nominating committee.

According to Roberts Rules of Order, Newly Revised (11th Edition §46 pp.434-435) the report of the nomination committee is not something that is approved or amended. It is simply to place certain names into nomination. The section further states:

After the nominating committee has presented its report and before voting for the different offices takes place the chair must call for further nominations from the floor.

A nominating committee is certainly permissible but all it can do is nominate. Any nomination from the committee carries no more or less weight than a nomination from the floor.

I really do not mean to pick on Polk County here. They are not the only county whose practices fall outside of the rules. In fact these same comments apply to the way we have chosen at-large National Convention delegates in Iowa. I find it ironic that many of those who are claiming outrage over the situation in Polk County were supportive of or even complicit in the same kind of behavior that elected a national delegate slate at the 2012 State Convention.

There is plenty of blame to go around here. The Liberty Folk were only following a long tradition that my guys had established of using the nominating committee to let a small group of insiders control who got to attend the National Convention. I have written extensively on this topic before and I am not proud to say that I have been part of the cabal that selected delegates in the past. Shenanigans like this allow a small group of people to have inordinate influence over our party.

I am currently serving on a committee with SCC members Joel Kurtinitis, Kris Thiessen, and Mark Doland. The committee is chaired by National Comitteewoman Tamara Scott. We are charged with consideration of bylaw and constitutional changes to be submitted to the next SCC meeting and the state convention regarding the Caucus-to-Convention process.

I intend to propose an amendment clarifying how elections are to be run at every level in the Republican Party of Iowa. I would love to hear your input on this topic.

5 thoughts on “On Delegates, Conventions and the Rules

  1. David – I appreciate the fact that you not only gave your input but I appreciate the fact that you are asking for input and trying to do something about it.
    I think that many counties feel that they are under the microscope over something that was never well defined. After the caucus, I looked everywhere trying to find the Iowa Code in regards to delegate elections and I looked at RPI by-laws and the constitution and it was not very clear. I don’t think that the counties are trying to be devious or fulfill an agenda. They know that they have seats to fill that they are going to be charged for whether they have a full slate or not.
    I think a change to the by-laws should clarify how the delegates should be elected and it must be fair.

  2. David, sounds like this is an issue that needs to be addressed. The delegate election process needs to be standardized for all. Thanks!

  3. David – I believe you are correct in stating that both “sides” have used this flawed process to their advantage. I strongly support your proposition to have an amendment clarify exactly how the process should be run. It would help keep everyone honest.

  4. We hit that same wall working on the Rules committee for our county – RRO simply treats slates as a part of the total that may be nominated, and all nominated need to be properly voted on individually. There seems to be no way that to vote on delegates as a slate to the exclusion of other delegates who have also been nominated.

    I can see both sides. Many counties reward their elected officers, committee heads, and CC or committee members with automatic seats to District/State because they do the work and take the leadership mantle… and therefore should earn the spoils. So, they want to have a set portion of delegates automatically go to those people without contest.

    However, a combative faction wanting to oust the leadership like what we had in ’12 would obviously want all seats in play. Then again as we have learned, ousting the previous leadership didn’t lead to a better situation at all.

    That doesn’t leave for an easy solution. It might mean a split-the-middle option that allows a county to lock down a % of it’s delegates but leave the rest open to be voted individually on per RRO.

  5. Wonder if one of these times, the people who aren’t out for themselves will be heard. A lady I know from Polk County (btw, the reason I even know her is because we stand on the same side on so many issues.) went to her caucus and wasn’t able to even be considered to be a delegate because the people with the labeled name tags noticed she wasn’t wearing one. What’s funny is that group categorizes her with the “Liberty people” which she is not. As shown last time around, the “Liberty” people sometimes forget to represent the people and get caught up in their own interests. So, just curious in Iowa how we the people can build our representation to support what is decided upon by our local, district and state conventions. As a delegate myself, I will not be afraid to support what is decided even if it ends up being establishment or “liberty” people. But, we get a chance, too.

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