What is the future of the Republican nominating system?

The Republican Central Committee recently decided that it would not change the manner by which candidates gain access to the Republican primary ballot. The decision not to change the rules creates a possible showdown with Count My Vote. The group may seek to place an initiative on the ballot that gives candidates access to the primary ballot if they can gather enough signatures from voters. This procedure would allow candidates to gain access to the ballot even if they fail in the caucus-convention process.

It is difficult to predict the outcome of a ballot initiative so far in advance. Public opinion on ballot initiatives can be influenced by several factors. The intensity of the campaign and the kinds of arguments made to the public will matter.

The Key Research poll conducted at the end of January offers some clues about what the electorate might do. It contained the following question: “Would you favor or oppose making it possible for political candidates to participate in a primary by gathering voter signatures?”

One of the proposals being discussed would allow a candidate who did not prevail in the convention to gather a certain number of signatures and appear on the primary ballot. Fifty-eight percent of registered voters said they would “favor” or “strongly favor” such a proposal. When those answering “Don’t Know” are removed, the proportion of those favoring such a proposal increases to almost 67%.

Favor Access to the Primary Ballot through Signatures
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid Favor 290 58.0 66.8 66.8
Oppose 144 28.8 33.2 100.0
Total 434 86.8 100.0
Missing System 66 13.2
Total 500 100.0

Partisans differ in their assessment of the proposal. Republicans view the proposal less favorably than Democrats.

Favor Access to the Primary Ballot With Signatures
Dem. Ind. Rep. Other Total
Favor 58
Oppose 17
Total 75

If there is a ballot initiative, those who favor change start with an advantage. However, as Dr. David Magleby’s classic work on initiatives demonstrates, the “No” side can easily overcome these initial advantages.

Survey Methodology

Click here to download a topline report that includes the full survey questionnaire, frequencies for each question, and a detailed methodological report (including details about the sampling as well as response rates and cooperation rates).

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3 Responses to What is the future of the Republican nominating system?

  1. FairElectionsUtah says:

    If you are going to run as a democratic candidate, you have to comply with their rules. If you are going to run as a republican, you have to comply with their rules. If you want to run and not have those rules, you can run as an unaffiliated or independent, or run as a 3rd party candidate. This “Count My Vote initiative is an attempt to change the party rules by state law, bypassing the party and is even an attempt to change the law bypassing the legislature.

    It doesn’t mean things can’t be better, but this isn’t the way to do it.

    We already have a large percentage of contested races go to primary. If we have more primaries, we are apt to have more last minute attack pieces and more ethics problems. There will also be a need for more political donations raised for the more expensive races. We don’t need to provide more power to the lobbyists.

    Based on the party released sheets since 2000 for state wide races or congressional races, At a 60% threshold to avoid a primary, 47% of contested races went to primary. If at 2/3 threshold to avoid a primary, 67% of contested races went to primary and at 70% threshold to avoid a primary, 70% of the races went to primary. The last 2 numbers do not have to match, but they ended up doing so.

    They tracked 44 races of 45 races, 14 of which were not contested for the nominee. I realize it is only 6 or 7 contested races difference, but when you are looking at 30 contested races, a change of 6 is 20%.



    The proposal from the “Count My Vote / Buy My Vote” crowd wasn’t just to raise the threshold to avoid a primary. It was to also remove multi-round voting or IRV and send all candidates that hit the lower range to the primary if someone didn’t hit the higher range on the only vote. With that proposal, why raise the range at all?

    While his is proposing to gut the system, Mr. Webb has this to say:
    “The current caucus/convention nominating process has many excellent qualities that we wish to retain. The system allows candidates who lack fame, wealth, and incumbency to compete for a party’s nomination. We also appreciate the valuable grassroots nature of the process, with neighbors gathering to discuss political issues and candidates. ”

    We have a system that that does NOT favor the incumbent, wealthy or famous. This is a good thing. Lets keep it.

    • Adam Brown says:

      You say: “If you are going to run as a democratic candidate, you have to comply with their rules. If you are going to run as a republican, you have to comply with their rules.”

      You’ve written this same comment before. I don’t understand it, though. We’re not talking about running for party chair, precinct captain, or some other party office. We’re talking about having your name printed at taxpayer expense on a state-printed general election ballot.

      You say: “If we have more primaries, we are apt to have more last minute attack pieces and more ethics problems.” You’re suggesting that elections are inherently bad, so we should take actions to reduce how many elections are contested? I’m pretty sure I’m not straw manning you here, but forgive me if I misunderstood. Assuming I understood your point correctly, though, I think I’ll side with Madison here (Federalist 52) that frequent, contested elections are actually a healthy thing for representation.

      You say: “and is even an attempt to change the law bypassing the legislature.” That’s not a bad thing. Although the federal government is entirely representative, not direct, the Utah Constitution explicitly declares that the people of the state hold legislative authority. Article VI, Section 1, of the Utah Constitution: “The Legislative power of the State shall be vested in [the Legislature] and the people of the State of Utah [via direct democracy].”

  2. FairElectionsUtah says:

    Many of the propose changes will gut a the current system and then we will have a system that will protect the incumbent, wealthy and famous. According to your survey about 25% might want to choose that. The other 75% will choice Fair Elections.

    You didn’t mention to your 500 people that completed the survey that someone can already get signatures and be directly on the general election ballot, provided they file that way during the filing period. The only way someone currently can lose a party nomination and be voted on in the fall is by a write-in ballot. That worked in Alaska.

    Neither Gov. Walker or Sen. Bennett, both of who were not even in the top 2 at convention, chose that route. Sen. Bennett endorsed the delegate favorite, Tim Bridgewater, who had 57% of the convention on the final vote. Tim lost in the primary, even with the endorsement of the other large delegate vote getters, Bob Bennett and Cherilyn Eagar. The voters were so ticked at Tarp and ObamaCare, they didn’t care.

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