Team Member: Matthew Walje
Delegates Unbound wrote -
Delegates are not bound to vote for any particular candidate based on primary and caucus results, state party rules, or even state law. Delegates have the authority and power to choose the values that define them by voting their conscience.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether delegates to the July 18-21, 2016 Republican Party National Convention are bound to vote for a specific candidate. A new book, Unbound: The Conscience of a Republican Delegate identifies the historical and legal basis for the authority of the delegates attending the convention. The book makes a strong case that delegates are not bound to vote for any particular candidate based on primary and caucus results, state party rules, or even state law. The book documents the nearly 240 instances at past conventions in which delegates have invoked their right to vote their conscience.
The key points:
The language adopted at the 1880 convention, specifically to ensure delegates could not be bound by the unit rule, instructions from the state party, or other methods of binding, have been part of the convention rules for 136 years and remain part of the temporary rules heading into Cleveland as Rule 37(b). There is no language supporting binding in the temporary rules of the convention, which are the only rules that matter.
The Republican Party has rejected state laws purporting to bind delegates to primary or caucus outcomes from the beginning, starting with the 1912 convention when the Illinois and Oregon delegations voted contrary to the primary results and in defiance of their state laws.
On the single occasion in which the Republican National Convention recognized binding, 1976, it required a rule change to the original 1880 language, and that rule change was promptly removed in 1980 reverting back to the original language.
Simply stated, barring any rules changes at the convention, delegates can vote their conscience on the first ballot.
"A strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means." - Thomas Jefferson