Oklahoma State Delegate Laws: The 1st Ballot Myth

  The state of Oklahoma has enacted laws to govern the conduct of national delegates to political conventions. Despite common belief, Oklahoma’s delegates are perpetually bound to the presidential campaign they were pledged to, at the OKGOP District of State Convention.

The “First Ballot” myth does not apply. But if “for any reason” that candidate is no longer a current contender, the delegate is free and able to cast a vote for any other current contender. If the delegate fails to follow this law, the state party leadership is free to discard that delegate’s cast ballot.

Oklahoma Statute

§26-20-104.  Certification of candidates – Allocation of delegates – Future primaries – Delegate voting.

 
A.  Upon the completion of the state canvass of the results of the Presidential Preferential Primary, the Secretary of the State Election Board shall certify to the state chairman of each political party which has candidates participating in the primary:
1.  the names of the party’s candidates and the votes each received, by congressional district as well as statewide; and
2.  the total of the votes cast in the political party, by congressional district as well as statewide.
 
B.  Each candidate shall be awarded delegates by congressional districts proportionately, by the ratio of votes they received to the total vote cast in said congressional district; provided however, no delegates shall be awarded to any candidate receiving less than fifteen percent (15%) of the vote, and such votes shall be allocated among the other candidates in proportion to their total vote.  If no candidate receives fifteen percent (15%) or more of the vote, then the candidate receiving the highest number of votes in that district shall be awarded all the delegates from that district.
 
C.  The candidate receiving the largest number of votes statewide shall be awarded all delegate votes authorized by the National Committee of the political party which are selected as the at-large delegates at the state convention of said party.
 
D.  Votes shall be allocated on a basis of not less than one-half (1/2) delegate vote or the minimum allowed by the national party rules.
 
E.  Each political party shall then select, by a method to be determined by the party, as many delegates to the national party convention as are allotted it by the national committee of that party.
 
F.  No later than 5:00 p.m. on the tenth day of January, 1988, and each year thereafter in which the President and Vice President of the United States are to be elected, the Attorney General shall submit to the Secretary of the State Election Board notice of the manner in which results of the next following Presidential Preferential Primary are to be certified and to whom said results are to be certified.  The State Election Board shall certify results according to the manner prescribed in the notice.  The Attorney General shall be required to provide said notice in such a way as to be consistent with the methods required by the recognized political parties relative to selection of delegates to their national conventions.
 
G.  Each delegate or alternate delegate to the national convention of his political party shall cast their vote on all ballots for the candidate who received this state’s vote. If that candidate is for any reason no longer a candidate, the votes of the Oklahoma delegation shall be cast for any candidate of their choice.  H.  If the political parties involved in the primary elections will not accept the minimum threshold or other provisions of this section, or have a different method of allocating the votes of all candidates falling below such threshold, either as to the congressional districts or statewide vote, then these matters may be governed by the respective political parties involved.
 
§26-20-105.  Delegates and alternates to file affidavits on voting.
No person selected as a delegate or alternate delegate shall qualify to attend the national convention of his political party unless he files with the state central committee of his party a signed affidavit of acceptance stating his name, address, that he is a registered voter of the political party and, pursuant to effectuating the purpose and the result of the Presidential Preferential Primary in this state, that he pledges himself to vote as provided for in Section 4 of this act.
Any vote cast by a delegate which is not in accordance with his delegate pledge shall be void.

OKGOP Chairman, Pam Pollard, was very clear on this point at the March 12th State Committee meeting.

Votes on other convention business.

A delegate is NOT required to vote according to the preferences of his assigned presidential candidate on any other convention business. this includes the report of the Rules Committee, Platform Committee, or Credentials Committee. So if Marco Rubio tries to get his name put into nomination and strives to change RNC Rule 40 (the 8 state minimum), those Oklahoma delegates assigned to Rubio do not have to vote in lock-step with Rubio on the Rules Report. And if a new rule is presented which would jeopardize the candidacy of Trump or Cruz; likewise, the Oklahoma delegation members are completely free agents on those decisions.
Is there a moral obligation? Perhaps some will argue that. But selecting a nominee is just one part of this quadrennial event. Delegates for Oklahoma have to do what’s best for Oklahoma, regardless which out-of-state candidate wants to see happen.

Problems in the state code
A careful study of the statute’s language will reveal that it was written with a “winner-take-all” presumption. It says;

 “Each delegate or alternate delegate to the national convention of his political party shall cast their vote on all ballots for the candidate who received this state’s vote.”.

That’s language used in a ‘unit rule’ system. The OKGOP clearly opposes unit rule in our conventions, except where a presidential candidate receives more than 50% of the primary vote. The statute language should be changed to reflect that;

Election returns are subject to election laws.

“Each delegate or alternate shall cast their vote on all  nominating ballots for the candidate their party assigned for them to vote, as determined by the outcome of the state presidential primary and the rules of the state party.”

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