Michigan primary: Not proportional

I have generally been keeping away from the circus that is the US Republican Party’s presidential nominating process, 2012.

However, this one is right up the F&V alley.

Michigan is not allocating its delegates proportionally, notwithstanding what various news accounts I have heard and read say.

According to Frontloading HQ, the most reliable source on such matters, Michigan would have had 59 delegates, had it not violated rules on the scheduling of state contests. Those 59 would have been allocated thus:

    42 congressional district delegates (3 in each of the 14 congressional districts in the Great Lakes state): allocated winner-take-all based on the congressional district vote.

    14 at-large delegates: allocated proportionally to candidates surpassing 15% of the statewide vote.

    3 automatic delegates: free to choose whomever.

Due to the national party penalty, the state expects to have only 30:

    28 congressional district delegates (2 per each of the 14 districts): allocated winner-take-all based on the vote in the congressional district.

    2 at-large delegates: allocated winner-take-all.

    0 automatic delegates: Penalized states lose their automatic delegates.

Notwithstanding the 14 (23.7% of the total) statewide delegates that would have been allocated sort-of proportionally ((“Sort of”, because there is nothing proportional about a 15% threshold.)), neither plan could be called a “proportional” allocation.

The contest looks like it is going to be very close between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. If it were really proportional, the two leading candidates might be expected to emerge with about equal numbers of delegates. However, given that it is in fact a system in which the winner of each congressional district will take 2 delegates (and the runner up none), the allocation will come down to the regional distribution of candidates’ support. One of them could get nearly all the delegates, if the regional distribution is relatively even. Or the split could be nearly equal. Or the one with the second highest vote share could even emerge with substantially more delegates than the statewide plurality winner.

A disproportional result is increased in probability by the malapportionment inherent in using plurality allocation in congressional districts. The districts are apportioned based on overall population, yet they would be highly unequal in Republican voters–a quirk that is contained in the primary rules of many states.

The candidate who is stronger among Republicans who live in districts with more Democrats will be advantaged. It is not clear to me which candidate that might be.

8 thoughts on “Michigan primary: Not proportional

  1. I just heard a Michigan Republican official say to the talking head panel on MSNBC that “as you know”, Michigan’s delegates are awarded proportionally.

    Nobody challenged this statement, because of course, they all “know” this.

  2. There is nothing in this entire process that can considered fair or proportional. I really don’t understand why this process has to be so overcomplicated. The obvious method would be to allocate delegates statewide by list PR, with maybe a 10% threshold. Of course, something has to be done about the schedule, but that is a whole nother can of worms.

  3. “I really don’t understand why this process has to be so overcomplicated.”

    The process has to be overcomplicated so it can be gamed.

  4. Pingback: Are the GOP Delegate Allocation Rules Actually Proportional?

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