In 2011 Florida legislators moved up the state’s Republican Presidential Primary date to January 31st. This created a domino effect in which Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – the only four states allowed to vote before March 6 under Republican National Committee rules – had to move up their primary and caucus dates as well. As a result the Republican presidential primary campaign began a month earlier than expected and several states were forced to change their candidate filing deadlines.
Although RNC rules stipulated that states could not hold their primary elections before March, the enforcement of those rules is somewhat vague in the actual rules document. Florida ultimately was stripped of half its 99 delegates and those who are allowed to attend this week are being forced to stay in a hotel far outside the Tampa area and don’t receive perks like VIP guest passes or prime seating at the convention speeches.
Last Friday, however, the Rules Committee voted to ensure even tougher penalties for 2016. If a state jumps to the front of the line in holding its primary, it will lose all but 12 of its delegates, 9 at-large delegates that are allocated depending on the primary vote, and the 3 state members of the Republican National Committee.
The thinking is if a candidate can only gain 9 delegates during a state’s primary election, then they may rethink spending millions of dollars campaigning and running TV ads in expensive media markets. Whether this actually works as an incentive… we won’t know until 2016.
The other change to the 2016 calendar is the deadline for when states can allocate their delegates proportionally vs. winner-take-all, based on a candidate’s performance on election night. This year, states that held their primaries prior to April 1, had to award their delegates on a proportional basis. This was intended to prevent a winner early on in the primary season by allowing more states, and move voters, to have an influence on which candidate collects the required number of delegates to receive the nomination.
But in 2016 states can hold winner-take-all contests as of March 1st… meaning the presumptive nominee could be determined much earlier than we saw this year.