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Delegate Votes, Apples, Oranges, And Weighted Votes — UPDATED

By Greg L | 31 May 2008 | RPV | 14 Comments

A funny thing happened to me on the way to my seat at the Republican Convention today.  I saw a big sign for the 10th Congressional District, which is where I live, and Prince William County wasn’t seated there.  After a little searching, I found out that I would be seated, and considered a voter in the 11th Congressional District, which is the district that most of Prince William County falls within.  Apparently as a matter of convenience, while balloting today was by locality, votes were tabulated by Congressional District, which I understand is a somewhat unusual practice.  What I have to wonder, as purely an academic exercise, is whether the distortions this would inevitably cause had an impact on the outcome of the close election for the nomination for the United States Senate.

In a convention, delegate votes are weighted by geographic area so that a large turnout from one area doesn’t swamp the overall results out of proportion to the electorate that resides within that area.  Not only does this reward the party units that serve those areas for driving high turnout in their districts, but it helps keep in check any effort to have any particular area be over-represented in the results.  It’s a good idea to do this, and has been a standard practice for decades.

So I’d think that if it’s useful to report results and weight votes by Congressional District, it would make sense to have delegates actually register and vote within the Congressional District in which they reside.  Apples to apples, so to speak.

Instead, what happened is that delegates registered and voted by locality, and that total was aggregated into Congressional Districts which were then weighted.  For many high-population localities, their locality is split between Congressional Districts.  Such is the case with Prince William, which is split between the First, Tenth and Eleventh Congressional Districts.  Instead, all of Prince William was assigned to the 11th District.  Fairfax in its entirety was assigned to the 10th District.  Apples to Oranges.

I am lead to understand that this is pretty rare; so rare its never been done before.  At the last convention, delegates registered, voted, and were tabulated by locality.  I’ve got to wonder why, and with anything political I have to imagine someone had a vested interest in this procedure and stood to benefit by this.  No one makes changes like this without considering the political implications of that change, and no one pushes for the unusual without trying to obtain an advantage from it.  That’s politics.

I would suspect neither Jim Gilmore, nor Bob Marshall’s campaign had anything to do with this.  There was someone else more eggregiously seeking advantage today, and if there was any intent to effect an outcome here, that’s where I’d put my money.  This could also simply be an effort by some committee to obtain an efficiency without realizing that shifting votes around like this could help or hurt someone, but as I said there’s too much at stake for someone not to pick up on the benefits that could accrue here.  I don’t know why this decision was made, or whether anyone thought about what the impacts of this decision could be.  We just know something unusual happened, and that the difference is made was somewhere between terribly insignificant and absolutely conclusive.

If we had the results for the Senate nomination vote by locality, which I doubt we’ll ever see, and tabulate them by locality comparing that outcome to the official results, we’d be able to figure out pretty quickly whether there was an appreciable difference in the outcome.  I’m going to assume it would not have changed the outcome here, and even if it did there is no opportunity to have that outcome changed under Virginia law.  What parties do to select their nominees is largely outside of the purview of the courts, with only a few exceptions which I do not believe would apply here even in the worst case.  That makes this completely an academic exercise, so Republicans can understand for their future use what the impact of creating a disconnect like this can have.

I’d still rather have this academic exercise completed, so Virginia Republicans have more information with which to use when approving a convention’s rules.  We have to make these decisions fully understanding the impacts that these decisions have.  Leaving a few insiders with the only understanding of the impacts here is an invitation for abuse.

I kinda like apples to apples, you know what I mean?

UPDATE: Jim Young mentions that Robert’s Rules weren’t followed in regards to the withdrawal of Bob Berry, and speculates that this also may have changed the outcome in his post “Convention Observations — Rank Incompetence“.

UPDATE 2: NOVATownHall has much more in-depth reporting on how the election was conducted.  There may be some substantial concerns here about the process, but as I said above, there is virtually no opportunity to overturn the results no matter what happened.

UPDATE 3: After some digging, the actual process to calculate delegate votes uses a locality’s raw and weighted votes, and simply adds them up by Congressional District.  Since the raw votes and weighted votes are consistently calculated, there’s no risk of having the results skewed because they are aggregated and reported by Congressional District.  RPV might want to rethink this reporting method at some point to prevent confusion, even if it makes it easier to read out the results.

I’m glad to find out that there’s no cause for concern here.

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  1. James Young said on 31 May 2008 at 11:42 pm:
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    What, Greg? You can’t even give credit where credit is due? “A little searching”? Or my detailed explanation of standard practice?

  2. Dennis said on 1 Jun 2008 at 8:40 am:
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    Well, I drank the Kool-Aid too. I thought it was odd that delegates from Fairfax County were asked to sit and vote together instead of voting with their Congressional districts and the non-Fairfax delegates from the 9th, 10th, and 11th Congressional districts voted with their districts.

    Only in retrospect, does the impact of this shenanigan begin to make sense.

    By forcing Fairfax county delegates to vote together in the 11th district, the impact of their votes using the proportional voting scheme was significantly reduced.

    One could argue that the Gilmore-machine knew that Fairfax County was overwhelming in support of Marshall and reducing the impact of their vote gave an advantage to Gilmore.

    The elite had no way of knowing that the overall vote was going to be so close and would expose their scheme to assure Gilmore’s nomination.

    Could a fair vote have nominated Marshall as our Senate candidate?

    The Gilmore-machine needs to explain if this happened and why.

  3. Rick Hendrix said on 1 Jun 2008 at 9:03 am:
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    Whoever told you that we had never voted this way was wrong. Every state convention I have ever attended, since 1981, has reported this way. Votes aren’t weighted by congressional district, they are weighted by unit. So it doesn’t matter which district the units results get reported through, they would be the same.

  4. Dennis said on 1 Jun 2008 at 9:18 am:
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    RH - Where can one find the definition of “unit?”

    Where can one find a list of the “units” and their proportional vote allocation?

    Then, where can one find yesterday’s actual vote count by unit?

    As I recall, the votes were reported yesterday by Congressional District and not by “unit.”

  5. NLH said on 1 Jun 2008 at 10:45 am:
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    I too am a tad upset at this proceedure. Before we entered the convention hall there where several people with clipborads and a list asking for Fairfax County Delegates to come over. When we approched these people we were asked to show our registration cradentials whereupon we were checked off on the list and then asked, “who were we voting for Gilmore or Marshall and our response was also marked off on the list?”, then we were told to sit with the 11th district group. At the time I mentally thought , why would we sit with the 11th district group instead of our own 10th district group? But I didn’t verbally question this to the person with the clipboard. Now I feel used and manipulated by someone that wanted the results to be as controlled as possible because they new it was going to be close. I would press for the new RVP Chairman Mr. Frederick to question what happened and explain “all” of this to us (districts 10 & 11) so that the next convention we attend we will know if this is correct or if we are being manipulated to determine the outcome. This morining I feel manipulated to assure that Gilmore won.
    If this is normal proceedure at RVP conventions no wonder we can’t get anything changed or done!

  6. Becky Stoeckel said on 1 Jun 2008 at 12:23 pm:
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    A “unit” is a county or city committee.

    The unit committees are seated with the congressional district in which contains the majority of the unit.

    The weighted votes are calculated by Unit, not by congressional district, they are simply reported by congressional district as it is faster that way.

    There were no shenanigans or manipulation of the weighted vote apportionment and this is the way it has been done in the past. After redistricting in 2001, the majority of Pr. Wm. Co. shifting into the 11th instead of the 10th. The weighted votes have always been calculated based on the number of Republican votes in the last Gubernatorial & Presidential elections and that is how it was done this time as well.

    I cannot speak to the folks who were asking people how they intended to vote — that was not an RPV function that I am aware of, but most likely the floor staff of the candidates checking off their favorables as they arrived, which is not unusual.

    I would also like to note that I was very proud of the 11th District Delegation at the convention. Based on filings for the convention we constituted nearly 25% of the convention delegates (approx. 4,500 folks filed, with 1,168 of those in FFX & PWC) Due to oversights by RPV staffers, we were seriously short-changed on chairs and other supplies and had to adapt and overcome. Everyone was very patient and understanding, and all went smoothly and efficiently in the voting process thanks to FFX Chairman Jim Hyland and PWC Chairman Lyle Beefelt with the help of several terrific volunteers from both units.

  7. Dennis said on 1 Jun 2008 at 7:37 pm:
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    BS - that all sound appropriate. Thanks for the infomation. I just have a lack of trust these days… ’tis the season.

    To complete the explanation:

    Where can one find a list of the “units” and their proportional vote allocation?

    Then, where can one find yesterday’s actual vote count by unit?

  8. Eve said on 1 Jun 2008 at 9:14 pm:
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    BVBL–4 VA Beach voters who were on the delegation list (that their unit chair had with him) were not allowed to be credentialed because their names were not on RPV’s master list. Yet a state delegate from the 6th district whose name was omitted on RPVs list was credentialed to vote. I simply don’t understand the inconsistency. Wonder how often this happened.

  9. Becky Stoeckel said on 2 Jun 2008 at 5:44 am:
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    Dennis - Had I been running the show, I would’ve included that information in the Delegate packets that were mailed out in advance of the convention (as I did with the info for my own 11th district convention) because I understand that not everyone who attends is well versed in these matters, and because when people know what is going on and why, things run far smoother. A lack of understanding very often leads to confusion and mistrust.

    As for a list of the Unit committees in the state, it was - and still should be - up on RPV’s website. If you look under “who we are” it will list all the Unit Chairs along with the county or city unit.

    As for their proportional vote allocations, I know what they were in the 11th District: Fairfax County = 1,261; Pr. Wm. Co. = 408; and Fairfax City = 31; for a total in the 11th of 1,700. I can also provide you with a copy of the complete list for the entire state, if you will email me at my office at epi@cavtel.net.

    I don’t know if RPV will post the vote counts (raw and/or apportioned) on their website or not. Many people at the convention tracked them, but I believe they did it by congressional district and not by unit. I don’t remember the the 11th’s numbers exactly and don’t want to provide less than accurate figures here.

    Any time I can be of help, I am happy to do so. Please feel free to keep my email address for future inquiries.

  10. Dennis said on 2 Jun 2008 at 7:08 am:
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    BS - great follow-up. I sincerely appreciate your effort to educate this skeptic. I’ll contact you at you office.

  11. Bryanna said on 2 Jun 2008 at 4:40 pm:
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    Thanks for providing the actual number of delegates who participated from the 10th and 11th Districts. Seeing and being a part of the Delegation at the convention was extremely energizing.

    The Republican party is clearly alive and strong in Northern VA!

    With Jeff Frederick elected, now it’s time to focus on making Keith Fimian the next Republican Congressman for the 11th District!

  12. Bryanna said on 2 Jun 2008 at 4:53 pm:
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    correction…11th District.

    The 10th and 11th were seated together so it would be helpful to know how many Delegates combined represented the 10th and 11th.

  13. Becky Stoeckel said on 3 Jun 2008 at 4:50 am:
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    Bryanna - You’re welcome, but I should clarify that the numbers provided were the delegate votes and not the actual number of people who attended. In total numbers there were 1,168 FILED delegates. Those 1,168 voters were worth 1,700 delegate votes (a.k.a. weighted votes).

    As far as actual bodies present, in the 11th, we had 9 from Fairfax City, 413 from Fairfax Co & 312 from PWC at the time of balloting for Senate. There were 9, 350 & 229 respectively at the time of the Chairman’s ballot. I don’t have the breakdowns of how many of these people were from the 10th or 11th - probably need to get that from the Unit Chairs.

    If you want more info, shoot me an email or you can call me at my office later today (703-352-1337) and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have.

  14. James Young said on 5 Jun 2008 at 12:24 pm:
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    That’s interesting, Becky, particularly for PWC. My recollection is that the breakdown of votes was nearly identical on the two ballots, even though we lost nearly 75 voters between the two.

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