Thursday, July 19, 2012

This Is Where Your Nomination Went

Hard feelings are sure to follow last night's Republican special nominating convention in This Is Where Your District Went, House District 37. John Landon, who finished third in a six way primary with just 16.5%, won the nomination on a second ballot, 12 to 11 vote of party central committee members from the district.

This convention seems to break the Ron Paul dominated pattern of county, district and state conventions this year. Landon was described by one commenter as "the kind of Republican Matt Strawn likes," i.e. a party regular. The libertarian wing backed second place primary finisher Matt DeVries. First place finisher Jim Robidoux, who concentrated on winning the primary itself rather than stacking the central committee, and fell less than 20 votes short of an outsrght win, got just one convention vote on the first ballot and was thus eliminated.
Bleeding Heartland provides plenty of background on Landon,  who at the moment looks like a certain winner. It's a solid Republican, brand new district, created due to Ankeny's explosive growth last decade, and it's no wonder that six Republicans saw an opportunity here. A Democrat filed but dropped out in time to get his name off the ballot. Democrats could still have their own convention between now and August 17, or an independent (perhaps one of the other GOP candidates?) could file by the same date.

TheIowaRepublican's Craig Robinson has two pieces: a liveblog of the convention and a followup in which he decries the process:
It’s surprising to me how easily the convention delegates disregarded the primary vote.  I understand that this is the process when no candidate receives 35 percent of the vote, but completely ignoring the will of the people could have future consequences that are not good for Landon or the Republican Party.
Ironically, Robinson reports that he lives in the Ankeny-based district -- and voted for Landon in the June 5 primary.

Democrats have seen similar tense conventions. In 2002, Black Hawk County Democrats nominated the third place finisher in a four way inconclusive primary; he also happened to be the only non-African American in the race. After a few weeks of stress, the candidate resigned and a second special convention nominated the first place finisher.

Iowa's law requiring 35 percent for a primary win, with a convention if no one reaches that mark, is unusual. Most states have either a first past the post, simple plurality process. That has some down sides; crowded fields can produce winners with extremely slim shares. Others, predominantly in the South, require 50 percent and hold a runoff if no one reaches it. That incurs costs for a second election.

There's a way around this that puts the decision back on the voters and not us party insider types: instant runoff, ranked choice voting. Instead of just voting for one candidate, voters rank their choices, 1, 2, 3, however many. If no one has an outright majority of first place votes, second and third choices get re-allocated until someone gets a majority. Hey, the bass player from Nirvana likes it, so it's gotta be cool, right?

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