Examining the Oregon Conventions Of June 23, Part 2 – Links In The Chain

Posted on July 17, 2012 by


[5440 note: once again, reposted from The Whitestick Papers. Part 1 can be found here.]

Links in the chain – Part 1

The Oregon Republican Party (ORP) is governed by a set of rules.  These deal with most aspects of how the party is organized, run and how it conducts business.  No surprise there; any organization has or will develop rules so everyone knows the right way to do things.

As is the case with civil and criminal law, ignorance of the rules is no excuse.  Just as you’re not going to get very far arguing with a cop that you didn’t know it was illegal to do something, not knowing the organization’s rules isn’t going to gain you much credibility with that organization.  And just like telling a cop you don’t think he has the authority to enforce the speed limit, telling the organization or its leadership it can’t enforce a rule isn’t going to get you very far.

One of the areas governed by these rules is the process of selecting Delegates to the Republican National Convention.   The Republican National Committee (RNC) and, specifically, the Committee on Credentials at the National Convention has final say on whether the rules in place have been followed and whether a delegation from any given state will be given credentials and allowed to participate.  You can think of the process as a short chain with specific links; if one or more of the links are missing or broken, the result is likely to be your delegation is not seated.

There’s a specific hierarchy to these rules; those higher trump those lower, but they are intended to work as a cohesive whole.  If a higher rule is silent on an issue, you go to the next lower level and see if it’s covered there.  If not, you keep going through increasingly finer sieves until you get to the last, which should catch everything that remains.

In the case of the National Convention, the hierarchy is pretty straight-forward.  Going from top to bottom:

  1. Republican National Committee Rules (RNC Rules)
  2. Oregon Republican Party Bylaws (ORP Bylaws)
  3. Oregon Republican Party Standing Rules (SR)
  4. Oregon Republican Party District Convention Rules (CR)
  5. Oregon Republican Party traditions and precedents
  6. Robert’s Rules of Order (Robert’s)

RNC Rules establish that the various states can field a delegation and gives limits on the number of Delegates and Alternates from each, which is why Oregon has 25 of each going to the 2012 National Convention.  In addition to these, there are three so-called “super-delegates”; the RNC members from Oregon, which are the state Party Chair, the National Committeeman and National Committeewoman.  They are silent, however, on the process to be used to select those Delegates and Alternates, so most of the applicable rules are found in the lower levels of the hierarchy.  Bear in mind that being seated, then, requires that the ORP follow its own Rules and Bylaws, so it’s there we’ll focus our attention.

ORP Bylaws Article XIV set the general parameters of the District Convention, particularly that the State Chairman convenes it at a time and place he designates (Section A).  The general outlines of the process are defined by the Convention Rules, adopted by the ORP State Central Committee before the Convention is held.

It should be pointed out that, from the language use and description of the process, that the District Convention is a single meeting taking place in multiple locations at the same time.  English doesn’t have a word or sentence structure that says “one in many places” so you’ll find both singular and plural uses of the word “convention” in both the Bylaws and the Convention Rules.  Generally speaking, it tends to be singular (Convention) when talking about the meeting as a whole and plural (conventions) when talking about the individual meetings taking place in each Congressional District.

Under the Convention Rules, a single agenda binds the individual conventions, worked out in advance by the Congressional District (CD) Chairs, the ORP Chairman and the party staff.  This, year, it was decided in advance that we needed to adjourn by 5:00pm.  There were two key reasons for this:

  1. Two of the District meetings had to be out of their venue by 5:00pm, and at least one other had a deadline of 6:00pm.
  2. Reports of delay tactics used in other states to manipulate the process there made us think they could happen here and a published deadline should limit any such effort by making it pointless.

Under Robert’s Rules of Order, a published adjournment time fixes that time under “Orders of the Day”.  Once that time is reached, the meeting is over.  Only a properly presented and adopted “Motion to Extend” can extend the meeting; everything else is literally “out of order” and, by definition, invalid.  Since the District Convention communicates election results between the Districts (CR 7.1), any District meeting adjourned without extension would prevent the other Districts from continuing.

There’s a precedent for this.  In 2008, CD1 had to be completely out of their venue no later than 5:00pm, so the agenda for the entire state was set to adjourn by 4:00pm.  CD1 successfully met the deadline, in part by making use of a precedent set by CD3 in 2004, and the other Districts adjourned shortly thereafter.  There was no Motion to Extend as the Convention was able to complete all business within the time constraints.

In 2012, only one District – CD2 – clearly followed the proper procedure for extending the meeting.  CD1 adjourned without a Motion to Extend, CD3 voted on the Motion but failed to get the 2/3 majority needed to extend.  CD4 apparently had a vote to extend take place about 4:00pm but Adjournment nullifies any motion made before it and there’s no evidence a properly moved and adopted Motion to Extend was made afterwards.  There’s also no evidence CD5 took the steps specified by Robert’s after the Adjournment.

As a result, the positions of At-Large Alternate and CD Alternate were not voted on by the entire Convention statewide, and even the vote in CD2 didn’t have the results from the other CD to correct their ballots.  These positions were therefore vacant, and needed to be filled by other means.

In 2004, disputes within Oregon’s National Convention Delegation caused the creation the next year of SR11, detailing some specifics of the conduct and construction of the delegation.  This was also an opportunity to codify some long-standing traditions regarding appointment of replacement Alternates when someone wasn’t able to attend for one reason or another.  With the Alternate positions vacant, it became the obligation of the ORP Executive Committee (per SR 11.3) to appoint those replacements.

There’s a precedent for this as well.  In 2008, CD4 didn’t field enough Delegate and Alternate candidates to fill all the positions available, so the Executive Committee met to appoint people to fill those vacancies.  In that case, there were only a few people interested in filling the one or two vacancies, so no vote was taken but, with so many positions vacant, they used a ballot process, very similar to that used during the District Convention, to elect those Alternates this year.  So, whether you want to call them “duly-appointed” or “duly-elected”, the Alternates were all selected according to published procedure.

RNC Rules establish that each state’s Delegation select a Chair plus two people (one man and one woman) for each of the four Committees of the National Convention.  They require that these positions be filled by Delegates only, but both they and the ORP Bylaws are silent on how to do so.  Prior to 2005, there was no fixed rule on whether Oregon’s Alternates could vote on these positions and, in fact, it changed from one election to the next.

In 1996, for example, multiple ballots failed to elect a Delegation Chair and the impasse probably would have continued if an Alternate moved (and the body approved) that the Alternates not vote.  Up to that point, they had.  In 2004, the Alternates didn’t vote, which was one of the internal disputes that year. The Central Committee adopted SR11 the next year, which specifies that both Alternates and Delegates vote on all matters before the Delegation and it’s been fixed at that ever since.

So, then, here’s the chain…

  • The election of At-Large Delegates and Alternates occurred in compliance with all applicable Rules and Bylaws.  Everyone seems to agree on this.
  • Under the provisions of Robert’s “Orders of the Day”, the Convention was adjourned.  There was a published agenda specifying 5:00pm as the approximate time of adjournment and all Districts did, in fact, adjourn at approximately 5:00pm.
  • Under CR 7.3, no further elections were possible, so the At-Large Alternate and CD Alternate positions were left vacant.
  • Under SR 11.3, the ORP Executive Committee appointed qualified candidates to the At-Large and CD Alternate positions.
  • Under SR 11, Oregon’s Delegation to the Republican National Convention elected its Chairman as well as its male and female representatives on the four Committees.

As you probably know, there are those who dispute every link in the chain starting with the Adjournment, and they’ll be allowed to present their case to the Committee on Credentials at the National Convention this August in Tampa, FL.  However, the above shows an unbroken chain of compliance with the applicable rules, and those who dispute it will have to submit an alternate and stronger chain in order to be credentialed.

Coming next, Links in the chain – Part 2, will take a look at that chain.