California poised to eliminate ‘winner takes all’ delegate system for 2024 primary election

by Summer Lane

Analysis by Summer Lane | Photo: Adobe Stock

The California GOP’s presidential primary process has come under intense scrutiny recently for an upcoming bylaw amendment that would eliminate the “winner takes all” model for presidential candidates who win the statewide primary election.

The CAGOP explained the leadup to the change in a statement shared directly on Twitter:

“Thanks to California Election Code section 1001, as determined by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and Governor, our primary moved up from June (where it was in 2020) to March 5, 2024. While that move put us early in the national primary calendar and on Super Tuesday, it also meant that to comply with the RNC’s Rules, we must change to a proportional model, which this bylaw amendment accomplishes.”

Previously, the winner of the primary on the statewide level would take all of California’s delegates – a whopping 169, which is more delegates than any other state in the Union.

However, California’s upcoming tweak to the primary system would instead award three delegates for every congressional district won by a primary candidate, the Los Angeles Times reported.

CAGOP’s full statement on the matter

This would be a significant change that could heavily impact GOP candidates like President Donald Trump, who would likely hold red conservative districts in the Central Valley but face a much tougher battle in districts in the Southern California and Central Coast areas of the state.

Trump ally Roger Stone remarked on Twitter of the impending rule change, “California has always been ‘Winner takes all’ state. Ronald Reagan swept the primaries there in both 1976 and 1980…”

The CAGOP stated that “if we didn’t make this switch,” the Golden State “would be in jeopardy of losing 50 percent of our delegates” due to non-compliance with the Republican National Committee’s rules for the 2024 election season.

In their statement, they cited RNC Rule 16, which apparently calls for the allocation of delegates on a “proportional basis” if the primary takes place before March 15 in the year of the national primary election.

Because the primary in California has been moved to March 5, RNC rules stipulate that the proportional delegation award model must be used, per the CAGOP’s explanation.

The CAGOP released their statement on the issue after investigative journalist Laura Loomer initially obtained documentation of alleged internal communications at the CAGOP that highlighted the leadership’s work toward amending the bylaw related to the process of awarding delegates to presidential candidate victors in the state.

Dhillon explains why the proportional delegate method will be implemented in 2024

Loomer wrote on Twitter, “The CAGOP is trying to amend the ‘winner take all’ standard for the CA delegation process (which has been in place for years) so that they can award delegates to the GOP candidate who comes in second place as a way to counter delegate wins for President Trump in New Hampshire and Iowa since California has the most delegates out of any state in the country.”

However, RNC National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon addressed the buzz surrounding the rule change this week, writing:

“Personally, I preferred the winner take all system used for our last real convention in 2016, but RNC rules compel a different rule for earlier primaries…As there is a looming, RNC deadline to pass qualifying rules, we are making a change whose final wording remains to be determined by our Rules Committee and by vote of our Executive Committee, later this month.”

She noted that Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom (Calif.) “changed the primary date, not the CAGOP.” She continued, “Also, there is no plan for California Republicans to endorse in the presidential primary, and I would vigorously oppose such a plan. Republican voters must decide.”

Regardless of the controversy that has erupted surrounding the delegate reward system, such a change will be a stark departure from years past, when Republican candidates like Reagan and Trump could win all 169 delegates ahead of the nationwide primary in a clean sweep.

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