Open Letter Regarding Georgia Presidential Preference Primaries

Open letter regarding Georgia Presidential Preference Primaries by[1]

G. Jason Thompson

Emert | Thompson, LLLP

“This is the most important election of our lifetimes” is not just a cliché, but the truth. Indeed our country is in serious decline as our liberties are taken from us daily and our federal government continues to grow into what Hobbes called (in his book) a Leviathan.

Many people are fed-up and want to get involved for the first time in politics . They want a fundamental change in government, with less taxes, free markets, an end to crony capitalism, and less dependence on the state.  As the Presidential Preference Primary in Georgia approaches, and the whole process of political party conventions nears, those who want to go through this process ought to know there are not only rules within the political parties, but laws regarding Presidential Preference Primaries in Georgia.

The laws regarding Presidential Preference Primaries in Georgia can be found in Title 21of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.  What will be specifically addressed in this letter is what it means to be a delegate to the Republican Party National Convention and what a delegate’s duties are under Georgia law.

Since the primary date was moved to March 6th, and because of the new rules of the Republican National Committee, the Georgia Republican Party was forced to change its rules to allow proportional delegates to be elected at the Congressional Districts and State Convention (in lieu of winner-take-all) or be in jeopardy of losing half of its delegates.  This is where things can get confusing for someone new to politics and for even the seasoned party activist.

Once the Georgia Presidential Primary has ended, each Congressional District will vote for three delegates and three alternates. Depending on the vote count (See Georgia Republican Party Temporary Rule 7.3(B)(3))[2], certain Republican Presidential candidates will be allotted a certain number of delegates and alternate delegates. Therefore, those wishing to be a delegate or alternate must run for the specific candidate’s delegate or alternate position/slot according to the Presidential Primary votes for each particular Congressional District.  This will not only be done at the Congressional District level, but also at the state convention for the at-large-delegate positions/slots, which is calculated a little differently (See Georgia Republican Party Temporary Rule 7.3(B)(4)).[3] The main point is that one must run for delegate or alternate for a specific slot, which is predetermined upon the Georgia Presidential Preference Primary vote.

It is a possibility that the presidential candidate you vote for in the Georgia Presidential Preference Primary is not allotted any delegates or alternates within your Congressional District. This begs the question: What happens if the presidential candidate that one wants to ultimately be nominated by the Republican Party at the national convention is not one of those who won any delegates or alternates in one’s Congressional district and/or State Convention (assuming this candidate is still in the race and on the ballot) and one still wants to be a national delegate or alternate?

The following is by no means meant to dissuade anyone from participating in the process, on the contrary, but is merely to point out the requirements and duties of a national delegate under Georgia law.

Once one is elected as a national delegate for “Candidate X”, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-196, a qualification oath must be filed by such delegate: “Any person selected as a delegate or delegate alternate to such national convention shall file a qualification oath with the Secretary of State pledging support at the convention to the candidate of their political party or body for the office of President of the United States for whom they are selected to support. The oath shall state that the delegate or delegate alternate affirms to support such candidate until the candidate is either nominated by such convention or receives less than 35 percent of the votes for nomination by such convention during any balloting, or until the candidate releases the delegates from such pledge.  No delegate shall be required to vote for such candidate after two convention nominating ballots have been completed.”

There may also be “unpledged” delegates, however, who were slotted to support a certain candidate and that candidate withdraws from the race before the national convention. In this case, those unpledged delegates (or unpledged alternates who move up to be a delegate) may vote for those candidates still left in the race at the Republican National Convention. See O.C.G.A. § 21-2-197.

What does this mean for the national delegate who is slotted to vote for Candidate X but really would like to vote for Candidate Y? You must follow the law and vote for the candidate to which you are pledged, Candidate X.

In the case where a national delegate is pledged to support a candidate certain, one cannot vote for another candidate (ie “Candidate Y”) unless and until the elements of O.C.G.A § 21-2-196 (or O.C.G.A. § 21-2-197) are satisfied. Not following the law could not only mean your vote would probably not count (ie a “rogue” vote), but you may also be subject to criminal penalties under Georgia law. O.C.G.A. § 21-2-598: “Except as otherwise provided by law, any person who violates any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Even more, agreeing with someone to violate a section of the Georgia Election Law, may constitute conspiracy to commit election fraud, which may mean more severe criminal penalties: “A person commits the offense of conspiracy to commit election fraud when he or she conspires or agrees with another to commit a violation of this chapter. The crime shall be complete when the conspiracy or agreement is affected and an overt act in furtherance thereof has been committed, regardless of whether the violation of this chapter is consummated. A person convicted of the offense of conspiracy to commit election fraud involving a violation of this chapter which is a felony shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than one-half the maximum period of time for which he or she could have been sentenced if he or she had been convicted of the crime conspired to have been committed, by one-half the maximum fine to which he or she could have been subjected if he or she had been convicted of such crime, or both. A person convicted of the offense of conspiracy to commit election fraud involving a violation of this chapter which is a misdemeanor shall be punished as for a misdemeanor.” O.C.G.A. § 21-2-603.

Misdemeanors in Georgia are punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Hypothetically, if one were to put on a training seminar, conspiring with others to get their specific presidential candidate elected by filling a national-delegate slot of Presidential Candidate X, and having no intention to ever vote for Presidential Candidate X, not only could the trainee face criminal penalties, but the trainer could face a misdemeanor count for each person he/she conspires with or trains/solicits.

Again, pursuant to Georgia Republican Party Temporary Rule 7.3(B)(5), as well as O.C.G.A. § 21-2-196, all Delegates and Alternates are required to file a qualification oath with the Secretary of State of Georgia. An argument could also be made that violation of this oath is a “false swearing”, which is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment of not less than one, nor more than five years, or both.[4] However, it must be proven that the false oath/statement was knowingly or willingly made.

In conclusion, it is imperative that we take very seriously not only the rules of the Georgia Republican Party and the Republican National Committee, but Georgia Election law as well. The election of our delegates and alternates is extremely important, as they will ultimately determine the presidential nominee of the Republican Party. As I stated at the beginning of this correspondence, this is the most important election of our lifetime, and it is incumbent upon us to understand the impact of following the rule of law correctly.

[1] DISCLAIMER: This information is for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation and does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

[2] “In each Congressional District the three (3) Delegates and three (3) Alternates shall be allocated proportionally based on the following: (1) any candidate who receives the majority (50%+1) of the Congressional District’s Presidential Preference Primary votes shall be allocated all three (3) of the Congressional District delegates and alternates; (2) if no candidate receives the majority (50%+1) of the Congressional District’s Presidential Preference Primary vote, the candidate receiving the highest number of the Congressional District’s Presidential Primary votes shall be allocated two (2) delegates and two (2) alternates and the candidate receiving the second highest-number of the Congressional District’s Presidential Preference Primary votes shall be allocated one (1) delegate and one (1) alternate. GRP Temporary Rule 7.3(B)(3)

[3] “At large Delegates and Alternates shall be allocated by numerical slot to the candidate(s) receiving more than 20% of the vote based on his or her percentage of the Statewide Presidential Preference Primary vote. Any remaining Delegates and Alternates not allocated initially shall be apportioned sequentially and in order to candidate(s) receiving an initial allocation. For the purposes of this allocation, RNC Delegates (State Chairman, National Committee Woman and National Committee Man) shall be considered at large delegates and be allocated to the candidate receiving the largest percentage of the vote.” GRP Temporary Rule 7.3(B)(4)

[4] O.C.G.A. § 16-10-71

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  1. Pingback: Some primary, huh? | RedState

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