North Dakota's GOP primary is today. Sort of. Well... not really.

Did you know that there will be voting going on today for some delegates in the GOP nomination battle? You didn’t? Well, don’t feel bad, because not many people have been talking about it. North Dakota Republicans are having their state convention this weekend and today they will vote for the delegates to the national convention in Cleveland. But the event is attracting essentially zero media coverage and none of the candidates have been campaigning there. (Ted Cruz was planning a quick stop there before returning to Wisconsin, but that’s about it.)

This probably sounds strange to most of you considering the fact that the delegate race is still widely predicted to come down to the wire and North Dakota’s 28 delegates could wind up having a significant impact. But the fact is that there’s not much point in having the candidates spend time there because this particular dog and pony show isn’t going to produce a single bound delegate that any of them can count on. At the Washington Post, Dave Weigel has most of the details. Party leaders (not the rank and file voters) have been reviewing the qualifications of 105 people who signed up to be delegates and they will be picking 25 of them based on the following criteria:

40% History of work for the Republican Party
25% History of monetary contributions to the North Dakota Republican Party
10% History of federal or statewide candidacy
10% History of legislative candidacy
10% Never attended a national convention
5% Other meaningful criteria

In case you didn’t catch that, the “lucky” 25 will be determined via a beauty pageant of sorts, conducted by party officials and based on criteria which is weighted in the majority on having been a worker for the state party and donating money to them. (Yay, democracy!)

But even then, those 25 aren’t assured of anything. Attendees will have the choice of voting for either the 25 highlighted by the party elders or some names from the pack of also-rans. Out of this mess, 25 names will eventually be selected to attend the big convention along with the three most senior members of the state’s RNC leadership.

So who will the delegates be backing when they show up at the national convention? That’s anybody’s guess. According to the very short summary of the state rules, North Dakota’s GOP leadership decided last year that the will of the voters really shouldn’t be a consideration. (Emphasis added)

Friday 1 April – Sunday 3 April 2016: The North Dakota State Republican Convention convenes. The State Committee voted on 13 August 2015 to not have any type of Presidential caucus or straw poll.

In a Presidential election year, the Committee … will present a slate of delegates… to the State Republican Endorsing Convention from persons who applied to the committee from nomination.

Three party leaders, the National Committeeman, the National Committeewoman, and the chairman of the North Dakota’s Republican Party, will attend the convention by virtue of their position.

North Dakota’s delegates … shall caucus … to discuss voluntarily apportioning delegate representation on the first ballot … However, any such apportionment on the first ballot shall be strictly voluntary. The delegates remain free to vote their conscience on all balloting.

In other words, there will be all sorts of negotiations taking place away from the prying eyes of the public between the delegates and the campaigns. None of that has to be revealed to the voters. With all of this in mind, add North Dakota to the list of states – with Colorado and Pennsylvania at the top – where GOP voters need to stand up and demand some sort of open, democratic system in 2020 where the registered Republicans can have a voice in the presidential nominating process. They certainly don’t right now.

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