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Why Delegates Wanted a Roll Call Vote on the Rules

Chaos on convention floor as request for a roll call vote was denied

Virginia delegate Ken Cuccinelli calls for a roll call vote on the rules package. ( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Virginia delegate Ken Cuccinelli calls for a roll call vote on the rules package. ( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A coalition of delegates at the Republican National Convention attempted but failed Monday to force a roll call vote on the rules package for the convention in effort to show distaste for both Trump and the party’s rules.   


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The move was less about trying to defeat the rules package — which binds delegates to specific candidates based on their state party rules, among other provisions — than it was to show the strength of the anti-Trump coalition.   

“I don’t think that they believed that there was any chance to derail Trump at this point,” said Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University
  who is attending the convention in Cleveland. “There were a lot of people who just wanted the opportunity to give voice to their conscious … publicly declare this is not who I want as the face as my party.”


Special Coverage: 2016 Republican National Convention



“They may have done better to let people have their say,” Wilson added. “Trump would’ve won the vote overwhelming.”  

Instead, the delegates shouted from the floor calling for a vote. When a voice vote was called, their “nays” sounded equally as loud as the “yeas,” but Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., who was presiding over the floor at the time, called the outcome for the “yeas.”  

Womack denied the request for a roll call vote, saying that three of the nine states which submitted signatures from delegates supporting the request withdrew their petitions, bringing the total below the seven states needed to force the vote.  


In Cleveland, a Party at Odds With Itself


“What you saw today was just some people wanting to play politics with the rules,” Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said in an interview with CNN.  

Even before Trump clinched the nomination in April, some Republicans have sought to strategies for keeping him from the top of the ticket. Last week the convention Rules Committee voted overwhelmingly to keep delegates bound to the candidate they were elected to represent. The committee also rejected amendments that some believed would make the party stronger in future elections.  

Monday’s dispute centered on whether to re-open the Rules Committee report and allow amendments.  

Ken Cuccinelli, former Virginia attorney general and a leader of the coalition pushing for a roll call vote, said party leaders broke the convention rules in an effort to suppress the grassroots. “They were telling people, ‘We’re going to ruin your political life,'” he said.   

For the Virginia delegation, the effort was not about defeating Trump but about the delegates having the ability to craft their own rules and being a bottom-up party, Cuccinelli said.   

“It was not about unbinding for us,” he said. “We don’t support unbinding.”  

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, another leader pushing for the role call vote, said in an interview with CNN that there were a number of provisions in the rules package that delegates didn’t like and they wanted to be able to express that through a vote on the convention floor.   

Asked if the effort was about embarrassing Trump, Lee said, “No, absolutely not. This was about the rules of the convention. … This is about having a good, fair rules process.”  

People would have been less angry if they had lost then been silenced, Wilson said.   

A roll call vote “would have showed that there was not a united front against Trump … and it would have into the future preserved more of the idea that convention delegates are decision makers with some level of autonomy,” he said.   


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Even though the efforts to produce a floor vote failed,  the rules rebels still called attention to perceived process flaws that will likely receive attention in 2020.  

“I suspect that next time around there will be a variety of changes,” Wilson said, citing what he expects to be a widespread effort to look at state and party rules governing open primaries, runoff voting and binding delegates, among other rules.   

“The primary process is not supposed to produce a nominee who is so deeply disliked,” he said.   

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., played down the floor chaos. “I’ve seen more contention at a county convention than that,” he said. “I talked to Steve Womack, who was presiding, afterwards. There just was no problem.”   

Simone Pathe and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report. 

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