By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News
When Alabama Republicans meet Saturday for their annual summer meeting, party members will consider whether to change the way delegates for presidential candidates are decided.
Currently, delegates are elected by voters during the GOP primary leading up to a presidential election. The proposed bylaw would instead give the authority of choosing delegates to the Alabama Republican Party’s State Executive Committee.
In an email obtained by Alabama Daily News, ALGOP leaders say the change will be advantageous in a number of ways. Joseph Fuller, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party State Executive Committee Bylaws Committee, said that only a handful of states use the same primary ballot system that Alabama does.
According to Fuller, the proposed amendment will de-clutter the primary ballot, provide verified, accurate vote totals and make campaigning easier for those running to be a delegate. The change “gives those who work hard in our party a great opportunity to be rewarded,” Fuller said.
The amendment was proposed by ALGOP by-laws committee member Elbert Peters. The by-laws committee unanimously approved the proposal.
Not all party members are happy with the change, though. Recently, a flyer was mailed to the 467-member executive committee criticizing the proposal, saying it will allow “a select few” to “hand pick the delegates for the Presidential Convention, eliminating your right to cast a vote or be elected as a delegate.”
Fuller and party chairwoman Terry Lathan pushed back against the flyer in an email to party members this week. About the flyer, Fuller said “[t]his information is completely false, and frankly — it’s a lie. Do not listen to or believe information from this anonymous source.”
Lathan said, “The author, or authors, sent you a card of misinformation.”
“Any registered voter that would like to run for a delegate may qualify without party if the bylaw is amended or not. Someone has purposely shared misinformation. Also, the chairman has no authority to stop any submitted changes going to the body. The state party members make the full decisions and always have — not a select few which is another falsehood. It will be thoroughly explained at our meeting.”
According to an internal poll conducted by Lathan, 56% of the State Executive Committee support the change while 44% oppose. For the amendment to pass, 67% of committee members must approve the amendment.
In 2016, Alabama sent a total of 50 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Of those 50, 47 (26 at-large delegates, 21 congressional district delegates) were elected in the state primary on March 1, 2016. The three remaining delegates were members of the Republican National Committee.
Any qualified, registered voter in Alabama can run to be a delegate and there are no limits on how many people can run to be a delegate. Before the primary, each potential delegate pledges their support to a presidential candidate. Alabama GOP rules state that delegates must vote at the convention for the candidate they pledged their support to unless that candidate releases them to vote for another candidate.
Lathan goes on to say the decision on how the party elects its presidential delegates “is 100% in your hands and always has been. The will of the body will rule, not a single person or select group. The unknown authors of your card know this as well. I regret that someone has tried to manipulate our members by purposefully sending you inaccurate information.”