OK, West Virginia’s delegate allocation system is legitimately confusing. Their primary is May 10th; thirty four delegates are at stake.  So far, so good. But wait! First off, the statewide vote affects three bound delegates: the ones reserved for party leaders. Nine more delegates are chosen by Congressional District: three each, and West Virginia voters elect them directly. Their affiliations are listed after their names, so at least on the CD level you can, say, do a slate and make sure that everybody voting for your candidate votes it.  So the CD delegates should effectively track the CD results.

But the statewide delegates – twenty-two of them, and not a one of ’em apparently bound – well, hoo, boy.  There are over two hundred and twenty delegates competing for the delegate slots.  West Virginia has graciously collated the candidate lists for their voters by candidate, then alphabetically… but that’s it. Vote for twenty-three delegates? All your choices get tossed.  But wait, it gets better! Politico:

This year, a new restriction that isn’t mentioned on the ballot could cause even greater turmoil for Trump. State Republicans decided to require geographic diversity among delegates — no more than seven statewide delegates may hail from a single Congressional district, and no more than two can come from a single county. Yet the first 22 names on Trump’s list include nine from populous Kanawha County. If voters follow traditional patterns, seven of them would be ineligible to go to the convention.

Let me walk that through for you. Let us pretend that the final delegate total looks like this (NOTE: this is merely a plausible example of how messed-up the final result COULD be):

  1. Trump County 1
  2. Trump County 1
  3. Trump County 1
  4. Trump County 2
  5. Trump County 2
  6. Trump County 1
  7. Trump County 1
  8. Trump County 1
  9. Cruz County 1
  10. Cruz County 3
  11. Trump County 3
  12. Trump County 1
  13. Trump County 1
  14. Trump County 1
  15. Trump County 2
  16. Trump County 3
  17. Cruz County 1
  18. Trump County 4
  19. Trump County 2
  20. Trump County 3
  21. Trump County 3
  22. Kasich County 4

Eighteen of twenty-two (REMEMBER: MADE-UP EXAMPLE): blowout, right?  Now let’s look at that, striking out the duplicates:

  1. Trump County 1
  2. Trump County 1
  3. Trump County 1
  4. Trump County 2
  5. Trump County 2
  6. Trump County 1
  7. Trump County 1
  8. Trump County 1
  9. Cruz County 1
  10. Cruz County 3
  11. Trump County 3
  12. Trump County 1
  13. Trump County 1
  14. Trump County 1
  15. Trump County 2
  16. Trump County 3
  17. Cruz County 1
  18. Trump County 4
  19. Trump County 2
  20. Trump County 3
  21. Trump County 3
  22. Kasich County 4

So that eighteen to three to one (IN THIS MADE-UP EXAMPLE) is now six to one to one, and note that we’re assuming that the four sample counties are not all in the same Congressional District. The remaining fourteen delegates would be picked from the highest-total eligible candidates at that point, but note that Trump has a total of thirty-one committed delegates on the statewide ballot and Ted Cruz thirty-six. Further analysis is pointless, because I’m not going to do any on a made-up delegate list, but my point is that having nine delegates competing for the vote in West Virginia’s most populous county when you only can have two advance there is bad. Also note: Ted Cruz has the same problem there, but he only has five delegates in that particular county and still reports that his delegate list is more evenly distributed, geographically speaking*. Finally: of course none of this is explained on the ballot. Don’t be absurd.

Come, I will conceal nothing from you: Donald Trump is favored by everybody right now to win West Virginia, mostly because it feels like a state that Trump can win, and pretty handily at that. Appalachia has been pretty fertile territory for the candidate, generally speaking. But do not be surprised if Trump starts yelling about how he didn’t get as many delegates out of West Virginia than he expected, because he very well might not.  The reason why is nobody’s fault, really – the idea behind the ‘two per county / seven per Congressional District’ rule was laudable enough (geographic diversity) – but, speaking dispassionately? Yeah, I could see why a candidate would be upset over this.

Mind you, the rules are the rules.  We should probably fix them in 2017, but it’s too late to do so now. And there’s no crying in baseball, hey?

Via @PatrickRuffini.

Moe Lane

PS: Yeah, I know that seven delegates times three Congressional Districts = twenty one delegates so where’s the twenty-second one supposed to live? Go ask the West Virginian Republican party, friends. I just work here.

PPS: Note: ‘dispassionately.’ Which should also convey my essential lack of sympathy, here.

*Because competence, that’s why.