GOP delegate reminds voters: Technically, it's not your choice

RNC Member: Political Parties Choose Nominees, Not Public

For GOP voters already unhappy at the prospect of a contested convention, one delegate headed to July's Republican National Convention has an uncomfortable reminder for them: They're not really in charge.

"The media has created the perception that the voters choose the nomination," said Curly Haugland, a delegate from North Dakota told CNBC. "That's the conflict here."

In the strictest sense, that's true across the board.
At primaries and caucuses across the country this spring, voters are actually electing delegates to the convention, allocated proportionally to candidates by each state's vote, who will ostensibly vote on their behalf for the candidate of their choice.

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GOP delegate reminds voters: Technically, it's not your choice

Stephen Baldwin

Baldwin, who was fired by Trump on two different seasons of "The Celebrity Apprentice," said during an interview with Don Lemon on an episode of "CNN Tonight" that Trump would make a "great" president "because he's not a politician, and he doesn't care what anybody thinks."  

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Gary Busey

The actor endorsed Trump back in 2011, even after being fired from season four of "The Celebrity Apprentice," and offered his praise for the presidential hopeful again recently. "He's a great guy. He's sharp. He's fast," he told Fox411. "He can change the country after the last eight years."  

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Dennis Rodman

The retired pro-basketball player tweeted: "@realDonaldTrump has been a great friend for many years. We don't need another politician, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump! Trump 2016." He was fired from season two of "The Celebrity Apprentice." 

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Lou Ferrigno

When asked by TMZ for his thoughts on Trump, the actor and former bodybuilder said, "I hope Donald goes all the way." He was also fired from a season of "The Celebrity Apprentice." 

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Ted Nugent 

The musician wrote an article for WorldNetDaily in which he said, "[Trump] should be given the Medal of Freedom for speaking his mind in such a bold, honest, and straightforward manner."

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Tila Tequila 

The model and reality star posted a video on YouTube expressing her support for Trump.

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Wayne Newton

The Las Vegas entertainer announced his support on "Fox and Friends," “I love Donald, and he would make a great president,” he said. But he also voiced his support for other hopefuls, such as Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson. 

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Willie Robertson

The businessman and star of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” supported Trump at a rally in Oklahoma last year, where he was invited up on stage. He officially announced his endorsement in January. 

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Jesse Ventura 

Jesse Ventura

The former pro wrestler, former Minnesota governor, and actor was speaking with previous Trump staffer Roger Stone for "Off the Grid," when Ventura said, "I shocked my staff today. I came in and said, ‘You know what, as far as the Republicans are concerned, I hope Trump wins.'" Though he also added, "Now I’m not a Republican — I’m not a Democrat either — so ultimately, I’d like somebody else to win overall.”

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Terrell Owens 

The retired NFL wide receiver told TMZ Sports, "This may be what the country needs and Trump... He’s a guy who won’t put up with B.S. and has what it takes to change how government is run." He appeared on the most recent season of "The Celebrity Apprentice."   

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But in many states, those delegates are not bound to any candidates after the first ballot – the voting will go on to a second or third ballot, or beyond, if one candidate does not get the 1,237-delegate vote majority needed to win the nomination – and can choose whomever they want in subsequent votes.

Others, like Haugland, are unbound from the start. North Dakota is one of a handful of states and territories where the GOP does not hold a primary or a caucus, along with American Samoa, Colorado, Guam, and Wyoming, where delegates are not bound to voters' preferences. Some 112 GOP delegates will get to vote their choice from the get-go.

"The rules haven't kept up," Haugland said. "The rules are still designed to have a political party choose its nominee at a convention. That's just the way it is. I can't help it. Don't hate me because I love the rules."
Haugland, in fact, has proposed a change in rules that would allow any candidate who earned at least one delegate to be submitted for nomination on the floor. That would sweep away requirements that, for the moment, would preclude either Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Ohio Gov. John Kasich – or any of the candidates who collected delegates before dropping out of the race – from qualifying for the nomination under Rule 40, which requires a candidate to have the majority of delegates from at least eight states.

So far, the proportional allocation of delegates means front-runner Donald Trump is the only candidate to have met this mark. The billionaire businessman has met the requirement in 11 states; Cruz has done so in just four, despite victories in 10 states

That proportional allocation may prevent Trump, who leads his rivals in the delegate count but has collected just 47 percent of the delegates allocate so far.

If he heads into Cleveland in July short of the 1,237 threshold, delegates like Haugland, or those who may have been originally given to candidates that have since dropped out, could help throw the nomination to him in the first ballot.

But if the first ballot fails to name a nominee, and the contested convention scenario plays out, "some shenanigan" could end up leaving a lot more Republican voters feeling as though their voices were ignored.

"It could introduce Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, or it could be the other candidates that have already been in the race and are now out of the race, [such as] Mike Huckabee [or] Rick Santorum," Gary Emineth, another North Dakota delegate, told CNBC. "All those people could eventually become candidates on the floor."
Emineth told CNBC he was worried that the Republican Party's anxiety over Trump's rise – and their increasingly desperate efforts to stop him – could cause them to overstep. Trump has already warned of "riots" if his supporters found themselves shut out.

"It's important that the Republican National Committee has transparency on what they're doing [on the rules] going into the convention and what happens in the convention," he continued. "All the votes that have been cast in caucuses and primaries ... don't disenfranchise those voters. Because at the end of the day, our goal is to beat Hillary Clinton or whoever their nominee is in November."

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