***See Update below***
(Des Moines, IA) Changing the date of the Republican Party of Iowa State Convention has become quite a kerfuffle. Iowa GOP Chair A.J. Spiker yesterday sent a letter to members of the State Central Committee saying he wasn’t going to call for a vote to change the date back to June.
Dear Members of the State Central Committee,
As many of you know, there have been some concerns with our recent unanimous vote to hold the State Convention July 12.
Over the past few weeks, I was provided an opportunity to visit with candidates for our Party’s nomination for US Senate as well as Senator Grassley and Governor Branstad. While everyone would prefer to see an individual reach at least 35% of the vote in the primary election to avoid a convention scenario, it was also clear that candidates for the U.S. Senate nomination were unfamiliar with the canvass period as outlined in Iowa code, which outlines that a ballot vacancy does not exist until the canvass is completed and certified.
During the discussions, I expressed to each of the candidates that it was my desire to have a candidate finish with at least 35% of the vote and it was also my wish to have only one state convention to avoid a possible scenario where turnout is depressed at one or both conventions if two conventions were required.
While there was consensus to hold a convention capable of nominating candidates in June, a ballot vacancy does not exist until after the canvass is complete. Since the Iowa Code provides 27 days from the primary to complete the canvassing process, Saturday, July 12th is the first Saturday (except for 4th of July holiday weekend) we are guaranteed the canvassing process to be finalized with all candidates named. With this information, a date in July allows for one convention.
It has been suggested by some that we move ahead with filling a ballot vacancy before one legally exists. A review from RPI Legal Counsel Bill Talbot confirmed that a ballot vacancy does not legally exist until the canvass is completed. Furthermore, if a ballot vacancy does not exist, it cannot be filled. See attached letter. Others have argued that while the legal opinion is correct, it isn’t politically wise to follow the law.
A July 12 state convention fulfills what we discussed at the last meeting and what the state central committee unanimously voted to approve. It provides one state convention and it allows for the convention to fill a ballot vacancy should no candidate receive 35% of the vote in the primary election. Remember that all candidates for our Party’s nomination an equal chance to appeal to delegates for the nomination.
I am confident the party will benefit from our decision to hold only one convention. I will not ask for another vote by the State Central Committee to move the State Convention date from July 12 to a date prior to the completion of the canvass due to the legal opinion and the importance for our Party to adhere to Iowa Code.
A.J. Spiker, Chairman
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz offered a statement of clarification:
Iowa Secretary of State and State Commissioner of Elections, Matt Schultz, issued the following statement today regarding the timing of political party conventions and nominations for ballot vacancies:
“As Secretary of State and State Commissioner of Elections for the State of Iowa, it is my duty to make sure that Iowans understand the election process, including their duties and rights under the law.
In response to questions raised by members of the public, it is necessary for me to clarify the timing of a special nominating convention, which becomes necessary when a federal or state candidate does not receive a minimum of 35% of the vote in a primary election.
There is no law that prohibits the Iowa Democratic or Republican parties from holding a special nominating convention prior to the final certification of the primary election by the State Board of Canvassers.
In fact, the Iowa Code is silent as to when a special nominating convention may begin, but it is clear that the convention must be held and the names of nominees submitted in writing to the Secretary of State before 5:00 PM on the 81st day prior to the General Election. The only requirement with regard to timing is for both the ballot vacancy and the special nominating convention to occur prior to the filing deadline.
As Secretary of State it has always been my position to err on the side of inclusion when it comes to ballot access. Based on this principle, I included Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson on the ballot when his nomination was challenged. My decision was upheld by the district court.
That is why under the authority granted to me by Iowa Code section 43.73, I will certify the names of any federal or state candidates nominated by the political parties prior to the certification of the election results as long as all other statutory requirements are met. This same authority has been upheld in the past by the Supreme Court of Iowa in Zellmer v. Smith.
Therefore, no political party should use the excuse of the final date of the statewide canvass to determine the date of its special nominating convention. Furthermore, to state that it is necessary to hold a special nominating convention after the conclusion of the state canvass is not only misleading, it is false.”
In response Spiker sent another letter, including Schultz’ statement:
State Central Committee Members,
Because we now have a statement in writing from the Secretary of State (see below) regarding the convention date matter, Iowa GOP Legal Counsel will be issuing a new legal opinion which I will provide to you later today. Based on my conversation with counsel, I am calling a State Central Committee meeting to occur by teleconference on Monday, September 23 at 7pm. Call in information will be provided to members prior to the meeting.
A.J. Spiker, Chairman
So it looks as though the date will be revisited.
Update: Iowa GOP Legal Counsel Bill Talbot has issued an opinion after reading Schultz’ statement. You can read it here:
The focus of concern with a nominating convention being held pre-canvass was that we did not have an opinion from the Iowa Secretary of State as to whether it would be lawful for the Secretary of State to accept the results of a nominating convention that occurred before a ballot vacancy was a legal fact. That matter has, to some extent, been remedied…
….What is changed from my previous opinion is that the Secretary of State has committed to accept the results of a nominating convention that occurs before canvass, provided that the nominee meets other legal requirements. Therefore, as long as Mr. Schultz is Secretary of State, it seems to be a reasonable risk to hold the nominating convention prior to final canvass.
It looks at this point that it is likely the convention will be moved back to it’s original date, but until the proverbial fat lady has sung this isn’t over yet until they State Central Committee has that meeting.
Thoughts: Way, way, way too much time and energy has been spent on this, and the reaction I saw yesterday after Spiker sent his letter was just a little over-the-top. I’m waiting for those people to be just as passionate (hopefully more so) on issues like the Common Core, but I noticed with some of the loudest critics they have been strangely silent. Note to those folks; your priorities are screwed up. With the new statement from Secretary of State Matt Schultz; Spiker is right to call for a new meeting to revisit the issue. Also wanted to address the issue re. the date change not being on the agenda. It was brought to my attention that when the original date was set that wasn’t on the agenda either. So the complaint was a tad misleading.
So anyway, let’s get past this. We have bigger fish to fry.