MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Every four years during presidential primary elections, Alabama voters turn over their ballots to see a long list of contests of individuals running to be a delegate to represent the party at the nominating convention. Sometimes the names are well known, most times not, but that’s how parties decide who goes to the convention to officially nominate presidential candidates from the floor.
For Alabama Republicans, that won’t be the case in 2024.
In a bylaw change adopted Saturday, the Alabama Republican Party’s State Executive Committee will select delegates to send to Republican National Conventions, rather than having voters pick delegates from the ballot.
Held every four years since 1856, the Republican National Convention is a series of presidential nominating conventions in which delegates from all 50 states officially vote for and nominate a presidential candidate. Similar to the Democratic Party, the process by which delegates are selected varies from state to state, though often, they are elected by voters at the ballot box.
The bylaw change was sponsored by Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne.
“The best people to make the decisions on how to grow up in the party is to reward the people that have been in the party,” Simpson said.
“Reward the people that show up to the meetings, or reward the people that have worked in the district and let those people be the ones that go (to the convention). We know better than anybody who are the workers, who supported the party, who are the Republicans.”
Furthermore, Simpson argued that by allowing party committee members to elect delegates rather than voters, it could better ensure they were loyal to Republican causes, and close what he described as “a loophole, a gap in our laws.”
“If there was something that was to come forward; let’s say there was a George Soros person who wanted to fund and give money to someone to run for a delegate to the Republican convention,” he said.
“They could give that money, that person shows up on a ballot, that person wins, they then go to the National Convention and they can change our party platform because the general public really doesn’t have a clue (about) the people on the ballot.”
Simpson continued, arguing that most voters are unaware of the background of those running for the position of a delegate.
“If you guys have voted in a presidential primary, you’ve seen the ballots are just full of people running for delegates; people walk out of the polling place all the time and say ‘I have no clue who those people are,’” he said.
Andrew Sorrell, State Auditor of Alabama and member of the state Republican Party Executive Committee, noted that delegate candidates will still need to qualify for the position before presidential qualifying deadlines, which would continue to help prevent delegates from switching candidate allegiance after primary election results start rolling in.
“This way, you don’t have like a DeSantis supporter running for a Trump delegate once Trump has swept all the delegates in Alabama, or vice versa,” Sorrell said. “We have to declare who we’re running for a delegate for in November before we know who won.”
Party members ultimately voted 72% to 28% to approve the bylaw amendment, setting the stage for party officials to select the majority of the state’s delegates to send off to the convention in 2024.
ADN’s Todd Stacy contributed to this report.