Is the GOP presidential nomination process fair?

The likelihood is increasing the nomination for the GOP’s presidential candidate will be contested at the convention. If that happens, there’s no guarantee that the candidate who walks in with the most delegates will walk out as the nominee. Is that fair? NewsHour Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield has more.

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    Donald Trump will probably come to the Cleveland convention with a couple hundred more delegates than anyone other candidate and a couple million more votes. So even if he's short of a delegate majority, it's only fair that he should become the Republican nominee, right?


    In all fairness we're way ahead in delegates. I'm not supposed to have less delegates than a guy I beat. It doesn't work that way.


    Not so fast. A lot more Republican voters chose someone other than Trump. "Anyone But Trump" won a majority of votes in the first 8 Republican contests. If Trump doesn't achieve a delegate majority on the convention's first ballot, Republican Party rules say most of his delegates will be unbound — free to do whatever they want.


    If Trump can pick up enough unbound delegates to commit to him then on the first vote he'd get 1237 he'd be the nominee. If he doesn't then he would be short and then you go to ballot number two under the rules you to call the roll again and you would keep calling the roll until somebody gets to the majority of delegates.


    The convention could nominate someone who didn't even run this year. Is that fair?

  • The answer is:

    there isn't any one answer about the right way to decide who wins an election. In different places, very different rules apply…and in fact, without some distinctly unfair rules, we wouldn't have a country at all.

    For instance, beyond the presidential race, in almost every state, you can be elected Governor or Senator by getting more votes than the next candidate…even if a majority of voters were against you. In 2014, four senators and ten governors won that way – with pluralities.

    Two states, Georgia and Louisiana, require a "runoff" if no one wins a majority in a statewide race. So, in the 2014 race for Senator in Louisiana, incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu narrowly edged Republican Bill Cassidy in November, but didn't get a majority. In the runoff that followed, Cassidy beat Landrieu decisively.

    California now has its own kind of runoff for all statewide and Congressional races. Every candidate regardless of party runs on the same ballot. Then the top two finishers face off in November. It doesn't matter if both are Republicans or Democrats or Independents. Proponents say this encourages candidates to appeal to the center of the political spectrum. Opponents say the system deprives voters of a clear contrast in November, when it really counts.

    Or consider how we choose a President. As everyone learned in 2000, you can lose the White House even if you get more popular votes than your opponent; because it's the electoral votes of the states that matter. Every state is winner-take-all except Maine and Nebraska.

    In 2012, Barack Obama won Florida by less than one percent of the vote, but he got all 29 electoral votes. Mitt Romney won North Carolina by barely two percent, but got all 15 electoral votes.

    Is this fair? Or should electoral votes be awarded proportionally? Or winner-take-all by Congressional district? Should we even have an Electoral College anymore? After all, starting each state with two electoral votes based on their U.S. Senate seats gives the small states more clout than their population would mandate. In fact, isn't it unfair that Wyoming has the same power in the Senate as California, which has sixty times the population?

  • The answer is:

    credit—or blame—the Founding Fathers. When they gathered in Philadelphia to write the Constitution in 1787, a central issue was the fear of small states that they would be dominated by the big states. Not only did they insist on equal representation in the Senate, but they made it the only part of the Constitution that can't be amended. It's right there in Article V. Without this obviously "undemocratic" rule, we wouldn't have a country.

    So is there a hard and fast rule that will tell you what's fair? Actually, in practice there is. For almost every one of us, whatever process most helps the candidate we want to win is obviously, clearly, the fairest of them all.