Procedures used to select 25 Oklahoma delegates and alternates to this month's Republican National Convention have been backed by a panel of the national GOP committee, but the dispute isn't over.
Some of those who say state convention rules weren't followed and selected a different slate of delegates said Monday they are objecting to the preliminary findings of the Republican National Committee's contest committee report. They said they will file an official protest to get the findings reviewed, which will happen just days before the national convention begins Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla.
“All we've been trying to do this whole time is uphold the rules,” said Steve Dickson, a precinct chairman and state delegate who is working on challenging the contest committee's findings. “We are simply doing this to try to get the party to recognize officially that the rules were violated.”
Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell said the contest committee's findings recognize the delegates and alternates who were elected during the May 12 state convention as those to be recognized at the national convention.
State vote questioned
Dickson and others complained that Oklahoma Republican Party officials violated party rules by failing to have a roll-call vote on the proposed national delegates selected by the party's executive committee. A group of state delegates, most of them supporters of Ron Paul's presidential bid, voted against adjourning the May 12 state convention and met outside the Embassy Suites Hotel in Norman after the convention and elected their own slate of 25 delegates and alternates to the national convention.
The outdoor gathering concluded a day of efforts by supporters of Paul, a Texas congressman, a group that numbered several hundred. They used various parliamentary procedures to contest rules and booed Gov. Mary Fallin when she urged the approximately 1,400 state delegates to back former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who since has gained enough delegates to be the presumptive GOP presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention, scheduled for Aug. 27-30.
The Paul supporters submitted their own slate of delegates and alternates, since called the Conservative Values delegation. But they failed to get enough votes to amend convention rules to let delegates vote on both slates; a paper ballot vote on whether to amend convention rules showed that 60 percent of the delegates opposed considering the alternative slate.
“That pretty much set the stage,” Pinnell said. “It was very clear where the majority of delegates stood.”
Marc Nuttle, elected by the delegates as convention chairman, allowed for a standing vote of the national delegates because it was the only slate to be considered.
Paul supporters challenged the standing vote, but delegates upheld that vote by taking part in another standing vote.
“The will of the majority carried the day,” Pinnell said. “The minority had a voice, but the will of the majority of delegates that day clearly ruled.”
Lukus Collins, grass-roots organizer for Paul's campaign in Oklahoma, questioned the national committee's findings. The Paul campaign is not involved in the challenge.
“Their judgment was that the standing vote constituted a ballot vote, which we would hold is patently absurd,” he said. “A standing vote, of course, can't take into account any proportional voting by county. It also involves peer pressure to a certain extent. You can't always be sure that someone would vote the same way if they had a secret ballot versus a public declaration.”
The contest committee, in its report, determined the “voice vote and the standing vote on the delegate slate constituted a ballot to elect the delegates to the national convention.”
Objecting to the contest committee findings will result in a review by the Republican National Committee's contest committee, which will make a recommendation by Aug. 22 to the Republican National Convention's credentials committee.
The credentials committee will vote on the matter and issue a report that national delegates will consider on the convention's first day.
State GOP sends 43
Oklahoma will send a contingent of 43 delegates to the Republican National Convention. In addition to the 25 delegates selected at the state convention, 15 were elected in congressional district elections — three from each of Oklahoma's five congressional districts.
Romney, who finished second in Oklahoma's March 6 presidential preferential primary, is assured 13 delegates based on those results.
The other two candidates winning delegates based on the GOP vote have since suspended their campaigns but have not officially released their delegates. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum won the state's primary, garnering 34 percent of the vote and winning 14 delegates; former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich finished third, and should get 13 delegates.
If Gingrich and Santorum release their delegates, it's expected most if not all of Oklahoma's delegates will cast votes for Romney at the national convention, Pinnell said.
The other three delegates are Pinnell and the state's national committeeman and national committeewoman.