Fairvote.org is currently undergoing an upgrade, and some features may not be working as usual. We apologize for any inconvenience, and expect to be back at full capacity soon.

FairVote Tracks GOP Primaries: Understanding Proportional Representation in NH

by FairVote // Published January 12, 2012
NHprimary

Mitt Romney won 39% of the vote in New Hampshire in the nation's first 2012 primary and received seven of the state's twelve delegates, or a 58% share. An in-depth look into New Hampshire's voting method allows us to see how a disproportionate delegate distribution arises from the proportional system utilized by the New Hampshire Republican Party.

The Rules of the Republican Party Rule 15(b)(2) dictates that contests prior to April 1 must be conducted according to proportional allocation but does not specify by what means. This allows states to differ wildly in their interpretation of "proportional." As written about in FairVote's blog on January 10, New Hampshire's Republican Party chose to allocate its delegates proportionally based on a 10% threshold.

In New Hampshire, presidential primaries must be conducted according to Elections Procedure Section 659:93, requiring a minimum of a 10% threshold. Of the remaining candidates who meet this threshold, the secretary of state proportionally allocates delegates according to a version of the "highest remainder" method, one of several proportional representation formulae.  

Under this method, delegates are divided according to the remaining candidates' redistributed vote percentages, with each proportion rounded down to the nearest whole number. Often there are extra delegates remaining due to this rounding procedure. While the classic version of this method allows for unassigned delegates to go to the candidates with the highest remainders, New Hampshire's version awards all remaining delegates to the candidate with the highest number of votes.

Using the classic highest remainder method for this election, Romney would come out of the first distribution with the highest remainder of 0.96, so the first remaining delegate would be awarded to him. Since a second delegate remains, it would be distributed to the candidate with the next highest remainder. Jon Huntsman, whose remainder of 0.56 just tops Ron Paul's remainder of 0.47, would be the recipient of this second delegate. In contrast, New Hampshire's variation - in "winner-take-all" fashion - awards both remaining delegates to Romney.

Here's how New Hampshire's delegate allocation compares with the classic version of highest remainder:

Candidate

Actual Percent Vote

Percent of Vote of Qualifying Candidates over 10%

Delegates Totals Under Strict Proportionality

NH Highest Remainder  Method Using 10% Threshold

Classic Highest Remainder
Using 10% Threshold

Romney

39.25%

49.68%

5.96

7

6

Paul

22.88%

28.96%

3.47

3

3

Huntsman

16.88%

21.37%

2.56

2

3

Gingrich

9.42%

-

0

0

0

Santorum

9.40%

-

0

0

0

Totals

97.83%

100%

12

12

12

 


Another unique feature of New Hampshire's allocation is its employment of a 10% threshold - a threshold that both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum barely missed achieving, even though their voters consisted of nearly 20% of the total vote. Most nations that use proportional allocation systems for their legislatures use lower thresholds (commonly a 5% threshold). With many competitive candidates in the New Hampshire primary, it should be noted that a slight change in this threshold significantly impacts the distribution of delegates. A 5% threshold, for instance, brings Gingrich and Santorum into the distribution of delegates.

Here's how the primary would have played out using a 5% threshold, compared with New Hampshire's 10% threshold - using the New Hampshire method of awarding all remaining delegates to the candidate with the highest remainder.

Candidate

Actual Percent Vote

Percent of Vote of Qualifying Candidates over 10%

NH Method Allocated Delegates Using 10% Threshold

Percent of Vote of Qualifying Candidates over 5%

NH Method Allocated Delegates Using 5% Threshold

Romney

39.25%

49.68%

7

40.12%

6

Paul

22.88%

28.96%

3

23.38%

2

Huntsman

16.88%

21.37%

2

17.25%

2

Gingrich

9.42%

-

0

9.63%

1

Santorum

9.40%

-

0

9.61%

1

Totals

97.83%

100%

12

100%

12

 


 

Other notable news from New Hampshire:

  • President Obama on the Ballot: Barack Obama also was on the ballot in New Hampshire yesterday in the Democratic primary. He earned 48,970 votes, for a total of 82%, and all 35 of New Hampshire's delegates awarded by the Democratic primary. That vote total was comparable to GOP candidate Jon Huntsman, who placed third. Note that all Democratic primaries and caucuses allocate delegates on the basis of proportional representation, but no other candidate surpassed the Democrats' typical 15% threshold.
  • Ron Paul Wins Landslide among Young Voters: Exit polls showed that Mitt Romney did well in a broad range of categories, e.g., income, education, religious and philosophical viewpoints. Among voters under 30, however, Ron Paul won 47% of that demographic, compared to Romney's 25%. Congressman Paul also won nearly half the youth vote in the Iowa caucuses.
  • Romney 2008 vs. Romney 2012: Comparing Mitt Romney's performance in New Hampshire from election to election, in 2008, Romney earned 75,675votes and 32%in the New Hampshire primary, compared to 97,532 votes and 39.3% this year. In the Iowa caucuses, his share of the vote was slightly lower in 2012 than it was in 2008.