“Once we commit, we lose our advantage.”
Pennsylvania has one of the strangest delegate-allocation systems in the Republican-primary process.
Seventeen delegates are bound to the statewide winner. But those are the only of the state’s 71 total delegates that will be allotted when the state votes Tuesday.
Another 54 people are elected by voters as “unbound” delegates, free to vote for whomever they want on the first ballot at the July convention. Those “free-agent” delegates could play a key role in whether GOP frontrunner Donald Trump clinches the Republican nomination on the first ballot of the convention.
The 54 are also in no way required to commit or pledge their support to any one candidate — or to how their congressional district or state votes. It’s a system that leaves the door open to plenty of persuasion from the candidates.
Al Quaye, who’s running for an unbound delegate slot out of Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, put it best.
Quaye, an uncommitted delegate, told Business Insider: “Once we commit, we lose our advantage.”
That mindset is certainly going to be in play as Pennsylvanians elect delegates on Tuesday. Many have come out in support of Trump or Ted Cruz, a Texas senator. But the vast majority have either remained uncommitted or are pledging to vote with their congressional district, which some believe is an iffy promise at best.
“I’ve seen interviews where people say they will go for whoever their [district] goes for — but you and I both know that’s something that could change pretty quickly,” Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, told Business Insider. “And the other thing is I don’t know how many voters are actually going to know that.”
When voters turn out to cast ballots for the unbound delegates, they will simply be presented with a list of names at the polls. Whether a candidate is pledged to Trump, Cruz, or Kasich, or is uncommitted or pledged to voting along with their congressional district or the state will not be presented.
Like Madonna, John Kennedy, an associate professor of political science at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, told Business Insider the candidates “might be masking it” when they say they’re going to vote along with their congressional district or state.
Louis Valente, of the 12th district, feels the same way. He said he’s given at least six speeches proclaiming his willingness to vote along with the voters in his district, should he represent it in Cleveland.
“On the first ballot and every ballot,” he told Business Insider.
But he’s as sceptical as anyone of the other uncommitted delegates.
“I was going to run and strictly stay with what the 12th congressional district wanted,” Valente said. “And I’m afraid these other people are saying that, and many of them are not necessarily living up to that.”