Among other interesting fodder for discussion for this year's Republican Convention, there's rule 40b, which stipulates that:

"(b) Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination. Notwithstanding any other provisions of these rules or any rule of the House of Representatives, to demonstrate the support required of this paragraph a certificate evidencing the affirmative written support of the required number of permanently seated delegates from each of the eight (8) or more states shall have been submitted to the secretary of the convention not later than one (1) hour prior to the placing of the names of candidates for nomination pursuant to this rule and the established order of business."

Leaving aside the (still interesting but tangential) issues of whether rule 40b can be amended prior to convention; OR lawyering of its language to benefit specific candidates; the question I have is:

  • assuming a nominee X fails to pass rule 40b screening,
  • and, nominee X has N pledged delegates from several states

What happens to those N votes during the first ballot voting?

  • Do they simply not count?
  • Do they count towards candidate X except that X has no chance of winning nomination and if they win first ballot majority somehow, they are invalidated, and they don't go on to the subsequent ballots?
  • Other?

1 Answer 1


I've gone and read the actual rules currently in effect (pdf, hosting webpage) and as best as I can tell, the answer is that they just won't be counted. However, it's really the subsequent votes where it gets interesting (although this is going beyond the scope of your question).

Rule 40 (d) and (e) are the relevant ones here:

(d) When at the close of a roll call any candidate for nomination for President of the United States or Vice President of the United States has received a majority of the votes entitled to be cast in the convention, the chairman of the convention shall announce the votes for each candidate whose name was presented in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (b) of this rule. Before the convention adjourns sine die, the chairman of the convention shall declare the candidate nominated by the Republican Party for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States.

(e) If no candidate shall have received such majority, the chairman of the convention shall direct the roll of the states be called again and shall repeat the calling of the roll until a candidate shall have received a majority of the votes entitled to be cast in the convention.

Specifically, a vote for anyone who didn't meet the 40(b) threshold is not even reported in the final totals, as if they'd abstained. They would still count to prevent the front-runner from reaching a majority, though.

It's also worth looking at Rule 16(a)(2) (emphasis mine):

The Secretary of the Convention shall faithfully announce and record each delegate’s vote in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under these rules, state law or state party rule. If any delegate bound by these rules, state party rule or state law to vote for a presidential candidate at the national convention demonstrates support under Rule 40 for any person other than the candidate to whom he or she is bound, such support shall not be recognized. Except as provided for by state law or state party rule, no presidential candidate shall have the power to remove a delegate.

The first part (before my bolding) means that the first vote is entirely a formality, because anyone who doesn't vote in accordance with their bound vote is ignored. So the "faithless elector" equivalent cannot happen at the Republican convention. The bolded part is more interesting, however. It means that a candidate can't get around their lack of Rule 40(b) support by suborning enough delegates to get past the threshold - any such support is also ignored.

This then interacts very interestingly with 40(e) (which simply says that they keep voting) and the last part of 40(b) which says that supported names have to be submitted one hour prior to the nomination. Since 16(a)(2) prevents any delegates from offering their support to other candidates prior to voting, 40(b) prevents names from being added on the fly, and 40(e) requires repeated votes until someone wins, there are only two possible outcomes: Either the front-runner picks up enough delegates on the second vote (once they're unbound) to push them over the majority, or the convention is deadlocked. There's no way to pick anyone other than the front-runner who qualified, but they can't win either.

My guess is that at this point, someone would move to adjourn, but I can't tell whether or not new names can be added during a break, or if 40(b) is a one-time thing. My reading of it is that it's a one-shot, but I'm not an expert. Under that circumstance, there would be no options except to change the rules (or suspend them, as per Rule 32), after which anything goes.

  • @user4012 - Thanks! Looking through the rules made for some interesting reading.
    – Bobson
    Mar 7, 2016 at 5:37
  • 1
    I think what's missing is that all delegates become unbound for follow-on votes, even those who pledged candidates haven't been eliminated.
    – Ben Voigt
    Sep 1, 2023 at 20:18
  • @BenVoigt I think I implied that in here, but you're right that I didn't explicitly call it out. Reading it over again, I think I'd want to reorganize/rewrite this answer, but I'm not sure it's worth it for 7-year-out-of-date speculation on something that didn't happen.
    – Bobson
    Sep 3, 2023 at 12:22
  • In my understanding, you implied the exact opposite when you claimed the convention would become deadlocked if a winner wasn't selected in the first two votes.
    – Ben Voigt
    Sep 3, 2023 at 19:08

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