The polls indicate Trump is positioned to win West Virginia’s May 10 primary, but once again the delegate selection process is stacked against him.
Even if Trump wins the popular vote in huge numbers, how that support translates into delegates depends on his supporters’ ability to navigate a complicated, arcane and confusing voting system — the results of which are an open question.
West Virginia’s Republican ballot is a six-page form that places the delegate elections behind dozens of state legislative and county races. Some voters, West Virginia GOP insiders said, stop voting before they make it to the delegates. But getting there is the easy part.
According to Politico, more than 220 people are running for 22 statewide slots as convention delegates. On the ballot, they’re divided based on the candidates they support and then listed alphabetically. There are 31 for Trump, 36 for Cruz and 10 for John Kasich, who failed to file a full slate of delegates. A fourth list includes 27 “uncommitted” candidates, and there are also lists of would-be delegates for candidates who have already dropped out.
Voters wishing to select a full slate of Trump delegates can choose up to 22 of them — though if they inadvertently select 23 or more, all of their choices are thrown out. They must also be aware of a new rule to prohibit more than two delegates from residing in a single county — and seven from a single Congressional district — a stipulation that isn’t mentioned on the ballot.
Yet nine of the first 22 names on Trump’s list are from populous Kanawha County, where Charleston, the state capital, is located. And if Trump voters pick them all, seven would be automatically disqualified and replaced by delegates who fit the criteria.
Traditionally, voters have simply selected the first 22 names associated with the candidate they support — and previous delegations have been heavy with surnames starting with A through C as a result.
This year, a new restriction that isn’t mentioned on the ballot could cause even greater turmoil for Trump. State Republicans decided to require geographic diversity among delegates — no more than seven statewide delegates may hail from a single Congressional district, and no more than two can come from a single county. Yet the first 22 names on Trump’s list include nine from populous Kanawha County. If voters follow traditional patterns, seven of them would be ineligible to go to the convention.
Word is the Trump campaign has a legal team ready to contest questionable results and will work overtime to ensure that voters know which Trump delegate candidates to back when they go to the polls.