How To Be A Delegate At The Illinois Republican STATE Convention

By DOUG IBENDAHL • April 8, 2016


If you’re serious about helping Donald Trump in Illinois, you need to call your GOP County Chairman TODAY (or by this Wednesday, April 13 at the latest) and ask to be appointed as a delegate to the Illinois Republican State Convention in May. If you live in Cook County, call your Chicago GOP Ward Committeeman or GOP Township Committeeman instead. And in DuPage County, start with your GOP Township Chairman. Links to contact information are provided below.


That’s the bottom line. Ask to be appointed as a delegate to the State Convention. And do it as soon as you can. The rest of this article explains why that’s so crucial for Trump supporters. I’ve included a lot of detail and background because no one in the GOP here is providing much transparency on the State Convention and how it works, much less the direct connection our State Convention has to the National Convention and the related battle for the Republican presidential nomination.


Donald Trump is my candidate but the information here is obviously free for anyone to use. But I am making a special urgent appeal to fellow Trump supporters because I do anticipate more dishonest tactics at the local level – tactics specifically intended to try and stop Trump’s nomination at the Republican National Convention in July.


Also see: Why Local Conventions Are A Must Attend For Illinois Trump Backers


I’m an Illinois lawyer so I focus specifically here on the Illinois process. If you’re a Trump supporter in another state this will give you an idea at least of what to look out for, but you’ll need to consult your own state law and party rules.


The information below is for the purpose of getting you appointed as a state delegate to the Republican State Convention in Peoria in May. The State Convention is for State Party business, but it does have one big connection to the presidential race. Specifically, the State Convention will choose 12 persons for At-Large Delegate spots to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.


As a state delegate you can help fight to ensure that those 12 spots chosen for the National Convention go to true Trump supporters.


State Convention Delegates vs. National Convention Delegates


Just like the National, the Illinois Republican State Convention is held once every four years. The State Convention is basically a much smaller version of the National Convention. If you picture the National Convention with delegates sitting on the convention floor with signs indicating the states where they’re from, the State Convention has signs indicating Illinois counties instead.


In theory it’s much easier to be a delegate to the State Convention. There are no petition signatures to collect like candidates for delegate to the National Convention had to do. You also don’t declare your support for any particular candidate and you’re really not running against anyone else. In most cases your Republican County Chairman simply has to appoint you. Or if you live in Cook County, that power is delegated by law to your GOP Ward or Township Committeeman. It’s also my understanding that in DuPage County, the local party on its own has given the power to pick state delegates to the individual GOP Township Chairmen.


Illinois law at 10 ILCS 5/7-9(e) has the formula for assigning the state delegates from each county. For every 500 Republican votes cast at the March 15 Primary, one state convention delegate is allocated. So basically add up the combined votes cast for all of the presidential candidates on March 15, divide by 500, and that is the number of delegates your county is entitled to for the State Convention.


You can do the calculation for your own county yourself, but based on the still to be certified Republican vote totals for the entire state, 2,868 total delegate spots are available for the State Convention. Plus, just like the National Convention, there can be an equal number of alternate delegates for Peoria. That’s a lot of slots to fill and a lot of opportunities for Trump supporters.


At past state conventions many of the available spots remained unfilled. Maybe 500 or so delegates at most show-up for the typical Illinois GOP convention. That’s largely owing to the unfortunate fact that few party officials really encourage attendance and almost no one does anything to seriously publicize the opportunity.


We’re seeing the same routine this time. I’m providing a lot of detail in this article because it seems few are going out of their way to provide the rank-and-file with even basic information. The Illinois Republican Party’s website for example doesn’t have a peep about how to become a delegate to the State Convention.


If you’re new to Illinois GOP politics that may seem shocking but it just means you have to take the initiative yourself. Especially with important At-Large Delegate spots for the National Convention up for grabs in Peoria, this should be the year that all state delegate slots are filled.


The old Establishment players know that low attendance at the State Convention makes it easy to play dishonest games at Trump’s expense.


We’re not putting our best foot forward for Trump if state delegate spots remain unfilled. Be assured the anti-Trump faction is going to get its lackeys to Peoria. They’ll be ready to rubberstamp anything the committee on At-Large Delegates puts in front of them.


Step 1: Get appointed as a State Delegate to the Illinois Republican State Convention


This Wednesday night, April 13, each County Republican Party in all 102 Illinois counties will hold a County Republican Convention. This is required by Illinois law and the Democrats will be doing the same thing on their side.


With the possible exception of a few counties, this is one of the many things our Illinois party does a horrible job publicizing. To find the time and location of your county GOP’s convention, you’ll have to do your own homework. The State GOP has only the most minimal contact information for the county parties here. But you can likely find information with a quick Google search. Most County GOP organizations do have a website.


Here’s why you need to check into your county convention, even if you weren’t elected as a committeeman at the March 15 primary.


It’s because according to Illinois law, delegates to the STATE Republican Convention are supposed to be chosen at the county conventions.


10 ILCS 5/7-9(a) states in relevant part:


The county convention of each political party shall choose delegates to the State convention of its party; but in any county having within its limits any city having a population of 200,000, or over the delegates from such city shall be chosen by wards, the ward committeemen from the respective wards choosing the number of delegates to which such ward is entitled on the basis prescribed in paragraph (e) of this Section such delegates to be members of the delegation to the State convention from such county. In all counties containing a population of 2,000,000 or more outside of cities having a population of 200,000 or more, the delegates from each of the townships or parts of townships as the case may be shall be chosen by townships or parts of townships as the case may be, the township committeemen from the respective townships or parts of townships as the case may be choosing the number of delegates to which such townships or parts of townships as the case may be are entitled, on the basis prescribed in paragraph (e) of this Section such delegates to be members of the delegation to the State convention from such county. [Emphasis added]


If you live in any Illinois county other than Cook, only the bolded portion of the excerpted statute is relevant to you. What follows that is language which is only applicable to Cook County which has a slightly different system for appointing state delegates to the State Convention.


But if you live anywhere other than Cook, that statute makes crystal clear that state delegates are supposed to be chosen at the county conventions. And if anyone tries to tell you that you have to be a committeeman or have some other “experience” to be a state delegate – that is absolutely false. While I have no problem saying Republicans who went to the trouble of getting petitions and running for committeeman should be given first dibs for state delegate spots, as I mentioned before, large numbers of state delegate spots have gone unfilled in the past.


The only difference if you live in Cook County is that instead of your county convention selecting the state delegates, that power is delegated by law to each of the 50 Republican Ward Committeemen in Chicago, and the 30 Republican Township Committeemen in suburban Cook. That’s what the rest of the statute cited above is about.


But here’s the rub. Despite that statute making clear that state delegates shall be chosen at the county conventions (in all 101 counties outside of Cook), in the past that statute has never been complied with by our party, in any county, to my knowledge. Instead, county chairmen outside of Cook have appointed the people they want to be state delegates sometime after the county conventions.


To their credit, I see at least one downstate county party has given notice that it will in fact be ratifying its slate of state convention delegates at its April 13 county convention. That’s based on a notice sent out by the Champaign County GOP. It appears that county party is working to comply with the statute. But I believe that county will be in the distinct minority.


There really shouldn’t be inconsistent practices across counties and it’s a shame our State GOP isn’t providing clarity and transparency. All we can do is make the best of the situation.


My bigger concern is that Trump supporters all over the state could be disenfranchised if the party pooh-bahs decide this is the year Illinois law will be followed with respect to properly choosing state delegates. That would be horribly unfair, especially if they’ve neglected to tell anyone in advance – but I wouldn’t put anything past some of the anti-Trump people. And I’ve personally witnessed over and over again the kind of sleazy rigging our State GOP is willing to do on other issues at past conventions (such as to prevent the direct election reform).


In other words, if you’re not slated as a state delegate on April 13, you could possibly lose the opportunity for good.


That’s why my advice is to attend your county convention and tell the chairman (the new and/or the old one) that you want to be a delegate to the state convention. At a minimum you’ll be on record. Even better, I strongly recommend that you get in touch with your current county chairman as soon as you can, and definitely before Wednesday, and asked to be slated as a delegate to the State Convention. You may have to be persistent.


Here’s another unfortunate wrinkle. Some of these county conventions are apparently closed to all but the elected committeemen. The Cook County GOP for example is having a closed convention Wednesday night. They’ve already announced all business will be conducted in executive session where only elected committeemen can be present. I think that’s ridiculous and that means Cook is having a closed meeting, and not a “convention” as any normal person would understand the term. But it is what it is.


So if you live in Cook and want to be a delegate to the State Convention, contact your Chicago Ward or Township Committeeman directly, and do it as soon as you can.


Contact information for the 30 Township Committeemen is HERE. And for the 50 Chicago Ward Committeemen HERE. The Cook County Republican Party is responsible for keeping those lists up to date.


To summarize, since it’s uncertain whether all party officials plan to follow Illinois law with respect to the slating of state delegates, contact your county chairman as soon as you can and ask to be slated as a delegate to the State Convention. Definitely do it before Wednesday. And in Cook County it would be your Ward or Township Committeeman as noted above. Similarly, in DuPage County I would also start with your GOP Township Chairman. That DuPage list is HERE.


Step 2: Attend the Illinois Republican State Convention in May


The 2016 Illinois Republican State Convention will be held May 19-21 at the Peoria Civic Center – Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette. The State Party has only very basic information about it posted thus far. (They have it running Thursday through Saturday, but Saturday is the only day all state delegates meet as a full convention. If you can only attend one day as a state delegate, it would be Saturday.)


This is the event where we really need to be vigilant to protect Donald Trump’s big win in Illinois. And if you’re there as a state delegate from your county, you will have an important role to play.


Here’s how it will work. We don’t have a schedule yet, but if past conventions are any guide, the first full day, Friday, May 20 will be when all of the different convention committees meet.


The relevant committee in Peoria which impacts the National Convention will be called something like “Committee on At-Large Delegates and Alternates to the Republican National Convention.”


Republican voters directly elected 54 delegates for the National Convention at the March 15 Primary. Trump won a majority of those in Illinois, which is good. And we can all be confident the National Convention delegates who ran and won are all firmly committed to Trump. So that part’s done.


But in addition to the 54 spots filled by Republican voters on March 15, Illinois gets 15 more spots at the National Convention. Three of those spots are already accounted for by rule. They go to the State Party Chairman, National Committeeman and National Committeewoman.


That leaves 12 At-Large Delegate spots to the Republican National Convention to be filled at the State Convention. That is what one big battle will be about in Peoria.


The State GOP adopted a Resolution on September 28 which they apparently haven’t published anywhere, but I was able to get a copy. It says that all 15 of those additional delegates “shall vote in the first ballot at the 2016 Republican National Convention for the Republican Presidential nominee that receives the most votes in the statewide primary election on March 15, 2016.” [Emphasis added.]


When the State GOP passed that Resolution back in September, some were no doubt assuming someone like Jeb Bush would win Illinois.


But of course Jeb didn’t make it. The good news is Trump received the most votes in Illinois so that Resolution requires the 12 At-Large Delegates selected (plus the State Chairman, National Committeeman and National Committeewoman) to vote for Trump on the first ballot in Cleveland.


Trump supporters need to become state delegates and get to the State Convention because I can almost guarantee we’re going to see is a rigged-up committee on that Friday in Peoria that if left to its own devices is going to pick 12 At-Large Delegates who are NOT Trump supporters. The committee on At-Large Delegates that will be recommending the 12 persons is easy to rig because it’s comprised of 18 people, one appointed by each of the members of the Illinois GOP’s State Central Committee. And our State Central Committee isn’t accountable to the Republican rank-and-file because they aren’t directly elected (they’re chosen exclusively by lower level party officials under the closed system our State Party still uses).


Sure, no matter who that committee on At-Large Delegates pick they’ll all be bound to Trump on the first ballot in Cleveland. But the old guard is likely going to pull out all the stops to try and ensure they get 12 people who are committed to abandoning Trump at the first opportunity, i.e. on the second ballot. (Basically a replay of what happened a week ago in Tennessee.)


Trump supporters will have the opportunity to lobby the members of that committee on At-Large Delegates into doing the right thing in Peoria. We have a good case to make that all At-Large Delegates chosen should be true Trump supporters who will stick with Trump no matter how many ballots it takes.


But even if lobbying fails and a rigged committee does pick an anti-Trump slate of At-Large Delegates – that committee’s recommendation still has to go to the floor of the convention for approval by the full delegation. That would happen the next day, Saturday, May 21, the only time the full delegation meets together in Peoria.


If enough Trump supporters are on the floor in Peoria as delegates, an unacceptable slate of At-Large Delegates can be voted down. We need a lot of people there because they’ll first try to approve the committee recommended slate by voice vote and that means more potential for dishonest games.


We’ll publish more about the State Convention as it gets closer, but my purpose here was just to explain the urgent importance of getting appointed as a state delegate – and quickly.


If you have problems getting appointed as a state delegate or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at


Related: Why Local Conventions Are A Must Attend For Illinois Trump Backers


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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