The RNC Rules Vote Explained — Here's What Led to Chaos on the Convention Floor

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The floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland erupted into chaos Monday as anti-Donald Trump delegates attempted to change the rules in an effort to nominate someone other than the blustering businessman. 

But what exactly led to the chaotic scene? 

Let's start at the beginning.

Who was behind this chaos? 

Monday's frantic scene on the convention floor really began weeks ago, when Kendal Unruh, a delegate and supporter of vanquished presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, launched the #FreeTheDelegates movement. 

After the primaries wrapped, Trump had amassed 1,542 delegates, according to the New York Times, far more than the 1,237 needed to clinch the nomination. Almost all of those delegates — or 1,447 of them, to be exact — are bound to vote for Trump on the first round of balloting at the RNC, ensuring Trump will be the GOP nominee. 

But Unruh, who is an avowed member of the #NeverTrump crowd, wanted to change the rules of the convention to allow delegates to disregard the primary results and instead "vote their conscience" — potentially allowing someone other than Trump to clinch the GOP nomination.

How would that work? 

Last week, the RNC's Rules Committee met to write the rules of the convention. 

This was the big meeting in which Unruh and the other #FreeTheDelegates supporters attempted to change the rules to "unbind" the delegates and allow them to vote with their conscience rather than the way they were required to based on their state's primary results. 

Republican National Committee members, including RNC Chair Reince Priebus, met behind closed doors with these anti-Trump delegates — which included Utah Sen. Mike Lee and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — to attempt to negotiate a deal that would keep the delegates bound but also appease their movement. 

Ultimately, the #FreeTheDelegates' amendment that would unbind the delegates failed in the Rules Committee by a massive margin of 87-12.

Trump himself took to Twitter to declare their #NeverTrump movement "never more."

So if they lost the fight, what happened Monday on the convention floor? 

Undeterred by their defeat in the Rules Committee, #FreeTheDelegates members regrouped to make yet another attempt at unbinding the delegates and potentially denying Trump the nomination.

While the Rules Committee voted down their amendment, the entire Rules Committee package — which includes other rules provisions for the convention — had to be approved by the entire slate of delegates on Monday on the convention floor. 

While the committee's rules package is usually adopted by an uneventful voice vote — in which the chair of the convention asks delegates to say "aye" or "nay," and then chooses whichever he or she believes is loudest — Unruh and her group attempted to force a roll call vote. 

Delegates scream for a roll call vote at the RNC in Cleveland. Source: John Locher/AP
Delegates scream for a roll call vote at the RNC in Cleveland.  John Locher/AP

That roll call vote would have been the first step in what would have been a very unlikely scenario in which the thousands of delegates would vote down the rules committee package, send the Rules Committee back to draft new rules, and then successfully adopt a rule to unbind the delegates. 

Nevertheless, they pressed on.

In order to force a roll call vote, Unruh and her group needed the majority of delegates from seven state delegations to petition for a roll call vote. 

The group collected signatures, and said the majority of nine state delegations — Colorado, Washington, Utah, Minnesota, Wyoming, Maine, Iowa, Virginia and Washington, D.C., according to Politico — wanted a roll call vote. 

But when the chair came out, he adopted the rules by a voice vote — despite the loud group of "nays" erupting on the floor.

After adopting the rules by a voice vote, the chair retreated backstage as the chaos on the floor continued.

When the chair returned, he said that three states did not have the necessary number of members required to force the roll call vote.

The rules were officially adopted by voice vote, and the #FreeTheDelegates movement was dealt a fatal blow.

What now?

Unruh, Lee and Cuccinelli — who were on the floor and caused a scene during the rules committee vote — are unsurprisingly very unhappy. 

In an interview with C-SPAN, Unruh said the RNC effectively "squashed the voice of the people" and added that "the system is rigged to make sure Donald Trump gets this nomination."

Cuccinelli — who campaigned hard for Cruz during the primary — was so angry he threw his delegate credentials on the floor during the vote. 

Despite their anger, delegates are still bound to vote the way the primary results dictate. 

And, as Trump said last week, Never Trump is nevermore — at least at the RNC. 

Read more:
• Pandemonium Erupts as 2016 Republican National Convention Shoots Down #NeverTrump
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• The 2016 Republican National Convention Shows the Big Irony of Donald Trump's Campaign