Can Delegates Be Bound to Donald Trump?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the media on the golf course at his Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland, on June 25. A coalition of individuals and groups says delegates have a right and responsibility to cast their vote according to their conscience at the Republican National Convention in July. Carlo Allegri/Reuters

With less than three weeks remaining until the start of the Republican National Convention, a coalition of individuals and several groups is increasing efforts to stop Donald Trump from winning the party's nomination. Their goal: allowing delegates at the convention to vote freely for the nominee and not be bound to the real estate mogul.

The movement is led by groups and individuals from across the country—delegates, alternates and citizens. Some supported various GOP candidates throughout the primary, including Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio.

Three major groups are spearheading the effort: Delegates Unbound, Free the Delegates 2016 and Courageous Conservatives PAC. The groups have united to divvy up responsibilities—including streamlining messaging and tallying delegates who want to vote their conscience—in an effort to amplify the movement. No single candidate is supported by the overall coalition—rather, it aims to educate delegates about their votes.

"We would not presume to tell the delegates who we want to be the replacement candidate," Free the Delegates 2016 co-founder Regina Thomson told C-Span in an interview Sunday. "We are opening the door for those delegates now to choose the candidate that they come ready to cast their vote for."

Kendal Unruh, also of Free the Delegates 2016, is working on a clause to submit to the GOP's Rules Committee for consideration that says the delegates have a right and responsibility to cast their vote according to their conscience, and won't face retribution from their state parties or other political entities for voting as they see fit. Hundreds of delegates and alternates have committed to denying Trump the nomination through online petitions, Thomson said.

Delegates Unbound focuses on shining a light on the Rules Committee, and to make it clear that delegates don't wish to be bound to a specific candidate when the RNC starts in Cleveland on July 18. Instead, they want delegates to vote their conscience.

In the days before the convention, the Rules Committee decides on the official guidelines to govern the event. Those bylaws are ratified by the delegates gathered there, who as the ultimate authority of the party can support or oppose those regulations. Every delegate has been free to vote their conscience, aside from those at the 1976 RNC. That year, when Ronald Reagan challenged incumbent President Gerald Ford, a resolution was adopted to bind delegates to the results of primaries and caucuses. The 1980 convention later quashed the resolution.

Dane Waters, co-founder of Delegates Unbound—which was formed as an entity earlier this month—says the group's main position is about Trump's electability, or lack thereof. "Pretty much this effort is redefining how conventions operate," he tells Newsweek.

Polls indicate the New York billionaire trails Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton in a matchup in November's general election. A CNN/ORC poll conducted between June 16 and 19 showed that Republican voters were nearly split when asked who they'd rather see their party choose as its nominee for president. Forty-eight percent said "someone else," while just 51 percent said Trump. The answer was based on 409 registered Republicans.

A TV ad released by Delegates Unbound and titled "Follow Your Conscience" sets Trump and Reagan side by side on a split screen. During one juxtaposition, former President Reagan says: "Use of force is always and only a last resort." Then, a clip of Trump talking about the Islamic State militants plays: "I would bomb the shit out of them."

Critics of the movement are arguing that the groups reverse the primary process, which indicates the candidate that the majority of the party wants to nominate. But in response, Thomson says they are operating within the process of the party, by inviting delegates who are concerned to join their cause.

"We're not just people who said, 'We're disappointed. Our candidate wasn't nominated,'" Thomson said in the interview Sunday. "For most of the people that are involved in this movement this is very, very fundamental and goes to what we see as the core nature of the candidate." She continued, saying supporters don't believe Trump "embodies the Republican Party principles."

"We do not see him as being the right person for the Republican candidate, and we also don't feel that, even if he was nominated, that he would be able to win," Thomson said.

Waters points to Trump's difficulty with campaign structure and fundraising efforts. A Reuters review of the mogul's financial disclosures released last week indicates the billionaire has an insufficient amount of cash to see his campaign through November 8. He makes the case for unbound delegates because some voters might have changed their view of Trump since the early primaries took place, after new information surfaced and new controversies rose surrounding some of the mogul's remarks.

"The idea that delegates are bound and not able to take into consideration new information between the date that they voted and the convention is absurd," Waters says. "Delegates have the authority to take all of that into consideration when they're choosing the nominee."

On a personal level, Waters says he is concerned specifically with Trump's unclear national and foreign policies, remarks about the Mexican heritage of a federal judge and wish to ban Muslims from entering the United States—a stance which the contender seemed to soften over the weekend when he said he doesn't want "people coming in from certain countries."

In the months leading up to the end of the primary season in early June and continuing after, several prominent members of the GOP have said they won't support Trump. And, when asked by Politico if they would attend or speak at the RNC, "only a few" Republicans said they'd be willing to address the crowd. The media outlet reached out to more than 50 House members, governors and senators.