The Republican National Committee on Thursday unveiled new rules for the party's 2016 presidential nominating process, but the changes are expected to protect the traditional schedule and status of early-voting states.

The first nominating contests of the GOP presidential primary calendar are reserved for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada -- and all are scheduled for February. But the party is also proposing new, stiffer penalties to prevent other states from moving up their election schedules in an attempt to gain greater influence.

The RNC has failed in the past to prevent state parties from moving up their primaries, which the causes traditional early-voting states to move theirs up even earlier. In 2012, that maneuvering pushed the Iowa caucuses to immediately after New Year's Day with the New Hampshire primary barely a week later, making it difficult for candidates to campaign effectively in either state.

But following two presidential election defeats and a chaotic primary process in 2012 that many fear undermined the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, the RNC is hoping for greater cooperation from the states in 2016.

The new rules, rolled out during the RNC’s annual winter meeting this week in Washington, include:

• February 2016 would be reserved for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Other states would be permitted to hold their primaries on or after March 1.

• Any primary held between March 1 and March 14 will award their nominating delegates on a proportional basis, rather than giving all of them to the overall winner. Any state holding a primary after March 14 would have the option of awarding its delegates on either a proportional or winner-take-all basis.

• Tougher penalties for states violating the GOP's primary plan. States with 30 or more delegates, like Florida, would be allowed to send only nine of those delegates -- and any RNC members in the state -- to the nominating convention. Any state with 29 or fewer delegates would be allowed to send only six delegates plus RNC members. The reduction in convention delegates would seriously reduce the influence those states would otherwise hold in the nominating process.