Parallel primary, caucus will demand ‘aggressive’ outreach to combat confusion, Aguilar says
The state Republican presidential preference primary is Feb. 6. A separate Nevada Republican Party caucus will be held two days later. (Photo by Jeniffer Solis/Nevada Current)
In previous years, when the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office received inquiries about presidential caucuses, staff could quickly explain that caucuses are organized by the two major political parties, not local or state election officials, and that voters should seek answers with them.
But next year will present unprecedented challenges for state and county election officials as they seek to promote the presidential preference primary they are mandated by state law to administer while navigating the existence of a GOP-run presidential caucus scheduled to be held that same week.
Nevada Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar in a press call on Thursday acknowledged the need for “the strongest and most aggressive” voter outreach to combat the potential confusion that could arise from the parallel events, which come with different dates and locations, different requirements for voter participation, and different political candidates competing for support.
When asked whether election administrators would simply promote the primary while the GOP promotes the caucus, or whether there might be a more proactive combined effort to explain the differences to Republican voters, Aguilar said nobody knows specifics yet.
“It’s going to be a coordination effort with the party to make sure that we are in sync on what that message is,” he said. “My job here as secretary of state is really to be nonpartisan, to be a regulator, to ensure that we’re doing what we need to do when it comes to election administration. My goal is to make sure that every voter knows that their opportunity to participate is respected.”
Aguilar put some responsibility on the shoulders of the candidates, saying they will need “to really participate in the process and explain to their voters and supporters. ‘Hey, I’m participating in X process. Here’s what it takes to participate.’”
Republicans Mike Pence, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott are among the debate-eligible candidates who have filed for Nevada’s presidential primary. Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie have all registered for the caucus.
Only those candidates participating in the caucus will be eligible to secure delegates at the Republican National Convention — a decision made by the Nevada Republican Party. But the primary candidates stand to gain momentum, which could help them going into the “Super Tuesday” primaries that will be held a month after Nevadans weigh in.
Aguilar and other election officials have been careful in their statements regarding the GOP caucus, acknowledging that there is pending litigation between the party and the state over election law. Aguilar said he would not speculate on why individual candidates chose one path over the other, or why the state party chose to hold a caucus in spite of the new primary law.
“The law gives the party the opportunity to choose what’s in the best interest of their organization and its members,” he said. “They obviously chose that this was in their best interest, and they’re following the law, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Aguilar added that debates about the merits and pitfalls of primaries versus caucuses are best left to the Nevada State Legislature. Democrats in 2021 (when they controlled the legislature and governorship) passed the bill mandating that state-run presidential primaries be held.
“Ideally, it would have been best if the Republican Party had come early in my term, prior to the legislative session starting this year, saying, ‘Hey, this is what our plan is. We would like to address it.’” said Aguilar. “We could have gone to the legislature and had that debate. But that didn’t occur obviously. And so we’re stuck in this situation.”
Aguilar declined to estimate how much the presidential primary and related outreach efforts might cost the state.
“You can’t put a price on democracy,” he added.
DATES & LOCATIONS VOTER REQUIREMENTS VOTING IN BOTH Nevadans can legally participate in both the primary and the caucus.
DATES & LOCATIONS
VOTING IN BOTH
Nevadans can legally participate in both the primary and the caucus.
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