Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy oulining the party’s proposed 2020 changes to the presidential caucus process in March. (Nevada Current file photo)
No, you can’t phone it in.
Plans to allow Nevadans to participate in the Democratic presidential caucus by phone have been scrapped, the state party confirmed Friday.
But there will still be early voting, a departure from prior caucuses when participants had to show up on caucus day for their preference to be counted.
The party’s announcement Friday followed news reports that the Democratic National Committee was rejecting so-called virtual caucus plans put forth by Nevada and Iowa.
The rejection of virtual caucus plans in Nevada and Iowa followed concerns the DNC Rules Committee expressed last week that the process could be hacked.
In a release, Nevada Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy blamed Vladimir Putin and Mitch McConnell. Sort of.
“Unfortunately, The DNC has advised we not go forward with this process due to threats against our Democratic infrastructure and Republican inaction to prevent future attacks in the upcoming election cycle,” McCurdy said.
“The Nevada Democratic Party has long been committed to expanding access to the caucus process—including pioneering workplace caucus sites. This cycle, we engaged even further by introducing early caucus voting. NV Dems will still host four days of in-person early voting and caucus sites on the Las Vegas Strip to provide Nevada Democrats additional opportunities to participate in an important process that will have lasting effects on our country.”
Presidential caucuses are operated by political parties, not government election officials.
In July, Nevada Democrats described a “tele-caucus” plan that would have occurred on the Sunday and Monday prior to the Saturday, Feb. 22 caucus, and people would have been able to participate by cell phone, landline, Skype and Google Hangouts.
But that won’t happen.
There is no way to know how much the virtual caucus might have improved turnout in February. A poll in Iowa found that allowing people to phone it in could increase participation by perhaps as much as a third.
Turnout should get a boost from the four days of early, in-person voting during the week prior to the caucus, however.
Overall turnout for Nevada caucuses is abysmal compared to traditional elections. The 2016 presidential caucus attracted 84,000 Democrats statewide. By contrast, in the June 2018 primary election, 146,677 Democrats turned out to vote for state and local candidates.
Low-turnout for caucuses is not a Nevada-specific phenomenon.
According to data gathered by Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics. In the eight states where both parties have used caucuses instead of primaries, just 11.3 percent of registered voters cast ballots in 2016, compared to 36.1 percent of voters who participated in states with primaries.
Meanwhile, Nevada Republican Party officials have taken steps to abandon the caucus process altogether and effectively nominate Donald Trump for reelection as a mere formality.
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