Presidential primary proposed

Sen. James Settelmeyer, a Republican representing Churchill, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties, has introduced legislation to create a presidential primary system in Nevada.

Though some news reports said that Senate Bill 421 would replace the presidential caucuses held in Nevada for decades, in fact, the caucuses would still be held both for party organization and for national presidential nominating convention delegate selection. The bill requires that the delegates selected in the caucuses—known in Nevada as precinct meetings—“must reasonably reflect the results of the presidential preference primary election.” This would keep the delegates from being free agents and, apparently, would bind them to candidates who might have dropped out of the race or suspended their campaigns.

The bill also contains New Hampshire-style language that would allow the secretary of state to shift primary dates around, apparently to move Nevada to an early point in the delegate selection process, a status it already enjoys under the caucus system. It would also require the consent of the Legislative Commission for date changes, putting legislators in the position of enjoying executive branch powers.

Nevada held a Democratic presidential primary in 1912, a Republican primary in 1996, and primaries for both parties in 1976 and 1980. The primary created in 1975 was discontinued after its second use for budgetary reasons—it had cost more than twice the expected amount.

In the absence of a new presidential primary, Nevada's presidential caucuses are expected to retain their early placement in spite of the retirement of Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, who was instrumental in the state getting its early date. Nevada's caucuses and South Carolina's primary are expected to be on Feb. 18, 2016, the third date of the presidential nominating calendar, after Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's primary.