Vote with your feet
Get ready for the Nevada caucuses
On Feb. 22, Nevadans will gather for the 2020 state Democratic caucuses. Nevada’s is the third nominating contest in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries, after the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11 and the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus, which took place on Feb. 3—with technical issues related to an app used leading to no clear victor in the state as of press time. (The Nevada State Democratic Party released a statement on Feb. 4 assuring voters that while it had intended to use the app that caused so many problems in Iowa, it no longer will and will instead evaluate the best alternative from among its previously created backup plans.)
Nevada hasn't always been third in the nation and first in the West to get in on the presidential nomination process.
It wasn't until after the 2004 election that then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the case for Nevada to be among the early states in the primary process. The Silver State's large minority population, Western location, strong union presence and large labor population all helped make the point. And since 2008, the Nevada caucuses have been slated for early in the process, prior to the Super Tuesday primaries—which will take place on March 3 and see 14 states representing some 26 million Democrats participate. Switching from its traditional late presidential primary process to an early caucus has made Nevada the first Latinx (28 percent of the population) state to vote, the first largely labor-based state to vote, and, as a result, has given the Silver State an electoral prominence and importance it has not arguably had since attaining statehood just days prior to Abraham Lincoln's reelection in 1864.
While Nevada has held both presidential primaries and caucuses throughout its history, the caucus process may be unfamiliar and perhaps even a daunting to some voters, including new Nevadans. An explanation of the process that will ultimately result in the state awarding 48 delegates to the national convention in July can assuage anxiety—and with new procedures, help prepare caucus-goers.
Things to know
The first thing to know is that Nevada caucuses are a closed caucus, meaning you need to be a registered Democrat—and of legal voting age by election day, Nov. 3—to participate. If you're not registered, or not registered as a Democrat, you can remedy this with same-day voter registration on caucus day at your voting precinct's caucus location, or you can go online and register through the Nevada Secretary of State's website. (Should you choose the latter option, state election officials advise you should get it done at least one or two days in advance of the caucus to allow for the lag in updating county-level and state-level voting rolls.) Another thing to note is that you won't need a photo ID to participate.
Neighborhood schools and libraries are often used as caucus locations. Caucuses are party-run affairs, and you can determine your precinct's caucus location by visiting the Nevada State Democratic Party's website at nvdems.com/2020-caucus. Regardless of location, the doors to precinct locations will open at 10 a.m. and the process will begin at noon. But what should you expect upon arriving at your caucus location?
The short answer is that you should expect to engage in conversation and debate with your neighbors. That's because while you'll start by filling out a form indicating your preference for the nomination, called a “presidential preference card,” if your candidate doesn't achieve a minimum percent of votes from your precinct—usually 15 percent—the candidate will be disqualified from receiving delegates from your precinct, and those in support of said candidate(s) will be encouraged to throw their votes behind another candidate. It's worth noting that 2020 will be the first year that presidential preference cards in Nevada will include a third bilingual language option, Tagalog, to accommodate the state's growing Asian American and Pacific Islander population.
The filling out of presidential preference cards is known as the first “alignment” in in the caucus process. During the second alignment, you and your neighbors will have the chance to persuade others to put their caucus votes toward “viable” candidates who met the support threshold set in the first round. Caucus volunteers will explain what you can and can't do to convince others to put their support behind viable candidates.
But the job of caucus-goers isn't done when viable candidates are determined. Afterward, you'll want to hang around to pick delegates from among your neighbors to represent your precinct at the at the Washoe County convention on April 18. There are 57 precinct voting locations spread throughout Washoe County, and each will send delegates to the county convention, some of whom will move on to the state (May 30) and national (July 13-16) conventions, where Democrats will tally them to determine which candidate will face off against President Donald Trump in the general election.
You'll also have the opportunity to weigh in on alternate delegates—people who can show up to represent your precinct in case a regular delegate is unable to attend future conventions.
At this point, if you're interested in influencing the Democratic party's policy positions, you'll have a bit left to do. After delegates and alternates are determined, you'll have the chance to submit ideas to possibly become part of the 2020 Democratic party platform on a variety of issues. Proposals made by caucus-goers will be passed on to the county, state and national conventions.
You may be wondering what your options are if you're unable to caucus on Feb. 22. If so, you're in luck because early caucus voting will be allowed this year between Feb. 15-18 at any of 14 locations in Reno and Sparks. You can check the state Democratic party's website to find the list of locations.
Should you choose early caucus voting, you'll be able to choose between three and five candidates and rank them in order of your preference. Your picks will be relayed to your precinct and, should the candidate(s) you name not reach the viability threshold, your subsequent choices will be automatically realigned until they fit within your precinct's overall votes.
As of press time, former Vice President Joe Biden was leading in polls of Democratic voters—at 25 percent, according to Washington Post polling, compared to 20 percent for Bernie Sanders, 16 percent for Elizabeth Warren, eight percent for Pete Buttigieg, seven percent for Tom Steyer, and less than five percent for the remaining four candidates (Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Mike Bloomberg and Tulsi Gabbard). There's a pretty decent chance Nevada caucus-goers will play an outsized role this year in determining who challenges Donald Trump for the presidency in November. Now that you know what to expect from your caucus experience, all you have to do is show up.