Nevada caucuses a month away

A month from today, an estimated 3,000 Douglas County Republicans and Democrats will gather to make their preferences for president known, as Nevada follows Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and Wyoming in picking who will run for president in November.

While the Jan. 19 caucus meetings will be Democratic and Republican party regulars' only opportunity to make their preference known, officials for both parties say they shouldn't get attached to the selection.

Party Chairwoman Maggie Benz said she expects about a tenth of the county's Republicans to attend caucus meetings at a dozen sites.

"Some are the usual polling places for elections," she said. "We're also using a couple of churches, some fire departments and we're meeting at Kahle Community Center at the Lake."

The Douglas County Republican Central Committee issued a statement that the caucus will hold a straw poll to determine their preference for the party's nominee, but that delegates elected at the caucus will not be bound to any candidate.

"The delegates are not bound in any way to the results of the vote in their precinct," the statement said. "The Nevada State Republican Convention selects the delegates for the national convention at its meeting in September."

Douglas Democrats will have slightly more say on their preference for president, but Caucus Chairwoman JoAnne Orange said events may render that preference irrelevant. Democrats are also meeting in about a dozen sites and are even sharing some with Republicans.

Orange said Democrats are basing their caucus on the Iowa model, which requires candidates receive a certain amount of participation before they are considered.

On the morning of Jan. 19, Democrats will register at one of 14 meeting places and at 11:30 a.m. the doors will close, Orange said.

Once registration is complete, party members will go to their precincts, elect officers and then break up according to their presidential preference.

"In the room there are representatives of the candidates and each person goes to that candidate," Orange said. "People are given a certain amount of time to make a decision. When the doors close the entire number of people in each precinct are counted. For a candidate to be viable, they must have so many people."

Orange said the Iowa system combines politics and math to determine whether there is enough support for a single candidate to select a delegate. A candidate who gets six or fewer votes does not get a delegate and those participants are then lobbied by other campaigns.

"It goes around for a second count until the delegates are determined," she said.

But after all that work, delegates may change their preference when they arrive at the county or the state conventions.

"I feel a lot of this is going to be determined in Iowa and New Hampshire," Orange said. "Sen. Joe Biden has said if he doesn't get a good showing in both, he's dropping out of the race."

Further complicating the issue is super caucus day on Feb. 5 after which the nominee will likely be determined, Orange said.

So by the time of the Feb. 23 county convention, delegates who've been selected for a losing candidate will be able to change their affiliation.

Delegates will again be able to alter their allegiance at the April 19 Nevada convention.

Orange said the state party expects a turnout of 15-18 percent of the county's 7,999 Democrats.

There are 16,079 registered Republicans, according to Clerk-Treasurer Barbara Griffin.

Selection of presidential nominees is a function of the parties. Once a nominee is selected at the national convention, that person will appear on the general election ballot. Presidential nominees do not appear on any Nevada ballot.

The number of voters needed to select a candidate depends on the size of the precinct. A precinct gets one delegate for every 50 registered voters.

Those with one delegate are selected by simple majority. With two delegates, at least 25 percent of the people present must vote for a candidate for that person to be viable.

Those with three delegates must have at least 1/6 of the total to be viable. For precincts with four or more delegates, 15 percent is the minimum for a candidate to get a delegate

For instance 30 people attend the caucus from a precinct that gets four delegates.

On the first vote, candidate X receives 10 votes or 1/3 and is therefore viable

Candidates Y and Z receive 8 votes each, and are viable.

Candidate B gets four votes, which is less than 15 percent and is not viable.

Then the chair has those attending the caucus break into groups based on their preference giving them about 15 minutes to do so. The chair can extend that time. After everyone is with their group, the chair will announce how many people were required for viability, which candidates remain viable and which do not. Then anybody in a group backing a non-viable candidate can change to a viable one. Only those voters who are backing non-viable candidates can change. Everyone else has to stay.

Once everyone is backing a viable candidate, then the math kicks in.

The number of members backing each candidate is multiplied by the number of delegates from the precinct and divided by the number of attendees.

So candidate X got all four non-viable votes and received a total of 14. That number was multiplied by four which equals 56 and then divided by the total, which was 30. Results are rounded up, so the answer equals 2 delegates for candidate X.

The other two viable candidates get one delegate each. The results of the delegate count is telephoned in to the state.

Then each preference group elects delegates to the county convention. While voters have to be present to have a preference for president, people who aren't at the caucus can be nominated and elected delegates. Presumably Democratic State Party Chairwoman Jill Derby, a Foothill resident, will be at party headquarters, not her precinct meeting, but she could still be considered for election as a delegate.

Those at the precinct meetings will also get to suggest platforms for the party. Nominations to the county central committee will be made, but not voted on.


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