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Nevada Democratic Leader Calls For That State To Consider Ending Its Caucuses

Nevada Democrats are calling for that state to consider ending its caucuses.

The chair of the Nevada Democratic Party is calling for that state to consider ending its caucuses. The statement comes as there is increased scrutiny of the Democratic nominating process. Iowa and Nevada are not the only states with caucuses, but they are the most high profile, with Iowa's first-in-the-nation contest, and Nevada coming third in the overall nominating calendar. If Nevada were to move to a primary, it could put even more pressure on the Hawkeye State.

After Nevadans held their contest on Saturday, State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy put out a statement saying he was "proud" of voters and volunteers, but he says it's time for his party to reconsider how it chooses presidents.

"I believe we need to start having a serious conversation ahead of next cycle about the limitations of the caucus process and the rules around it," McCurdy's statement read.

Nevada has been trying to work within the rules to expand its process. Unlike Iowa, that state opted to hold early caucusing this year.

Typically the events are organized as local party meetings that members have to physically attend in-person at specific times in order to register their support for a candidate. The complicated process can take hours.

This year, Nevada held four days of early caucusing, where voters could go to the polls and fill out a paper ballot, and register their support through a kind of ranked-choice voting, in a manner that is not unlike primaries held in other states. 

The party saw increased turnout over last cycle, with the majority of Nevadans choosing to caucus early, instead of at their traditional precincts on caucus day.

Still, McCurdy noted the "limitations" of caucuses and implied that it would be easy for more Nevadans to vote if the state abandoned the system.  

"If our goal is to bring as many Nevada Democrats as possible into the fold to select our presidential nominee, it’s time for our State Party and elected leaders to look at shifting to a primary process moving forward,” McCurdy's statement reads.

"If our goal is to bring as many Nevada Democrats as possible into the fold to select our presidential nominee, it's time for our State Party and elected leaders to look at shifting to a primary process moving forward." - William McCurdy, Chair of Nevada State Democratic Party

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has also called for an end to all caucuses, and has argued that his state should go first in the nominating calendar in part due to its diverse population.

Iowa Democrats’ caucus night debacle brought fresh scrutiny to the state and its first-in-the-nation status, at a time when the rest of the country has already been moving towards primaries.

The Iowa Democratic Party's caucus night reporting app was plagued with technical glitches in the days and hours before Iowans went to caucus. The situation was compounded by human error during calculations and transmission, and a back-up phone line overwhelmed with callers. In the wake of the debacle, Nevadans abandoned their initial plan to use an app built by the same company that Iowa used.

There were delays in the Nevada state party releasing results as well, though Nevada opted to use a data transmission system comprised of party-owned iPads, Google forms and a secure telephone hotline, instead of a caucus night app from Shadow, Inc.

New requirements from the Democratic National Committee to release more vote totals from caucuses delayed the tabulation and release of results in Iowa and Nevada.

Due to "irregularities" in Iowa's totals, and the fact that recounts of some precincts are still underway, the Associated Press has still not declared an official winner in the Iowa caucuses.

Some Iowa Democrats, including members of the Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee and leaders in county-level parties, had been calling on the state to reassess its caucuses long before February 3rd, 2020.

John Deeth helps coordinate the caucuses in Johnson County, the state's most Democratic county. Despite his key role in running the process in his area, he's been an ardent advocate of primaries. The morning after Iowa's caucuses, he said the process may finally come to an end.

"I've been arguing for a primary for a very long time. And the fact that we completely failed on reporting the results, you know, that's, I think the last nail in the coffin," Deeth said earlier this month.

"We study the candidates very well. We give the candidates the opportunity to travel across the state and to meet with people and to hone their message as well. So I will make a strong argument that we should keep the caucuses here." - Mark Smith, Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party

But Iowa Democratic Party leadership has been consistent in defending its process. When incoming IDP Chair Mark Smith was elected to his post earlier this month, following the resignation of former Chair Troy Price, he defended the caucuses.

"We study the candidates very well. We give the candidates the opportunity to travel across the state and to meet with people and to hone their message as well. So I will make a strong argument that we should keep the caucuses here," Smith said earlier this month.

In a response to a request for comment on the Nevada chair's statement, IDP Communications Director Mandy McClure defended Iowa's emphasis on grassroots organizing and pointed out that the process is enshrined in state law.

"Iowa state law requires each political party to hold a caucus every two years in order to determine delegates to conventions. The process provides a level playing field for each candidate to have the opportunity to achieve success through grassroots politics, and Iowa Democrats are some of the best organized and politically educated voters in the country," the statement reads. 

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter