NEVADA CAUCUS: What’s happening in Vegas

This morning, I checked into BooMan Tribune and found a diary by Real History Lisa, that was a bit disturbing:

In a nutshell, Democrats are suing to stop – get this – Democrats, from voting!!

Yes, it really is that crazy.

The Nevada caucus rules have been in place for nearly a year. Several “at large” precincts had been set up in Casinos so workers could easily get to a caucus to vote.

The whole point of this setup was to allow people who otherwise couldn’t participate that day a real option to have their vote counted.

But when Clinton’s camp lost the much coveted union endorsement from the Culinary Worker’s unionto Obama, people with connections to the Clinton campaign filed suit to stop the casino caucuses, which are sure to be filled with Culinary Workers.

Huh? That’s can’t be right. That doesn’t make sense. I believe the numbers are something like 40% of the Culinary Workers Union are Latino. Clinton has been trying to woo the Latino vote. Surely, something like this is being misunderstood or something…Right? So, I do a little googling.

Nutshell: The State party decided to put nine polling places inside casinos on the Strip. This will allow voters who have to work on Saturday to vote at their workplace. This was decided last May. Two days after Sen. Obama got the CWUs endorsement, a suit was filed by the teacher’s union. The teacher’s union whose leadership are Clinton supporters. They decided that allowing polling places inside casinos disenfranchises janitors who open schools on Saturdays.

Yeah, I’m scratching my head too. From the Las Vegas Sun:

The complaint, with the state teachers union and some party activists as plaintiffs, came as Obama accepted the endorsement of the Culinary Union. The timing seemed designed to cloud the good buzz from his campaign, which could only help Sen. Hillary Clinton’s efforts in the state.

The lawsuit claims that those voting in at-large precincts being held on the Strip would have too much weight compared with those voting at their polling places, violating the equal protection law of the U.S. Constitution. It also claims the at-large precincts violate state statute in the way they were drawn.

State Democratic Party officials disputed the lawsuit’s contentions.

“This has been a fully transparent process,” party spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said. “These rules have been approved by the Democratic National Committee and the campaigns have been fully informed throughout this process, which started in May.”

I’m assuming that these people were completely behind Kucinich’s suit to be allowed to participate in the recent debates hosted by NBC.

Bill Clinton is rambling on about votes in the casinos counting 5 times more than other votes:

The plaintiffs argue that the sites allocate a disproportionately high number of delegates to one group of voters. More than 700 out of roughly 10,000 delegates to Nevada’s presidential nominating convention could be selected at the casino caucuses.

Workers at most casinos on the Strip are organized by the powerful Culinary Workers Union, which has endorsed Senator Clinton’s rival for the nomination, Senator Obama of Illinois.

And Bill Clinton said:

“Do you really believe that all the Democrats understood that they had agreed to give everybody who voted in a casino a vote worth five times as much as people who voted in their own precinct? Did you know that?” Mr. Clinton said in a testy exchange with a television reporter, Mark Matthews of KGO. “What happened is nobody understood what had happened. … Now, everybody’s saying, ‘Oh they don’t want us to vote.’ What they really tried to do was to set up a deal where their votes counted five times, maybe even more.”

I don’t know Bill…your explanations of late have sucked and this one sucks even more. How is that no one recognized this until after the Culinary Workers Union gives an endorsement?

From The Nation, we get a dose of reality:

Rob Richie, Executive Director of FairVote, agreed that the timing and impact of the lawsuit are problematic. He told me, “The time to discuss the fairness of caucus sites is long past – you simply don’t want to reduce the number of places to vote or do a last-minute change if you want people to participate. Caucus turnout already promises to be distressingly low for representative outcomes.”


D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of Culinary Local 226, also felt that the Democratic Party should speak out strongly to defend the caucus sites. As he said to the New York Times, “I never thought we’d have people in the Democratic Party try to disenfranchise women, people of color and large numbers of working people in this state. I am sure every single elected official in Nevada will renounce it, and so will the Clinton campaign.”

But no such luck.

Asked about the lawsuit on Meet The Press Clinton said, “The courts and the state party will have to work it out.”

You’ll be sure to note that as much as the Clinton campaign tries to distance itself from this lawsuit, Bill Clinton’s words pretty much match the language of the lawsuit. Word for word. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has an article which gives a bit more detail:

[NSEA President Lynn]Warne said she didn’t even know about the at-large caucus sites until last week. But new court filings submitted Wednesday by attorneys for the Democratic Party of Nevada allege that other plaintiffs in the lawsuit not only knew about the at-large sites, but supported them.

In an affidavit, Travis Brock, executive director of the Nevada State Democratic Party, said minutes of a March 31, 2007 meeting of the State Central Committee show that plaintiffs John Birkland, Vicky Birkland, John Cahill and Dwayne Chesnut voted in favor of the draft delegate selection rules.

In the comment sections of most of the above sites, people are pointing out that the same plaintiffs approved the caucus rules as late as 11/3/2007.

And the NSEAs stance that this whole thing disenfranchises their janitors also doesn’t carry weight, as the caucus rules state that a person can participate in a caucus as long as they’ll be 18 by Nov. 4, 2008:

Who Can Participate?

All participants must be Democrats registered to vote in the precinct. A list of registered Democrats will be available at the caucuses. If you are not on the list and are not registered to vote, you will be able to register as a Democrat at the caucus.

• Seventeen-year-olds, who will be 18 by the general election on November 4, 2008, will be allowed to fully participate. They will be required to fill out a voter registration card and register as a Democrat if they have not done so already.

• Participants may register to vote at the caucus. Republicans, nonpartisans and others can change registration to become a Democrat that day.

To make matters a little more clear, this is a caucus, not a primary. For Clinton and the lawsuit to claim, “one man, one vote” is to muddy the waters of what a caucus is. From the Nevada State Democratic Party’s website:

Caucus systems are not set up to be a one person one vote system. Rather, they are designed to allocate delegates to only those candidates with a threshold of support that is based on the number of people participating in a caucus. Meeting the minimum level of support is called “viability” and whether or not a candidate has enough support determines whether they meet the “threshold” to continue.

That means that the janitors the NSEA is oh-so-worried about can actually attend the caucus at the school if they’re already registered Democrats or would like to register as a Democrat for the day. In other words, they don’t have a basis for their suit and the NSEA is proving themselves to be WATB.

UPDATE: A judge has dismissed the lawsuit. From AP:

LAS VEGAS – Democrats with ties to Hillary Rodham Clinton failed in court Thursday to prevent casino workers from caucusing at special precincts in Nevada.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan was presumed to be a boost for Clinton rival Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential caucuses Saturday because he has been endorsed by the union representing many of the shift workers who will be able to use the precincts on the Las Vegas strip.

“State Democrats have a First Amendment right to association, to assemble and to set their own rules,” Mahan said.


He said it is “up to the national party and the state party to promulgate these rules and enforce them.”

The Democratic National Committee ratified the state party’s rules in August

So there you have it. I’m sure there’ll be an appeal.


2 thoughts on “NEVADA CAUCUS: What’s happening in Vegas

  1. Great post! It helped me complete my own very long post on my blog about this situation. In fact, I quoted you a couple of times. 🙂


Comments are closed.