Democrats enjoy boost from caucus

As they had hoped, Nevada Democrats are getting a dramatic boost in voter registration from the Jan. 19 presidential caucus.

With only a third of new registrations processed so far, the Democratic total in Clark County has jumped by 7,000, according to the Clark County Election Department. Republican registration has declined by more than 1,000.

“It’s clear that the caucus was an extremely effective way of bringing in new voters to the Democratic fold,” said Kirsten Searer, deputy executive director of the Clark County Democratic Party. “We are building the most impressive voter registration advantage we’ve had in at least 15 years.”

The Democrats’ overall gain in voters was reflected in the hotly contested Congressional District 3. Democrats gained 3,500 voters in the suburban district currently represented by Republican Jon Porter, while the number of Republicans declined slightly between Feb. 1 and Feb. 8.

That gives Democrats an advantage of nearly 14,000 registered voters in a district expected to be one of the top battlegrounds in the nation in November.

Republicans say they are not worried because they expect to undertake an intense voter registration drive leading up to the general election.

“This is a wake-up call that says we do need to be competitive, but that’s where our resources are going,” said Zac Moyle, executive director of the Nevada Republican Party. “We fully expect to make up that ground by November.”

Moyle also said voter registration numbers on paper matter less than how many voters the parties can actually turn out to vote, which Republicans tend to do better.

On Jan. 19, Democrats drew nearly three times as many participants as Republicans did to the state’s first presidential caucuses to be held early in the nominating calendar.

Democrats also allowed people to register to vote as Democrats at the caucus, while Republicans required registration 30 days in advance.

The result was more than 30,000 Democratic voter registrations statewide in a single day, with more than 20,000 of those in Clark County, according to the party.

The forms were turned in last week. Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said the county received about 26,000 registrations last week from all sources, including about 20,000 from the Democrats.

As of Friday, Lomax said, about a third of the 26,000 had been processed. Lomax said he expects to have all the caucus registrations processed by the end of this month.

The overall number of active registered Democrats in Clark County was 289,329 as of Feb. 1. One week later, it was 296,292.

Over the same period, the number of active registered Republicans in Clark County declined from 234,671 to 233,608.

The total number of Clark County voters went from 651,032 to 654,772.

Based on an analysis of a small representative sample, Lomax said about half the forms were truly new Democratic voters, while half were already registered with the party.

About 36 percent of the new registrations were people already registered changing their party affiliation. The overwhelming majority were switching to the Democratic Party, either from the Republican Party, a third party or nonpartisan status.

Another 16 percent were first-time registrants, also mostly Democrats, he said.

But 30 percent of the new registrations were duplicates: People who were already registered as Democrats who filled out a voter registration form anyway, possibly due to out-of-date voter rolls at caucus locations.

And 18 percent of the forms were address changes for voters who were already registered.

Statewide post-caucus voter registration totals weren’t yet available because most registrations were still being processed by clerks and registrars in Nevada’s 17 counties.

Also on Friday, the state Democratic Party announced that a committee will be appointed to examine caucus irregularities and make recommendations for future improvements.

The state party’s chairwoman, Jill Derby, said in an e-mail to party members that hundreds of responses came in to her call for feedback, good and bad.

“We have heard your recommendations, especially on streamlining the check-in process, improving sites that host multiple precincts and even simplifying the caucus process,” Derby said.

The committee, she said, will look over the feedback, “propose specific improvements to the next caucus and oversee implementation.”

Democrats’ jubilation over the record-setting turnout of 118,000 was marred by rampant complaints of chaos in the complex caucus process. The campaign of Sen. Barack Obama sent a letter to the party asking for an investigation of what it said was a systematic effort to squelch their supporters’ participation by supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Clinton won the majority of precinct delegates in the caucus. Clinton and Obama remain locked in a tight battle for the nomination.

The campaigns didn’t dispute the results of the caucus, but the party, which said it was always planning on conducting an internal audit, was under pressure not to sweep the hundreds of complaints under the rug.

Searer said the committee will be a three-person working group, appointed by Derby, with representatives of Clark County, Washoe County and a rural county. The members will include a Clinton supporter and an Obama supporter, she said.

It will be up to the committee in what form it releases its conclusions, and when, Searer said..

Contact reporter Molly Ball at or (702) 387-2919.

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