The Nevada Democratic Party will convene the nation’s first-ever early caucus in just one week, but what it will look like and how it will work remain a mystery.
Spokeswoman Molly Forgey said Friday that the party will not use a mobile application of any kind during the early voting period (Feb. 15-18) or during the third-in-the-nation caucus on Feb. 22. The confirmation comes after two specially developed apps for each set of Nevada caucuses were trashed Tuesday after a similar program developed by the same company, Shadow Inc., caused major problems at Monday’s Iowa caucuses.
The app’s destruction marked the second roadblock in the party’s earnest efforts to use technology to increase participation and streamline the complicated caucus process for the 2020 cycle. A plan that would have allowed Nevadans to caucus by telephone was axed by the Democratic National Committee in September due to cybersecurity concerns.
The party remains committed to an early caucus option and a smooth caucus day, but specifics have been slow to materialize as staffers finalize a contingency plan. And for campaigns that have invested millions of dollars and thousands of hours into the seminal Nevada caucuses, the silence has increased anxiety and even frustration.
Local operatives for top Democratic challengers say they’re holding steady this week despite little contact with the state party. There is a general sense of camaraderie between the campaigns and the party. Both have a keen interest in smooth caucuses with as many participants as possible. Many of the staffers worked together in the past. Some will do so again once the nominating process is over.
Some campaigns even offered up their own ideas for simplifying the caucuses during a short briefing on Thursday.
However, each February day is a lifetime on the early state campaign trail — particularly after the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, when most of the candidates and their A-list surrogates will begin Las Vegas residencies that rival any found on The Strip. Andrew Yang has a star-studded town hall with DJ Steve Aoki and actor Ken Jeong planned for Thursday, for example, and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg will attend four events in as many days beginning on Thursday.
Hundreds of volunteers are reporting next week for campaign boot camps, where they will not only learn how to persuade voters during caucus alignments but also act as the eyes and ears of their candidate to ensure fair treatment. In Iowa, volunteers for Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden were some of the first to report problems and results as the party struggled through app problems.
The faith in Nevada’s party is still there among the campaigns, but there’s a lot at stake. If it’s not sorted out soon, acrimony will grow.
Megan K. Jones, a veteran of the state party and several presidential campaigns, said the local teams are likely more focused on turning out supporters and training volunteers at this moment.
With so many viable candidates, an unsteady Iowa caucus and a new early voting system, precinct captains will be critical as candidates look to gain momentum in the first state with an electorate that accurately represents the country, she added.
“Everybody’s hoping to be the comeback kid in Nevada,” she said. “We really are the first test. With our diverse population, this is a chance for a candidate to prove they can win a (general) election.”