The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada entered unfamiliar territory Tuesday by opening a new office designed to train volunteers to aggressively question presidential candidates on key issues as the politicians move through Nevada.
Executive Director Tod Story said the Rights For All campaign, which is housed in a building adjacent to the ACLU’s main office on Rancho Drive, represents the first time in the organization’s 53-year history that it will wade directly into presidential campaign politics.
“We are hoping to train (the volunteers) to engage the candidates on civil liberty issues in a thoughtful, respectful way,” Story said.
A few dozen new recruits filled the office for training on Tuesday. ACLU spokesman Wesley Juhl said 55 volunteers have already attended eight campaign stops during this election cycle.
The volunteers seek clear policy positions in four areas — criminal justice reform, immigration, voting rights and reproductive freedom. Each area will drill down to more specific campaign pledge requests, such as asking the candidate to commit to cutting the federal prison population by 50 percent.
The volunteers hope to capture the questions and answers on video. They are working with similar campaigns in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — the three other early states in the primary cycle — to get as many questions answered by as many candidates as possible.
Story stressed the ACLU is taking a nonpartisan approach, adding that these issues transcend the political spectrum. If they are able, he said, the volunteers will ask the same questions to candidates of other parties.
Roger Pharr, a Rights For All volunteer, said he believes civil liberties have been rolling backward over the years. He said he feels particularly connected to ending incarceration over minor offenses such as traffic tickets, which he said has led to “thousands of people held in essentially debtor prisons here in Las Vegas.”
Gregorio Alberto, a volunteer and recent College of Southern Nevada High School graduate, said that people often incorrectly believe that every Democratic candidate supports the same policies.
“Just because they’re a Democrat doesn’t mean they will support the issues I care about,” Alberto said.