Democratic voters across Nevada will have the opportunity to caucus for the party’s presidential nominee by phone for the first time next year.
Party leaders say the change, triggered by a mandate from the Democratic National Committee, is aimed at making the caucus process more accessible and expansive.
“Our team has been working tirelessly to make this caucus a success, and we’re excited to be giving our Democratic community every option we can to ensure they make their voice heard,” said William McCurdy II, chairman of the Nevada Democratic Party.
Democrats will get multiple options to participate in February’s caucus, he said, including in-person early voting, phone voting and in-person voting on caucus day at assigned locations. Hospitality workers will also have the option of attending caucus sites on the Strip.
The traditional caucus — in which participants declare their allegiance to candidates and try to persuade fellow Democrats allied with rival candidates to switch sides — will still take place Feb. 22.
To participate in the virtual caucus, Nevadans need to be registered as Democrats by Nov. 30 and sign up for phone caucusing between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15, 2020, according to the party’s caucus director, Shelby Wiltz.
Voters will then receive unique login credentials. On whichever day they choose to participate, virtual caucus-goers will call a provided number, enter their credentials and pick one of three languages: English, Spanish or Tagalog.
Participants will select their preferences with an interactive, automated moderator that will guide them through the process, Wiltz said. Voters will be able to make selections through pressing a number on the phone or speaking their responses.
“We expect this to be a quick and easy process for folks,” she said.
Voters will get the chance to review and correct any mistakes they made during the process before sending votes through for tabulation.
In 2016, the party offered overseas service members the ability to dial into a conference line to pick their preferred candidate, Wiltz said.
Wiltz said next year’s process will likely occur during certain hours on virtual caucus days, which are set for Feb. 16 or 17. If issues arise, voters will have access to a hotline to chat with real people, she said.
Wiltz said the security of the process is the party’s main concern.
“We are really excited to be working closely with the DNC as well as security experts to ensure the integrity of our process,” Wiltz said.
She said the party will be testing the process and ensuring workers did not miss any security holes. The virtual caucus will feature multiple ways to authenticate a person’s identity throughout registration and a login to protect the integrity of the votes, she said.
Democrats opted for a phone-in system because many Nevadans lack access to reliable internet service, Wiltz said.
The party is still deciding how many candidate options will be provided to voters, Wiltz said.
“There’s a lot of factors that will determine that decision, so we will release that information as we have it available,” she said.
Nevada is the first state in the West to caucus, and third on the Democratic nominating calendar.