Updated February 25, 2020 - 10:32 am
CARSON CITY – Gov. Steve Sisolak joined other top state Democrats Tuesday in calling for Nevada to retire the system of party-run caucuses to choose a presidential candidate and switch to primaries.
In a statement released through his campaign committee, the governor noted that in spite of reforms, including same-day registration and an early voting period, the caucus process “has fundamental challenges that make it too difficult for too many Nevadans to participate.”
“As we look ahead to the next presidential election cycle, I believe we must further open up the process of selecting our nominee and I intend to work with our state party and leaders in the State Senate and Assembly to review how we could switch to an early presidential primary,” the governor said.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucus Saturday, beating the No.2 finisher, former Vice President Joe Biden, by more than 2 to 1. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg finished third.
Sisolak’s comments echoed those over the weekend and on Monday from former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and state Democratic Party chairman William McCurdy II. Reid called for Democrats to do away with caucuses entirely and institute primaries in their place. McCurdy called for a “serious conversation” on changing the system.
Caucuses are run by political parties at set times and in specific locations. Voting is done in the open by registered party members who are able to attend, with the results used to name delegates to party nominating conventions at the county, state and national level. Primaries are like other direct elections that are run by state and local elections officials, with voters casting secret ballots and the results used to determine delegates to national party conventions.
In the 2020 presidential cycle, only Nevada and four other states – Iowa, Kentucky, North Dakota and Wyoming — have scheduled either a Democratic or Republican caucus, in addition to several U.S. territories. Problems in Iowa with reporting and tabulating caucus results led to widespread concern that Nevada’a caucus might suffer a similar meltdown, but only minor, one-off issues are known to have occurred here.
According to the state Democratic Party, more than 105,000 people participated in the Nevada caucus, with about 75,000 voting in the four days of early voting that preceded it. That represents about 17 percent of active registered Democrats in the state.