Teachers union, Democrats fail to settle lawsuit over caucus sites

Attorneys representing the Nevada State Education Association reached out to the Democratic Party of Nevada on Tuesday in an attempt to reach a settlement in a lawsuit the union filed to block the party from operating at-large precinct locations, sources said.

The Democratic Party, which hired Las Vegas attorney Paul Larsen on Tuesday, rejected the proposal.

"Our attorneys were approached about a settlement," Kirsten Searer, party deputy executive director said Tuesday. "There has been no formal proposal and no meaningful consideration."

Attorney Mark Ferrario, who represents the teachers union, did not return phone messages left at his office Monday and Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan is scheduled to hear arguments on the union’s motion for a temporary restraining order during an emergency hearing at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Also Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee filed a motion to intervene in the case.

"The repercussions of this litigation may sound throughout the nation and affect the impending primaries and caucuses of all those state Democratic parties that have not yet held those events," the motion states.

There are 45 more primaries and caucuses at stake and the DNC will be directly affected if lawsuits are filed "challenging aspects of delegate selection plans under which the events have been approved to proceed and those events — and their legitimacy — are placed in doubt."

The motion continues that the state party "would inadequately represent" the DNC’s interests.

"Although the DNC intends to argue certain similar positions," the filing states, the DNC should be allowed to be heard as it is a national organization and its interests "stretch far more broadly."

The teachers union objects to nine at-large caucus sites that will be open to shift workers employed within a 21/2-mile radius of at-large precincts.

If Mahan allows the Democratic Party to move forward with the at-large precincts, the locations will be at the following hotel-casinos: Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas, Flamingo Las Vegas, Luxor, Caesars Palace, Rio, New York-New York, The Mirage and Paris Las Vegas.

The Culinary union, whose members work in those nine resorts and which last week endorsed Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, began distributing fliers Tuesday accusing Hillary Clinton of failing to support their right to vote. When Clinton was asked by a reporter whether she opposed caucusing in the casino sites, she said she didn’t know, the union noted.

The teachers union questioned why at-large precincts, which allow registered voters to caucus outside their home precinct, were offered to Strip employees but not to other Southern Nevada workers who might be scheduled to work during the caucus.

Delegates assigned during at-large precinct caucuses are based on the number of attendees while the delegates assigned at traditional caucus sites are based on the number of registered voters in that particular precinct. Opponents of the at-large caucus locations argue that the shift employees’ vote will have more weight than the average voter’s because far more workers are expected to show up at the at-large caucuses. Those precincts will generate more delegates than the other caucus sites.

The delegates who participate in the county convention choose delegates to take part in the state convention, and the delegates at the state convention select delegates to attend the national convention, where the party’s presidential nominee is ultimately chosen.

"The Democratic Party of Nevada thus intends to assign delegates to the Clark County Convention, chosen by Clark County voters, using different mathematical formulas, with the voting power of some Clark County voters being assigned a power as much as ten times that of other Clark County Party Voters," according to a motion filed by the teachers union.

"The U.S. and Nevada Constitutions require that similarly situated persons be treated similarly."

Lynn Warne, president of the teachers union, said she looked forward to having a full airing of the issues involved in the lawsuit in court, so that myths could be put to rest and the truth heard.

"It is important that we get the information out and the facts out about what’s going on," Warne said. "There is some misinformation about what the facts are. Truly, our only interest is fairness."

Warne said the lawsuit was not an attempt to keep anyone from caucusing.

"We have always encouraged everybody to get out and participate," she said. "But if accommodations are made for one group of workers, they should be made for all workers."

Review-Journal writers Warren Bates and Molly Ball and The Washington Post contributed to this report.

Contact Adrienne Packer at apacker@reviewjournal.com or (702) 384-8710.

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