Democrats: The Nevada caucuses go to court

Nevada Democrats vote in caucuses, which opens up just as many questions and allegations of process than the Iowa caucuses did. But the election is now taking an ugly turn, as the caucus rules have now been dragged to the courts by a teachers union.

The lawsuit seeks to prevent the establishment (recently decided by the Nevada Democratic Party) of at-large voting precincts inside Las Vegas resorts. These precincts are meant to make it easier for workers at those locations to participate in the vote without leaving their working place. Thus, Las Vegas hotel workers can vote in these at-large precincts instead of having to go back to their places of residence. The lawsuit alleges that this system hurts voters at regular precincts by diminishing their votes' influence and that the delegate-allocation rules are no longer fair; another subtext here is that it strengthens the Las Vegas influence since the city would attribute more delegates as people voting in those at-large precincts would have voted in local precincts otherwise.

This could have major consequences on the Clinton-Obama showdown. The culinary workers' union endorsed Barack on Wednesday in a major blow to the Clinton campaign, and this endorsement is supposed to deliver thousands of vote for Obama. So any attempt to make it more difficult for hotel workers to vote would hurt Obama's totals and his chances of carrying the election.

The Clinton campaign does not appear to have anything to do with the lawsuit, at least not directly. It could get her in trouble if it was discovered that she has anything to do with this move, since the lawsuit could in effect prevent hundreds of workers from voting. Whether or not that is fair to other voters, it's never good to be associated with a disenfranchisement attempt.

But Clinton has been denouncing the problems of the caucus process regularly on the trail these days, seemingly setting the stage to explain a loss on the 19th. She started to criticize caucuses the night of Iowa, and here are recent comments:

You have a limited period of time on one day to have your voices heard. That is troubling to me. You know, in a situation of a caucus, people who work during that time — they're disenfranchised. People who can't be in the state or who are in the military, like the son of the woman who was here who is serving in the Air Force, they cannot be present.



  • If a teachers' union is behind this lawsuit, you can be sure that the Clintons had a behind the scenes hand in this. That is just my opinion.

    By Anonymous stone621, At 12 January, 2008 16:10  

  • Of course the Clintons are behind the lawsuit. I, for one, am furious that a prominent Democrat would use its surrogates to disenfranchise organized labor in a Democratic Primary. Where is our committment to working families? If Clinton had been endorsed by the culinary workers you could be sure that she would be fighting tooth and nail to keep those at-large precincts open. This lawsuit is a disgrace.

    By Blogger Sailor Smith, At 12 January, 2008 16:45  

  • Sailor Smith is so right. This is just too much of a coincidence now at the last minute for the Clinton surrogates not to have been involved in this lousy maneuver.

    By Anonymous stone621, At 12 January, 2008 17:21  

  • I don't think Hillary Clinton is involved in this...she's too smart to get entangled in something that could blow up in her face so profoundly. Perhaps someone in her campaign is involved, Shaheen-style, but I seriously doubt she knows about it if that's the case.

    That aside, I think the lawsuit is actually doing a public service, though not quite in the way it intends to. It's true that the caucus rules combined with the circumstances would unintentionally favor Las Vegas, which doesn't seem fair. But the lawsuit's solution seems unfair as well. Perhaps this might pave the way for the abolition of caucuses in those states that have them. Primaries, even winner-take-all (which I think is worse than proportional), are inherently more fair than caucuses.

    By Anonymous Mr. Rational, At 12 January, 2008 18:07  

  • If you don't think Hillary Clinton has anything to do with this lawsuit, you are naive, blind, or crazy.

    If Hillary is willing to sell out organized labor to win a primary, how much will she be willing to screw over working families to get elected and re-elected in 2012?

    I don't think I want to find out.

    By Blogger Patrick, At 12 January, 2008 18:36  

  • This is "do or die" time for the Clintons. If they lose in Nev. and then S.C. it all goes downhill for them fast from that point on. Of course their fingerprints won't be on it, they don't need to be. Whether the caucus rules are considered a fair election or not is a moot point right now. The Nevada Democratic Party set this up many months ago and it is only now that the Clintons see this going the wrong way for them do they decide to file this lawsuit.

    By Anonymous stone621, At 13 January, 2008 00:51  

  • Patrick, I'll count myself as blind, then. But I repeat: I think Hillary is too smart an operator to be involved in this. I am not ruling out (far from it, in fact) the involvement of someone in her campaign, probably very high up, or at the very least someone prominent on the national Dem scene who is Clinton-sympathetic. But Hillary would have to know how this story would play if it ever got out...and she hasn't displayed the Teflon qualities of her husband.

    By Anonymous Mr. Rational, At 13 January, 2008 04:47  

  • Typical Hill-hate to automatically assume she has anything to do with this. Anyone who understands the rivalry between the old power base in N. Nevada and the growing power base in S. Nevada (Las Vegas)knows that this can happen all on it's own. So, inform yourselves before indicting someone.

    By Blogger Mark, At 13 January, 2008 05:20  

  • If you had asked me 6 months ago whether Hillary was too smart a political operative to have gotten involved in this, I would have said yes. But I've come to the conclusion that Hillary Clinton is nowhere near as politically astute as most of us had given her credit for, and that she takes her advice from a much smaller circle than her husband did. This has had the effect of creating a 'bubble' around her and her campaign resulting in some baffling and politically tonedeaf maneuvering that had her on the brink until NH swung her way at the 11th hour. It's the highly suspect timing of this lawsuit that stinks to high heaven, and puts a lie to the claim that it's old rivalries at play only. For months the rules and procedures involved in this caucus had been approved, including the reason the at-large precincts were necessary. But it's only when the endorsement of the culinary workers goes to Obama do the lawsuits come out.

    I think Stone621 is correct about this being "do or die" time the Clinton campaign. In their political estimate, short and long term political fallout won't matter. Just win Nevada (by whatever means possible) and in their mind Team Hillary is off to an easy win Feb 5th. Lose, and the consequence is another surge of momentum for Obama, which they might not break before Super Tuesday.

    It sounds cynical, but these are cynical times. In my estimate, this Nevada caucus is turning into a Broward county type scenario for Hillary Clinton.

    By Anonymous uptown tony, At 13 January, 2008 09:36  

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