By Michelle L. Price
LAS VEGAS — Nevada Democrats unveiled a written plan Wednesday for the party’s 2020 presidential caucus that party leaders hope will heal rifts from three years ago, when supporters of Bernie Sanders felt ill treated by the delegate selection process, the state convention erupted in chaos and the party chair received death threats.
Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy said Wednesday that the party is focused on a “fully transparent” caucus in February 2020 that will include for the first time early voting, virtual participation and the release of raw vote totals that each candidate receives.
“Our new 2020 delegate selection plan will ensure 2020 is Nevada’s most expansive, accessible and transparent caucus yet,” McCurdy said at a news conference Wednesday.
The party’s plan, which still needs approval from the Democratic National Committee, calls for early caucuses to begin four days after the New Hampshire primary, running Feb. 15 through Feb. 18. Virtual participation will be held Feb. 16 and 17 and the main, in-person Saturday caucuses will take place Feb. 22.
It also streamlines the nomination process that led to a disordered state convention in 2016.
While Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucuses in February 2016, Sanders’ backers hoped to pick up more delegates by packing county and state gatherings. Sanders’ supporters protested convention rules that led Clinton to win even more pledged delegates, with some angry attendees shouting down speakers and throwing chairs at the May 2016 state convention.
The party’s new plan calls for all 36 of the state’s pledged delegates to be locked in based on the results of the Feb. 22 caucuses.
“We appreciate the steps the Nevada Democratic Party is taking to make their caucuses more inclusive and look forward to working closely with them to make sure the caucuses are well-attended and run smoothly,” Sanders’ campaign said in a statement.
Many of the changes aim to help those who are homebound, serving in the military overseas or who cannot spend hours participating in the Saturday caucus. They’ll likely end up forcing candidates to invest more time and resources in the state in the days leading up to voting while giving them time to speak directly to more Democrats as they begin picking their top candidate.
The party is planning a series of workshops in September to educate Democrats about the process.
Participation is open only to Democrats, but same-day registration will be available at the early in-person caucus and on the Saturday caucus.
Participants in the virtual caucus days will need to register as Democrats by Nov. 30, 2019.
The party has not yet determined whether the virtual caucus, something Iowa Democrats are also proposing, will be conducted via a website or a smartphone app, McCurdy said. “We’re still working out what that’s going to be,” he said.
Democrats will take comments on the plan until April 20 and will submit it to the Democratic National Committee for approval in May.