Jim Clark: Are you ready for the Republican caucus?
January 20, 2016
Who do you like: Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum?
Don't see one you like? How about Valma Kittington (very attractive African American lady, Navy vet, conservative) or Esteban Oliverez (Latino, centrist)? There are actually 32 announced candidates for the GOP nomination for President of the United States, and the most well-known of whom are those enumerated in the lead sentence above.
But you can't vote for any of them unless you attend the Republican caucus on Feb. 23. If you live in Incline Village or Crystal Bay, it will be at Incline Middle School, 931 Southwood Blvd., at the intersection of Southwood and Incline Way. Doors open at 5 p.m., caucus commences at 6 p.m.
To vote, you must be a registered Republican and must bring a government issued photo identification. If you still need to register, the deadline is Feb. 13. Republicans should pre-register for the caucus which can be done at http://www.nevadagopcaucus.org. The system will reply by email with your precinct number and a verification number which will make things go more smoothly when you vote.
What is a caucus? If you happened to watch the Jan. 10 "Good Wife" TV show you saw a depiction of the Iowa Democratic Caucus. Iowa has held caucuses since 1972 so they're pretty good at it by now.
It is basically friends and neighbors gathered by precinct to vote for their presidential preference, elect members to the county GOP central committee and to select delegates to the county GOP convention. Participants will also be asked for suggestions for the county GOP platform. If you just want to vote and go home, that's OK too.
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So that's the "what." The question I get most frequently is "why." Nevada's presidential candidate selection process has undergone many changes between statehood (1864) and the present. The process has included public voting for "presidential electors," primary elections (1912), "presidential electors" again (1916), state party conventions (1948), primary elections again (1976), and political party caucuses (2008).
The switch to a caucus system was engineered by Sen Harry Reid, D-Nev.. The primary election had been changed from September to June but the presidential contests were over by then so as far as attracting candidates to campaign in the Silver State we were "flyover" country.
Reid's scheme was to move Nevada's presidential candidate selection date to as early in the year as he could so candidates would flock to Nevada to campaign and spend promotional money. Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina were the first three states to vote, so Reid settled for fourth.
He had a powerful argument … there was no representation of the west in the early vote states; moreover, unlike the first three, Nevada is a swing state with labor unions and a large minority population.
He persuaded the Nevada Democratic Party to abandon presidential primary elections in favor of a caucus (where the party could control the date). That essentially forced the Nevada GOP to do the same since we wanted Republican candidates in Nevada too.
There were drawbacks. Since the two major parties controlled the caucuses, they had to pay for the entire process. No taxpayer money, government employees or voting machinery is available, so it was impracticable to offer absentee ballots or early voting.
Both parties had to scrounge polling sites although the legislature did require schools to cooperate if there are no scheduling conflicts.
Delegates to the Republican National Convention will be proportionate to the voting percentage totals that result from the caucuses so even if your favorite candidate is running behind in the polls your vote for him or her will still count.
Finally, members of the local Republican Women and Republican Advocates clubs will be jointly conducting caucus training at a luncheon to be held Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 11:30 a.m. at the Chateau. Email Shirley Appel at email@example.com for reservations.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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