Nevada caucuses

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The Nevada caucuses are an electoral event in which residents of the U.S. state of Nevada meet in precinct caucuses in order to elect delegates to the corresponding county conventions. There are seventeen counties in Nevada, and thus there are seventeen conventions. These county conventions then select delegates to Nevada’s State Convention, which then choose delegates for the presidential nominating conventions.

Nevada has historically been a swing state. It has voted for the winner of every presidential election since 1912, except for 1976. From 1992 to 2004, the margin of victory was always five points or less. The Nevada caucuses began in 2008, reflecting the growing importance of the West as well as Nevada’s electoral bellwether status.[1] In 2012, the Nevada caucuses were the third major electoral event in the nominating process for President of the United States.


Prior to 2008, Nevada usually held primary elections, not caucuses, in order to choose delegates for the Democratic and Republican national convention. In both cases, these delegates then choose party nominees for the general presidential election. Many parties have held state level caucuses since the 1960s; however, 2008 is the first time both the Democratic and Republican parties held caucuses throughout the local (precinct), county, and state levels.[2]

While many states hold primary elections, relatively few states hold statewide, multilevel caucuses. Party leaders and state officials believed that switching from a primary election to a caucus would streamline Nevada’s move to becoming an early contender in the nomination process. As a result of switching from a late presidential primary to an early caucus, Nevada has gained electoral prominence.

Historically, New Hampshire’s primary and Iowa’s caucus have shared the electoral limelight, marking the beginning of the presidential campaign season. Due to America’s increasing ethnic diversity, urbanization, and geographic redistribution, influential political leaders came to the realization the New Hampshire and Iowa were not representative of the United States. Following the 2004 election, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid began making a case for Nevada as the perfect American microcosm.[3] Nevada’s Western location, significant minority population, and the state’s strong labor population demonstrating America’s shifting population contributed to this illustration.

Since 2008 the Nevada caucuses have been scheduled early in the nomination process (i.e., prior to Super Tuesday).[4] By being one of the earlier states, most importantly the first in the West, to hold elections of any sort, the state of Nevada has been placed in the national spotlight. Nevada has become the first state to vote in the West, the first primarily labor-based state to vote, and the first Hispanic state to vote. Nevadans have gained electoral prominence as a direct result of switching from a late presidential primary to an early caucus.


The Nevada caucuses operate very differently from the more common primary election used by most other states (see U.S. presidential primary). The caucuses are generally defined as "gatherings of neighbors." Rather than going to polls and casting ballots, Nevadans gather at set locations throughout the state’s precincts. These meetings occur in various locations: schools, churches, public libraries, casinos, and even individual homes. The caucuses are held every four years to determine whom Nevada's delegates will support in choosing Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. In addition to the voting and the presidential preference choices, caucus-goers may begin the process of writing their parties’ platforms by introducing resolutions; but, most of this is not dealt with until the state convention level.

Unlike the first-in-the-nation primary New Hampshire, the Nevada caucus does not result directly in national delegates for each candidate. Instead, caucus-goers elect delegates to county conventions, who in turn elect delegates to state conventions where Nevada’s national convention delegates are selected.

The process is rather similar to the better-known Iowa caucuses, which are the first caucuses to occur in the nation. The Republicans and Democrats each hold their own set of caucuses. Participants in each party's caucuses must be registered with that party. These caucuses are subject to their own particular rules, which are subject to change time to time.

Republican Party process[edit]

The Nevada Republican Party caucus is a closed caucus open to those who were registered 30 days before the caucus date, and 17-year-olds who are eligible to vote in the general election in November. As in most Republican caucuses, there are two components. First, delegates are elected from the attendees. These delegates represent the caucus goers at the county conventions in March, and generally announce who they support for President, and why they should go to the county convention. Election of delegates is by show of hands. Then, a supporter of each campaign speaks on behalf of their candidate. Finally, a straw poll, called a presidential preference poll, is taken of the individuals in the room. This preference poll is a secret ballot with candidate names printed on them.[5]

Although the news media reports the results of the straw poll, and assigns delegates proportionally based on it, in Nevada it is the county conventions and the state convention which determine who actually goes to the Republican National Convention. Thus, all delegates are unbound until the state convention in April, although they generally will represent the preferences expressed by fellow Republicans in the straw poll.[6]

The 2012 Republican Party caucus combined Nevada’s 1,835 precincts into 125 sites in order to ease the voting process. Voting was scheduled to occur from 9 AM to 1 PM on February 4, 2012, and the results were scheduled to be announced at 5PM.

The 2012 Nevada Republican caucuses were originally scheduled to begin on February 18, 2012, much later than the date in 2008, which almost immediately followed the beginning of the year in January 2008. On September 29, 2011, the entire schedule of caucuses and primaries was disrupted, however, when it was announced that the Republican Party of Florida had decided to move up its primary to January 31, in an attempt to bring attention to its own primary contest, and attract the presidential candidates to visit the state.[7] Because of the move, the Republican National Committee decided to strip Florida of half of its delegates. Also as a result, the Nevada Republican Party, along with Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, then sought to move their caucuses back into early January. All but Nevada, who agreed to follow Florida, confirmed their caucus and primary dates to take place throughout January, with Nevada deciding to hold their contest on February 4, 2012.[8]

Democratic Party process[edit]

The Nevada Democratic Party caucus is a closed caucus open to all voters who are registered by the caucus date and who will be 18 by election day in November of the election year. As with all Democratic caucuses, voters gathered into preference groups for each candidate. A minimum threshold of 15 percent was required in each precinct in order to achieve viability. If a candidate's preference group was not viable, they chose to caucus with another group, or to be uncommitted. Unlike the Iowa Caucus, "raiding" of other, already viable caucus groups, was prohibited. Delegates to the county convention were then selected amongst the candidate groups. A similar process occurred at the county convention; although they file statements of support for their chosen candidate, all delegates are technically unbound until the state convention.[9]

The 2008 Nevada Democratic Party caucus, in addition to the 1,754 neighborhood caucus locations, held nine at-large caucus locations. These locations were made available for shift workers who could not return to their home precincts to caucus. These at-large precincts were at the Wynn, Bellagio, The Mirage, Paris Las Vegas, New York-New York, Flamingo, Caesars Palace, and The Rio, all located in Clark County. Workers who worked within 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of the caucus site, were scheduled to work during or within one hour of the caucus period, and those who had an employer ID showing their employment in the zone were permitted to attend.[10] Unlike regular caucuses where delegates are apportioned based on registered voters, the at-large locations were allocated based on attendance, which caused controversy.[11]

In 2012, the general expectation was that, with President Barack Obama having the advantage of incumbency and being the only viable candidate running, the race would be primarily pro forma. The process ran essentially the same as it had in 2008, and voter turnout was extremely low.

In both 2008 and 2012, the Nevada Democratic Party reported county convention delegate totals to the media and not actual votes, similar to the way the Iowa Democratic Party did in its caucus.

Past winners[edit]


2012 – Mitt Romney (50.02%), Newt Gingrich (21.10%), Ron Paul (18.73%), Rick Santorum (9.94%)[12]

2008 – Mitt Romney (51.1%), Ron Paul (13.73%), John McCain (12.75%), Mike Huckabee (8.16%), Fred Thompson (7.94%), Rudy Giuliani (4.31%), Duncan Hunter (2.01%)[13]


2012 – Barack Obama, (98.3%), Uncommitted (0.7%)[14]

2008 – Hillary Clinton (50.8%), Barack Obama (45.1%)[15]


Caucus participants must publicly state their opinion and vote, leading to natural problems such as peer pressure from neighbors and embarrassment over who his or her preferred candidate might be. Another criticism involves the sheer amount of participants' time these events consume.

A Nevada caucus often lasts for the greater part of a day, preventing people who must work, who are sick, or must take care of their children from casting their vote. Absentee voting is also barred, so active-duty Nevadan soldiers lose the opportunity to participate, as do locally-registered college students who leave the state during winter holidays. Nevada’s large active-duty population being barred from the caucusing process has prompted state legislators to rethink holding primary elections. The final criticism is the complexity of the rules in terms of how one's vote counts, as it is not a simple popular vote.[16][17]

Arguments in favor of caucuses include the belief that they favor more motivated participants than simple ballots, and that supporters of non-viable candidates are able to realign with a more popular candidate and still make their vote count. Additionally, many caucus-goers consider them more interesting due to how much more interactive they are than a primary. Lastly, one other argument in favor is that caucus-goers get more information before making their vote, so those voting will potentially be more educated about their candidate choices than primary-goers.

Additionally, the representation of the caucus has had a traditionally low turnout. Others question the permanent feature of having caucuses in certain states, while perpetually ignoring the rest of the country.[16]

See also[edit]

  1. ^ Ostermeier, Eric (February 17, 2011). "Meet the New Bellwether States: Ohio and Nevada". Smart Politics. 
  2. ^ "Nevada Secretary of State". Retrieved 2012-11-10. 
  3. ^ Milligan, Susan (2008-01-20). "Long battle still ahead for top Democrats: Contest could extend beyond Super Tuesday". The Boston Globe. 
  4. ^ Adair, Cory (2010-12-16). "Nevada to Hold Presidential Caucus on February 18, 2012". Nevada Republican Party. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  5. ^ "Official Caucus Agenda 2008". The Nevada GOP Caucus. Archived from the original on 2008-01-17. 
  6. ^ "Nevada Republican Caucus 2008". North Lake Tahoe Bonanza (Incline Village, Nevada). January 19, 2008. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  7. ^ "Nevada Primary Results". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  8. ^ "Nevada moves caucus to Feb. 4 after backlash". Associated Press (USA Today). 2011-10-22. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  9. ^ "Nevada Caucus: Information Directory". 
  10. ^ The Washington Post  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "Election Center 2008: Primary Results - Elections & Politics news from". CNN. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  12. ^ , "[1]". BBC News.
  13. ^ "Nevada Republican Caucus 2008". North Lake Tahoe Bonanza (Incline Village, Nevada). January 19, 2008. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  14. ^ "Dems formally nominate Obama after Clinton hails both his calm, passion". Dallas News. 5 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  15. ^ , "[2]". BBC News.
  16. ^ a b , "[3]". NPR:It’s All Politics.
  17. ^ , "[4]". SFGate.