WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, Nevada Republicans announced that the GOP will hold a caucus on Feb. 8 2024, two days after the state’s presidential preference primary (PPP) on Feb. 6, 2024, which will undoubtedly lead to confusion and suppress many of the state’s Republican voters’ votes. So, what exactly is going on in the Silver State?
In 2021, Nevada transitioned to a presidential preference primary system.
After 2020, Nevada was one of the few remaining states with a caucus to select delegates to send to the parties’ nominating conventions: the Republican National Convention (RNC) and the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Caucuses are becoming more and more obsolete as they require an arduous time commitment and can exclude working voters, elderly voters, voters with disabilities, young voters and less enthusiastic voters.
In 2021, then- Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed Assembly Bill 126, which transitioned the state from a caucus system to a primary system for nominating presidential candidates. When signing the bill into law Sisolak stated: “Today, in the great State of Nevada we are sending a strong message that the Silver State is not only bucking the national trend of infringing on voting rights, but rather we are doing everything we can to expand access to the polls.”
The PPP will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024 and will be run like the rest of the state’s elections with expansive voting measures like universal mail-in and early voting. However, there is a catch for Republican voters this year. Two days after the PPP, the Nevada GOP is holding a caucus to determine which Republican presidential candidate will receive the state’s delegates at the RNC.
First, the Nevada GOP attempted to strike down the state’s new primary law and failed.
In the wake of the state’s move to a more inclusive, accessible and fair system, the GOP filed a lawsuit earlier this year seeking to block the state’s new primary law.
The Nevada GOP (NV GOP) alleged that the primary system “threatens to obstruct the rights of the NV GOP and Nevada citizens under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to freely associate.” In turn, the state party requested that the secretary of state be prevented from enforcing the provisions of A.B. 126 that require participation in a presidential primary system. Additionally, the GOP asked the court to allow the state party to select and bind its delegates for the national presidential nominating convention according to its own rules and bylaws. On July 10, a Nevada judge denied the GOP’s request to block the new PPP law, finding that the Nevada GOP is “unlikely to succeed on the merits of its claims.”
However, in that same order, the judge highlighted that the “results of any PPP election are not binding on any major political party.” Therefore, the requirement of a primary does not technically prevent the Republican Party from holding its own caucus. The NV GOP has since appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court in hopes of striking down the primary law.
After the GOP’s courtroom loss, the party vowed to still hold a caucus, creating two paths forward for Republican voters. Now, with some candidates opting to participate in the caucus — including GOP frontrunner and former President Donald Trump — and some in the primary, 552,555 Republican voters are in a bizarre position. According to NBC News, Nevada Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar (D) is working to educate voters on the difference between primaries and caucuses.
So which results matter? Well, it depends on who you ask.
For Democratic voters, only the primary results will matter. For Republicans, the winner of the caucus will inform who receives the state’s delegates at the RNC. But what about the results of the primary election? Essentially, those who cast their ballots in the Republican primary will not have a say in who Nevada’s Republican delegates ultimately support at the nominating convention.
According to the party’s standing rules “any candidate who participates in any non-binding primary election in the state of Nevada that occurs outside the direct oversight of the NV GOP will be declared ineligible to participate in the Presidential Preference Poll and shall be ineligible to receive any delegates.” This renders the results of the primary meaningless for Republican voters and participating candidates.
Along with Trump, Gov. Ron Desantis (R), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) and pharmaceutical CEO Vivek Ramaswamy will participate in the caucus. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), former Vice President Mike Pence (R),and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R) will participate in the PPP.
Ultimately, Republicans will stop at nothing to instill doubt in the electoral process and disenfranchise voters, even their own. This latest move is further evidence of that. The caucus and primary divide offers a tale of two elections. For those who participate in the state-run primary, voters are able to vote early and by mail, register to vote on Election Day and vote without a photo ID if the voter does not register on the same day.
In stark contrast, the GOP caucus will not have early voting or allow for mail-in voting. Instead, the caucus will impose a strict photo ID requirement, and will likely require caucus goers to partake in an hours-long process.
In response to the GOP’s latest move to effectively disenfranchise its own voters and favor the four-time indicted and twice impeached former president, the Nevada Democratic Party told Democracy Docket:
“Democrats have always advocated for expanded access to the ballot box. That’s why we passed legislation to move Nevada from a caucus to a presidential preference primary state. Meanwhile, the Nevada GOP is making their process more confusing and suppressing their own voters in order to rig the election for Donald Trump and his MAGA agenda.”
The Nevada GOP and Aguilar did not respond to requests for comment.