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Nevada's Democratic Party Scrambles To Test Caucus Reporting System

Feb 14, 2020
Originally published on February 14, 2020 5:59 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

After all the chaos in Iowa, Democrats are anxious about the next caucus happening in Nevada. That state's Democratic Party had been planning to use two apps to report and calculate caucus results back to the party. But get this - both apps were made by the same company that made the one that caused Iowa so much grief, so that is not happening. As Bree Zender with member station KUNR in Reno reports, now the party is scrambling to test some kind of new system.

BREE ZENDER, BYLINE: After weeks of speculation, Nevada's Democratic Party sent out a memo Thursday explaining how the caucuses will work without the apps it had originally planned on. It says precinct volunteers will use iPads and a secure Google Web form to help calculate the results. Then they'll call into a hotline to report them. There will also be a paper backup. The Nevada Democrats shared that information with campaigns and the media but not with the thousands of volunteers who run the caucuses. That's been discouraging for Caitlin Thiede, who was supposed to run a caucus outside of Reno.

CAITLIN THIEDE: So my original precinct was going to be in North Valleys. That's what I'd committed to. But I'm thinking of not even being a precinct anymore, to be honest. It was really cool being a part of it, the actual caucusing. But as far as the operations and everything, like, it makes me feel really uncomfortable not knowing how it operates.

ZENDER: The lack of communications is frustrating other Democratic volunteers also. Justin Zuniga had already been training to lead a precinct on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation northeast of Reno.

JUSTIN ZUNIGA: I didn't receive any updates. Or, like, they didn't reach out to me saying, you know, come on in. You have to get retrained.

ZENDER: He went to his local party office to find out more after he first heard the party wouldn't be using the apps.

ZUNIGA: Last week, I went down there to kind of get some elucidation for myself because I was - I didn't really receive anything. So I had went down there and asked them, what's the game plan for caucus day?

ZENDER: The office told Zuniga that the party is holding refresher webinars, so he's planning to take part in one soon. But the confusion about how these caucuses will work also extends to likely participants. At a Tom Steyer rally in Carson City, many attendees saw what happened in Iowa.

OMAR GARCIA: I think us in Nevada, I think we're going to pull it off. We're not going to be a repeat of Iowa, but it's definitely a concern.

ZENDER: That's Omar Garcia from Carson City. In fact, he'd be happy switching to a primary, which is run by the state government, instead of party-run caucuses.

GARCIA: I think we want to definitely just be able to vote directly and not have to caucus.

ZENDER: Veteran Joyce Kiefer (ph) says she's worried that even using an iPad to calculate the results could be a problem.

JOYCE KIEFER: I'm not exactly positive what system that they're going to use, but I really wish we'd go back to old-fashioned ways and count the ballots.

ZENDER: The Nevada State Democratic Party did not respond to a request for an interview. But in a statement, it said the party is actively testing the process and promises to make sure volunteers are trained. Early voting for Nevada starts on Saturday. Caucus day is the Saturday after. For NPR News, I'm Bree Zender in Carson City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MEUTE'S "SLIP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.