Nevada Dem chair: Hey, trust us -- we're not Iowa!

Famous last words. Tomorrow, the Nevada Democratic Party will hold the second caucus of the 2020 cycle, with the first in Iowa still so screwed up that no one’s sure who really won it. The debacle proved so embarrassing that the NDP dumped the tech partner on which their Iowa counterparts had also relied and created a new “low-tech” option to run their calculations — just as the NDP was introducing a new innovation of early voting to complicate matters even further.

Recipe for disaster? Nonsense, says NDP chair William McCurdy. Everything’s under control, he tells an obviously skeptical Alisyn Camerota on CNN’s New Day:

As CNN notes, the precinct captains only got these devices and instructions over the last 48 hours. That doesn’t sound as though the NDP has had any chance to run this system under a full-load test, which is what happened in Iowa as well, with disastrous consequences. At the very least, they have prepared the precincts to deal with a pen-and-paper solution, but that’s not going to help them overcome the complexity of translating the early-voting ranked choice outcomes with the caucusing viability-test realignments. Camerota specifically asks McCurdy about that issue, and McCurdy dodges it.

And that’s not the only emerging concern from Nevada tomorrow, either. The Washington Post’s report on the preparations make it sound as if the NDP has had to make it up as they went along, including the technology:

This year, the Nevada caucuses bring additional challenges. In an effort to increase voter turnout after long lines and confusion in 2016, the party offered early voting as an alternative to the caucusing scheduled for Saturday morning.

Rather than caucus, voters could rank three to five candidates by preference. Those results would later be incorporated into Saturday’s caucuses. …

But the early voting created a new problem for caucus volunteers: more complicated math, with lots of variables around which candidates will make it through to the final tally.

But how? What if voters only chose to rank candidates who turned out to be non-viable in the caucuses tomorrow? After all, some voters might not want to even offer ranked support for Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren, for whatever reason. Will their votes just get thrown out, or will NDP precinct officials act as proxied to redirect their votes?

At least one early voter was distinctly unimpressed by the circus:

Michael Roybal, a 31-year-old phlebotomist in Las Vegas, said that when he saw the debacle in Iowa on the news, he decided to vote early. He waited more than two hours to cast his vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at a local library Tuesday, where billionaire candidate Tom Steyer had paid for a five-person mariachi band and a free taco stand to entertain early voters. “The caucus sounds like a mess,” Roybal said. “I think a normal primary would be fine.”

That’s the consensus developing after the Iowa debacle, certainly, but it came too late to cancel this exercise in 19th-century electoral practice. If parties want early voting, then they should commit to voting rather than caucusing, which is by definition an in-the-moment practice. The point of having a caucus is to get everyone into the same room at the same time to decide on a candidate. Absent that need, voting is the only sane choice.

Can the NDP pull off a reasonably problem-free caucus and get to a clear and reliable result? They didn’t sound all that confident earlier this week in either their tech solutions or their personnel training, Protocol and Slate reported:

Democrats desperately want to avoid another Iowa — that is, another technical snafu that derails a crucial state caucus. And so, with just days to go before the Nevada caucus, Democrats are recruiting volunteers with basic tech skills to sit at major precincts throughout the state and help precinct captains troubleshoot snags as they arise.

It’s kind of like teaching your parents how to use their new iPhones at Christmas, only in this case, it’s the democratic process at stake. …

According to the source, some 50 technical volunteers across the country have signed up to help so far. That’s hardly enough to pair a live tech-troubleshooter with every precinct captain in the state, which has approximately 2,000 precincts.

Have fun storming the castle, Nevada Democrats, and an early congratulations on your switch to a primary in 2024.

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