Sabotage and high-card draws: Why the Nevada caucus will get weird

The image of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump is seen on an electronic display on the Las Vegas Strip.
Nevada is among the four crucial early nominating states this cycle. And yet, it’s the state that’s gotten the least attention.

Like most caucus states, the process in Nevada is complicated and at times confusing. But just like the state itself, it’s also delightfully weird. We’ve compiled a list of the offbeat things that will make you want to watch the Nevada caucuses.

A dog named Bradley Cooper wears a scarf with Hillary Clinton campaign logos as his owner calls to voters on Feb. 17, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Democrats and Republicans caucus on different days.

Democratic caucus-goers will head to their caucus locations on Feb. 20. Republicans will hold their Nevada caucus on Tuesday, Feb. 23 — three days after the GOP primary in South Carolina. The GOP caucuses are not all at the same time, starting within a four-hour period on Tuesday night.

And because of that…

You could technically vote twice, which could lead to sabotage. the two parties caucus on different days, it’s possible that people could find a way to vote in both.

Democrats, who go first, allow for same-day registration. So, Republicans who want to meddle in the Democratic primary could technically register as a Democrat on the Democratic caucus day, and then three days later vote in the Republican caucus.

Jon Ralston, the dean of the Nevada press corps, said there is a possible GOP-organized effort to caucus for Bernie Sanders in an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton.

Caucuses actually take place in casinos.

Las Vegas is the most populous city in Nevada, with many residents employed by the hotels and casinos located on the iconic Strip.

For those working during the caucuses, Democrats have set up six caucus locations in casinos: the New York-New York, Caesars Palace, the Rio, the Paris, Harrah’s and the Wynn Resort.

If there’s a tie, it’s broken in the most Las Vegas way ever.

Much ado was made about Iowa using coin flips as tie-breakers on the Democratic side of the aisle in January. But in the gambling capital of the world,

a different game of chance is used to break a tie: high-card draw.

a different game of chance is used to break a tie: high-card draw.If Clinton and Sanders find themselves in a tie in any of the state’s caucus precincts, a representative from both candidates’ camps draws a card. Whoever gets the highest takes the precinct.

And just in case you’re wondering, aces are high.

Polling really doesn’t matter here, so we have no idea what will happen.

Nevada has only been a caucus state since 2008, meaning there’s little historical data to predict who will and who won’t caucus for either party.

That’s made polling — a system that is dependent on predicting who will actually turn out to vote — scarce in the contest.

It was long assumed that Clinton would easily carry the state, thanks to her support among Latinos, which make up a sizable portion of the Nevada electorate. But the few polls that have been released in recent days show the race in a tie.

Hillary Clinton Holds A Get Out The Caucus Event In Las Vegas

Hillary Clinton greets service workers in the employee cafeteria at the Rio Hotel & Casino on Feb. 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.


In 2008, just just 117,000 people caucused when Clinton was running against Barack Obama. And that number could be lower this time around because the Culinary Union — the most powerful in Nevada — is sitting on the sidelines this year.

On the Republican side, what few polls we have show Donald Trump running away with the vote.

But here’s the caveat: Voting in a caucus state requires a heavy organizational lift because you have to inform your supporters when and where to go on caucus day. So, it’s unclear whether Trump can pull out a victory in Nevada.

In Iowa, also a caucus state, Trump came in second place despite polls showing him far ahead before caucus day.

Even if only a few thousand people vote, it could take a long time to get the results.

Turnout in the caucuses is remarkably low, but that doesn’t mean results will come in quickly.

In 2012, when Republicans had a competitive nominating contest, it took the Nevada Republican Party three days to count the 22,000 votes cast in the caucuses.

With the 2016 primary garnering even more attention and excitement, it’s possible that more votes will be cast. So it could be a very long night for viewers hoping to see a decision on the GOP side.


Nevada polls 2016

Hillary Clinton just lost New Hampshire. Don’t assume she’ll win the next state, either.
By Aaron Blake February 9 at 8:13 PM Follow @aaronblake


Update: The Clinton campaign conceded at 8 p.m. Eastern time, as the last polls in New Hampshire were closing. The below post had been updated.There is a quirk in the Democratic presidential nominating calendar.


Nevada, which is generally thought to be the fourth of the four early states, will actually be the third to vote. Its caucuses are next on the nominating calendar and will take place Feb. 20 — the same day Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina. South Carolina Democrats go to the polls a week later, on Feb. 27.

And if you’re Hillary Clinton, that’s not ideal.


There is this perception that New Hampshire, which Bernie Sanders won Tuesday, is too white and too close to Sanders’s home state of Vermont for Clinton to win. After New Hampshire, though, the states get significantly more diverse; basically every one of the next couple dozen states to vote is less white than Iowa and New Hampshire.

We’ve called this Clinton’s “nonwhite firewall.” Basically: More-diverse electorates start voting, and Clinton has a better chance of putting together a series of wins and ending Bernie Sanders once and for all.

But while Clinton might indeed be a shoo-in in South Carolina, that isn’t so clearly the case in Nevada. Witness this tweet Monday from chief Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston:

Hillary has an advantage. But it will be closer than people think, and she’s not a lock. #wematter

— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) February 8, 2016

Technically, Nevada is actually the more-diverse state of the two. Non-Hispanic whites comprise just 51.5 percent of the population in Nevada, compared to 64 percent in South Carolina. Nevada has many Hispanics, while South Carolina has a large black population.

But to assume that both play to Clinton’s strengths in similar ways is to miss the point. For a few reasons:

1. While Nevada is even more diverse than South Carolina, its caucuses have been much whiter.

According to 2008 entrance polls, just 15 percent of Democratic caucus-goers were Latinos, even as they were 24 percent of the population of the state.

This has plenty to do with the fact that, while about a quarter of the state was Hispanic, just 12 percent of eligible voters in Nevada were Hispanic, thanks to huge populations of young and undocumented Latinos. In fact, in 2008, black voters actually comprised the same portion of the caucus electorate as Hispanics — 15 percent — despite being less than 10 percent of the state’s population.

That black turnout likely had at least something to do with the potential first black president being on the ballot — something that will not be true in this year’s caucuses. Thus, even as the state’s Hispanic population has climbed from 24 percent to 28 percent over the last eight years, we could very well see an electorate that is no more diverse than it was in 2008.

And it wasn’t a very diverse electorate. In fact, it was nearly two-thirds white — compared to 43 percent in South Carolina that year.

2. Latinos are less overwhelmingly for Clinton

An automated Public Policy Polling national survey last week showed Clinton leading Sanders by 74 points among black voters, but by just 12 points among Hispanics.

That’s one survey, but it’s clear that Sanders’s problem is much more acute among black voters, who are a much bigger presence in South Carolina than in Nevada.

3. Nevada is a caucus state

This is a format that requires a time investment and rewards impassioned supporters, who are more numerous on the Sanders side of the 2016 primary, all signs indicate. Clinton will certainly have a formidable operation on the ground in Nevada, but as we saw in Iowa, intensity can make up for a lot.

So could Sanders actually win Nevada? It’s very difficult to say with any certainty, given the dearth of quality public polling. The last high-quality survey from CNN-ORC in October showed Clinton leading Sanders by 22 points (58-36) in a race without Joe Biden and with Martin O’Malley. Of course, back then, CNN’s polling showed Clinton ahead in Iowa by 18 points. A lot could have changed in Nevada, too.

But the atmospherics are there for a competitive state — one that could extend Clinton’s misery for just a little while longer or at least be a headache, before her campaign can fall back on the much more solid portions of her firewall.

Nevada Democratic Caucus Polls 2016: Hillary Ahead, but That Could Change

Continue reading