Some Nevadans ask 'Why not a primary?

There is both frustration and celebration in the wake of Saturday’s Nevada Caucuses.

Interest and turnout far exceeded expectations, but that resulted in long lines and some confusion that left many angry and disillusioned, asking if there isn’t a better way. A Primary for instance. In fact, that’s what a lot of people expected when they showed up, and as they learned, a caucus is not an election. It is something all together different.

Much of the complaints can be chalked up to 2 political parties attempting something on this scale for the first time and a public unfamiliar with the process. Too few sites and too large crowds plagued Republicans. Mathematics that left supporters of some candidates feeling left out frustrated Democrats. And the timing that excluded many who were working or out of town Saturday morning angered voters from both.

TMCC Political Science professor and registered Republican Fred Lokken says Saturday's caucus was a fiasco and did more damage than advance the cause of democracy. He would prefer a primary election.

Democratic Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie says those who would press for a primary are missing an important point. Caucuses are held by the parties and the cost is borne by them. Primary elections are on the taxpayer's dime. And she says a primary election is a partisan political process and under Nevada law bars participation by independents. It is, she believes, unfair to use taxpayers' money to pay for it. In any case it's believed a primary election would cost $2 million dollars or more and with tight budgets and increased needs for schools and other services, Leslie says she would be reluctant to support funding a primary.

Nevada has toyed with this idea before. Most recently in 1978 and 1980. Projected cost $100-thousand. Real cost twice that.

And in 1996, the legislature authorized a mail-in primary. Democrats passed. Republicans said yes and it cost the state more than a half million dollars well over what was allocated.

That said, it appears we're going to have this debate again. In fact, we're told Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus is going to put in a bill draft request. And people from both parties agree it's a conversation Nevada probably needs to have.

However, the caucus process works well for the parties. It helps them build their their base in ways a primary could never do. That's why they invested in them.

And we don't know what having a primary would do to our spot on the election calendar.

This all started with a competition between about 6 states for 2 new spots on the early Democratic Party schedule. South Carolina,a primary state and Nevada, a caucus state, were added

State Chair Jill Derby says she's not sure Nevada would have been selected had it been a primary state as well.


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