Staff Columnist

Nevada caucuses sucked worse than Iowa's, but nobody seems to care

Democrats' secrecy and Republicans' cowardice give Nevada the title of worst-in-the-nation

Caucus-goers hold up their ballots, Presidential Preference Cards, at a caucus location at Coronado High School in Hende
Caucus-goers hold up their ballots, Presidential Preference Cards, at a caucus location at Coronado High School in Henderson, Nev., Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

To hear the mainstream media tell it, this past weekend’s Nevada caucuses were a smashing success. The fine political operatives of the Battle Born State outperformed the yokels running the Iowa caucuses, we’re told.

Reportedly, the process went smoothly compared to Iowa’s caucuses at the beginning of the month. Our contests were mired by reporting difficulties, delayed results and counting errors, which dominated news coverage and led to the state party chairman’s resignation.

Nevada Democrats are getting a more charitable review, considering their events were plagued by the same failures, plus more.

While Nevada got the more-or-less final results published quicker than Iowa did, returns in the first 24 hours following the caucuses were similar, even though Nevada had a jump-start with early caucuses.

The night of the Nevada caucuses, candidate Pete Buttigieg alleged irregularities in the results and reports of caucus volunteers misunderstanding the alignment rules. Remind you of anything?

Nevada benefited from Iowa’s lessons learned. Party officials were able to cancel plans to use a reporting app from the same company blamed for Iowa’s woes, and they hired additional help to take precinct results by phone.

Nevada’s reputation also was saved by tempered expectations about the timeliness of results and by a clear winner.

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The invisibly small gap between Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Iowa results made it impossible to forecast a winner with partial results. In Nevada, that wasn’t a problem. A snapshot of the early results were enough to call the contest in Sanders’ favor. Journalists were able to pack up and leave for South Carolina.

It doesn’t seem fair to blame Iowans just because a huge share of Democrats here didn’t coalesce around the same candidate.

While I joined many others in lamenting the Iowa Democratic Party’s initial lack of transparency in explaining the caucus problems, Nevada arguably was worse. Caucus leaders there were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements promising not to speak to the press, CNN reported, and at least one volunteer quit in protest. Iowa had no gag order, and many precinct leaders gave interviews.

Note, too, that Nevada Republican officials voted last year to cancel their 2020 caucuses, arguing it would be a waste of time and money given that the party’s members overwhelmingly support President Donald Trump’s renomination. Iowa Republicans — some of the president’s most loyal supporters — correctly saw that holding caucus preference polls was the right move.

One thing the never-Iowa crowd often has overlooked the past few weeks is the fact that the Democratic National Committee established the new counting rules and worked closely with state parties to implement them.

Many of the people bashing the Iowa caucuses were not genuinely concerned with the integrity of the democratic process, but instead obsessed with horse-race politics and the 30-second news cycle. Their demand to get results quickly and accurately is in service to nothing except their mission to attract more readers and viewers.

This is no defense of the Iowa caucuses, only a reminder that Nevada is just as bad.

adam.sullivan@thegazette.com; (319) 339-3156

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