INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Just about four years ago Nevada had its first presidential preference caucus. Those who participated will recall it was a bit of a Chinese fire drill with long lines of people waiting to register, milling about and generally being grumpy. It was held at Incline High School starting at 8:00 am. The Nevada Democratic Party scheduled its caucus on the same day and place starting at 11:00 am but they started showing up at 10:00 am while the Republicans were still voting. Then we ran out of ballots. What a mess!
This time there will be a big difference for Republicans. We meet on February 4 at 9:00 am and Democrats will caucus on an entirely different day. And here's the big news: Washoe County Republicans can register in advance online. Stop reading now and go to your computer. Enter www.washoecountygop.org. Click on “ONLINE CAUCUS REGISTRATION”. The rest is a snap. The only caveat is when you enter your area code and phone number only enter numbers. No parentheses, no dashes or slashes. The website will print out your registration information including your precinct number.
If you register on a smartphone or tablet with no printer the Washoe GOP will send you an email acknowledging your registration. Print out the acknowledgment/email and take it with you on February 4. The only other thing you will need is photo identification.
I plan a series of columns this month giving more detailed information on the caucus. This is the first. I will be repeating the online registration link so if you forget and use this Bonanza for fish wrap you will have another opportunity to get the online registration link.
Now, a little more about the Nevada GOP caucuses. Historically Nevada has scheduled primary elections in September by which time both parties had long hence selected their presidential nominees. The legislature moved the primary election to August and most recently June but that's still way too late to make a difference in who the chief executive will be. Although we will still have a primary election in June we will not be voting on presidential candidates ... that will be done in next month's caucuses.
The guy responsible is Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who wanted Nevada to be relevant in the presidential selection process, so in 2008 he talked the Democratic National Committee into an early caucus date for Nevada Democrats. Not wanting to wallow in irrelevance, the Nevada Republican Party voted to follow suit.
There followed a frantic effort to hire someone from Iowa to teach us about caucuses. In the final analysis we muddled through but it was painful. No one expected the turnout we got. In Washoe County we didn't have enough schools to accommodate everyone who wanted to vote. Volunteers had to spend hours online checking each caucus attendee's registration. There weren't enough rooms for voters to meet by precinct. We had to use scraps of paper for ballots because we ran out of the preprinted ones. Then GOP authorities decided to reclassify the event as a non-binding expression of presidential preference. Mitt Romney had the best organization and won the caucus vote followed by Ron Paul who came in second with huge support from youth and college kids.
In the end the Nevada GOP convention voted to send delegates committed to John McCain to the national convention because by then McCain had won nationally.
Confused? I understand, but that was then and this is now. I will explain in subsequent columns.
— Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates and a member of the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.