Nevada Democrats Hope To Avoid Iowa Fiasco In Their Own Caucus Saturday

Feb 19, 2020
Originally published on February 19, 2020 8:18 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As Nevada Democrats get ready for Saturday's caucuses, they are determined not to repeat the fiasco that happened in Iowa. A flaw in the smartphone app that the Iowa Democratic Party used delayed results there. The final tabulation only came in last night, more than two weeks after the event itself.

NPR's Miles Parks is in Las Vegas, where officials from the Nevada Democratic Party have walked reporters through a mock caucus. Hi, Miles.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So after Iowa Nevada Democrats said they would not use a similar app to record votes, how will they be handling caucus results?

PARKS: So there will still be some tech involved in this process. Basically, entire complicated math process that goes into awarding delegates happens in three places on caucus day - on this small caucus worksheet that precinct leaders will fill out, on a bigger poster for everyone in the precinct to be able to see what's going on (inaudible) on these party-provided iPads.

For the first time yesterday, we got a look at how that last part will work. Basically, caucus leaders have a step-by-step guide to leading the process, and the iPad has a different Google form for each step of the process. The leaders input data, and the calculator on the iPad spits out who's viable, who gets how many delegates and so on. One of the key purposes of the iPad will also be to integrate the early vote totals. If you remember, Nevada did, for the first time, early caucusing earlier this week. And the iPad will help integrate those numbers into the day of caucus results.

All this math is not happening in secret - it's important to note as well. Caucusgoers, observers, people in these precincts will be able to do the math alongside the caucus leaders and be able to check and make sure the caucus leader inputted data correctly and to make sure the calculator is spitting out the right numbers.

SHAPIRO: And if there are problems, do Nevada Democrats have backup systems in place?

PARKS: Nevada Democrats have been emphatic about the fact that there will be paper ways to be able to do everything that these iPads do. But that process will involve counting up the early vote totals and manually entering more data. You can imagine that that will take a lot longer than just having this iPad do it for you. Obviously, that will depend on how many early vote - early votes come in for each precinct. Some of these precincts may only have a dozen or a few dozen.

If you take a bigger-picture look at this, though, there is a definite difference between how the Nevada Democratic Party is treating this as opposed to what we were seeing a couple weeks ago in Iowa. In Iowa, at this point, it was basically, trust us. They were not showing the media the app. No - precinct leaders had only just seen it at this point. In Nevada, even just having this demonstration for the media, they're clearly taking the potential for some sort of worst-case scenario very seriously.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. We've got less than a minute, but I got to ask - is anyone talking about doing away with the caucus, given how complicated it is?

PARKS: A lot of people are talking about it. At this point, obviously, it's clear that the caucus process doesn't really match up with where the Democratic Party is headed when you think about their messaging on voting accessibility and election security. Harry Reid, the former Democratic senator from Nevada, talked to NPR's Tamara Keith yesterday about this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

HARRY REID: States are looking at this all over and saying maybe it's not such a good idea.

PARKS: He said for himself - Reid, that is - that he was waiting to come out with an official statement on the caucuses. But you can just think about the fact that he's not really willing to weigh in at this point. You can take what you need to take from that in and of itself.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Miles Parks in Las Vegas.

Thank you.

PARKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.