The Insidious Reason College Republicans Are Being Encouraged to Vote in the Democratic Caucus

February 19th 2016

Sarah Gray

A group of Nevada Republicans are slyly hinting to fellow party members to vote for a socialist, but it's not because they've suddenly embraced the idea of free healthcare and equitable distribution of wealth.

Instead, they are attempting to manipulate a curious voting loophole in Nevada's primary process, which allows registered Republicans to participate in both parties' caucuses. The plan, according to a statement by University of Nevada, Reno Republicans is simple; remind Republicans that they can take part in the Democratic caucus and vote for the "socialist" candidate, presumably Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The apparent belief is that Sanders winning the Democratic primary against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be favorable to Republicans, as he is seen as having less of a chance to win the general election.

University of Nevada, Reno College Republicans

The legality of voting in both caucuses remains dubious.

Who do the College Republicans want GOP voters to vote for?

The statement from the UNR College Republicans doesn't explicitly tell members who to vote for, should they participate in the Democratic caucus, however, there is certainly a strategic message.

“With so much at stake in our country, we can not sit on the sidelines," Hoover is quoted in the release. "There is a burning desire for new leadership and the Republicans have the vision for the next generation. When put head-to-head: Democrat vs Republican, Socialist vs Free Market, we know which candidate will prevail."

The release also explains that the message that Republicans can allegedly vote in both caucuses is not just being spread among UNR College republicans:

"This same address has been extended to College Republicans across Nevada and members of the Republican Party across the Silver State. As Republicans, we want ensure that a Republican is put in the White House in 2016. This is one mis-step in the process that the Republicans have been given an opportunity to capitalize on, if they see fit to."

Miranda Hoover, president of the UNR Republicans, explained this in a press release sent to ATTN: on Thursday, February 18.

"Asking individuals to participate in both is not a normal activity but it is also not illegal; nobody will get arrested," Hoover claims in a statement. "I am hopeful that the loophole will be fixed in 2020 and while I will neither endorse nor demean the act of Republicans taking part in both caucuses, but it is important for this issue to be recognized."

However, major state leaders are speaking out against the potential for Republicans to vote in the Democratic caucus. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who wields a great deal of influence in the state, accused Republicans of "trickery and gimmicks," in a statement released on Friday.

via giphy.com

"These Republican plans to interfere with the integrity of Nevada’s Democratic caucuses are shameful and immoral," Reid stated, according Politico. "Rather than letting voters decide and allowing our democratic system to work, Republicans are resorting to trickery and gimmicks in an attempt to subvert the will of the people."

"The Republican Party has long decried voter fraud, but with this latest scheme they are now encouraging it," the statement continued. "The American people deserve a fair voting process, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that these disgraceful Republican tactics do not interfere with the voice of Nevada voters."

Roberta Lange, the head of Nevada's Democratic party threatened legal action in her statement:

“After reviewing Nevada law, we believe that registering under false pretenses in order to participate in the Democratic caucuses for purposes of manipulating the presidential nominating process is a felony. The Nevada State Democratic Party will work with law enforcement to prosecute anyone who falsely registers as a Democrat to caucus tomorrow and subsequently participates in the Republican caucuses on Tuesday.”

Even Nevada's Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, is decrying the tactic, saying "given that the participation rules of the presidential caucuses for both major political parties are different, as well as the fact that the caucuses will be held on different days, it is a concern that a registered voter in Nevada might participate in both caucuses."

"Those voters suspected of participating in both caucuses will be reported to both major political parties and may be subject to challenge and disqualification from further participation in the nominating process," Cegavske continued.

So what is this loophole and what does it mean?

First we need to take a look at the history.

The Nevada caucuses are relatively new and still getting their footing. In 2006, eleven states applied the the Democratic National Committee to be part of the four early voting states — the first two being Iowa and New Hampshire. Out of the eleven, South Carolina and Nevada were chosen, PBS News Hour reports. These two states are more diverse in population than the overwhelmingly white electorate of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Here's where things get complicated.

Caucuses in Nevada are not quite as engrained in the state's political fabric as they are in Iowa.

Democrats and Republicans vote on different days: In Nevada, Democrats caucus on Saturday, February 20, while Republicans will caucus on Tuesday, February 23. Democrats have a much more elaborate caucus process, which NPR explains, while Republicans just gather at precincts and vote on paper ballots.

Another issues is voter registration — and that's crucial for this loophole.

There are different voter registration rules for the Democrats versus Republicans. Republicans must register 10 days before the caucus (this year they had to be registered on February 13). Democrats can register to vote on the same day as the caucus, and they don't need to be registered Democrats before they caucus.

Hence the loophole, as pointed out by Nevada journalist Jon Ralston:

"Republicans closed their registration rolls on Feb. 13, and that is the file that will be used on Feb. 23. Democrats are allowing same-day registration on Saturday.

"So: A Republican registered by Feb. 13 could show up at a Democratic caucus site on Saturday, switch to the Democratic Party, vote and then still participate on Tuesday because the party switch would not show up on the GOP caucus rolls.

"Clark County Voter Registrar Joe Gloria confirmed Monday that this could happen. And he also pointed out that the Republican-become-Democrat could switch back to the GOP in time to vote in the June primary."

Why does this matter?

Should they choose to vote in both caucuses, Republicans could attempt to throw the balance in a tight race between Clinton and Sanders. Real Clear Politics shows the most recent polls below:

Real Clear Politics Democratic polls Nevada

Pundits are hyping the importance of winning this race for both Sanders and Clinton. For Sanders, a win would bolster his momentum and prove that he can win in a more diverse state. For Clinton it slows Sanders' momentum following his win in New Hampshire — especially before her predicted win in South Carolina next week. There are also delegates and super delegates at stake. PBS News Hour explains:

"The results are the first step in determining delegates who are expected to support candidates at the national convention. Democrats will send a total of 43 delegates [from Nevada] to the national convention, but only 23 are directly tied to the results of the Saturday caucus.

"Eight Democratic party leaders and elected officials are 'superdelegates' and can vote for any candidate they like at the national convention. Three declared for Hillary Clinton, one for Bernie Sanders and four haven’t said.

"An additional 12 delegates are 'at large' and will be decided by a vote at the state convention."

It may not just be the College Republicans urging Republicans to vote on Saturday. The Nevada State Democratic Party released a memo to both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns highlighting "the need for proper and correct information to be disseminated by the presidential campaigns." Politico reports that the memo may be in response to a video allegedly released by the Sanders campaign, which "encourages Republicans to caucus for Sanders, pointing them to fill out a form to register as a Democrat."

Politico continues:

"The video does not explicitly encourage Republicans to register to vote twice, but neither does it warn them against doing so.

"A person holding a stuffed animal asks, 'I'm a Republican, can I caucus for Bernie?' The little girl hosting the video, Monteserrat Guerra, responds, 'No problem! You just have to fill this form! We'll help you register as a Democrat.'"

It is unclear, however, if Republicans will actually show up to vote in the Democratic caucus.