Nevada Teachers Union Sues to Prevent Casino Precincts

In the wake of the Nevada Culinary Workers' Union endorsement of Barack Obama, and the Nevada Democratic party's creation of at-large precincts inside Las Vegas strip hotels, the Nevada Teachers' Union and six Nevada voters have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to ban the Democratic Party from holding the newly created caucuses.

The suit alleges that the newly created voting places inside hotels violates the "one person, one vote rule" and equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment by creating at-large precincts based solely on employment. A copy of the complaint is here (pdf.)

The lawsuit argues that the Nevada Democratic Party’s decision, decided late last year, to create at-large precincts inside nine Las Vegas resorts on caucus day violates the state’s election laws and creates a system in which voters at the at-large precincts can elect more delegates than voters at other precincts. The lawsuit employs a complex mathematical formula to show that voters at the other 1,754 precincts would have less influence with their votes.

As to the party's decision to establish the precincts inside hotels:

The at-large precincts are being established because thousands of hotel workers cannot leave work to participate in the midday caucuses in their home precincts.


The teachers union says many of their members will be unable to vote because at caucus time they are required to assist with caucuses being held at the schools they work at, even if they live in different precincts, which will prevent them from voting at their own caucuses.

By the numbers (from the lawsuit:)

The new plan drawn up by the Democratic party calls for 1,754 caucuses at which 10,446 delegates will be chosen. 7,224 of them will be from Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Clark County has more than 4,000 registered Democrats.

Unlike primaries in which people can vote all day, caucuses in Nevada, as in Iowa and elsewhere, require voters to show up at a specified time. To enable participation by those voters who will be working at the scheduled caucus time, the party created the new precincts using a formula based on districts with more than 4,000 shift workers who could not leave work to vote, rather than one based on residency.

The new at-large precincts are all inside the Las Vegas Strip hotels. Workers attending the hotel caucuses will have to provide identification showing them to be a shift worker and sign a declaration stating they can't attend their "home" caucus because of their work schedule.

The teachers, and other workers who can't attend caucuses because of work, are not being provided special caucuses and thus they won't be able to vote.

The lawsuit then analyzes the effect of the new "at large" caucus votes and alleges that the plan gives the hotel workers a disproportionately large number of delegates. Go read the lawsuit for the exact numbers but essentially it concludes the new system will create an additional 720 delegates for Clark County, which in turn will dilute the value of a delegate assignment and the voice of the other Clark County caucus participants.

The lawsuit also says the same procedure will carry through to the state convention and the selection of national delegates and thus diminish the impact of the votes of all Democrats in Nevada, not just those in Clark County.

There are no direct ties between the Clinton campaign and the lawsuit. However, the Times notes,

The Nevada State Education Association has said it would not endorse any Democrat, but some of its top officials have endorsed Mrs. Clinton. The association’s deputy executive director, Debbie Cahill, for instance, was a founding member of Senator Clinton’s Nevada Women’s Leadership Council.

I don't think Hillary's campaign is behind this lawsuit. Hillary has consistently expressed her disapproval of a caucus system that requires presence at a certain time, thus preventing workers whose employers won't give them time off to exercise their right to vote. It was a problem in Iowa.

In thinking about other remedies, I'm wondering:

Why not a quickly passed law requiring employers to allow employees leave time for caucus voting? Would it help if caucus day were a state holiday?

What about allowing proxy voting at caucuses? The employees could group at work by residential caucus and give one designated member a declaration stating their preference, along with proof that they can't personally attend due to their work shift. The employer would agree that the designated members can attend their residential caucus to present his or her vote along with those of the other workers with proper certification. This would be applied to all workers, including teachers and hospital workers, not just casino workers.

I recognize that neither of the above is likely to be considered a feasible solution. Which leaves the question, should one group of workers be given special voting privileges just because there are so many of them?

I don't have an answer, but it does seem there is a problem.

[hat tip, Taylor Marsh]

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  • Display: Sort:
    Seems the casino workers are being given (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Angel on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 01:20:18 PM EST
    preferential treatment over other voters.  I don't think this is a good idea.  

    Appendix C: At-Large Precinct Caucus Rules (none / 0) (#10)
    by joejoejoe on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 03:59:14 PM EST
    Shift workers will be required to bring their Employer Identification card or badge to their assigned At-Large Precinct Caucus to be eligible to participate in the At-Large Precinct Caucus. The Employer ID card will serve as proof of shift worker status.

    Shift workers working within a 2.5 mile radius of each site will be allowed to attend their assigned At-Large Precinct Caucus.

    It's seems like all the NV Democratic leadership has to do is clarify the definition of "shift worker" to mean anyone who has to work on Saturday and everybody will be happy.

    Locating the precincts on-site at the hotels sounds bizarre until you realize that locating them 1/4 mile outside the hotel results in 1000 miles of travel for the possible 4,000 shift workers inside.


    Was IO `stacked' against Clinton? (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by wprange on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 01:50:02 PM EST
    Thinking about this: "Hillary has consistently expressed her disapproval of a caucus system that requires presence at a certain time, thus preventing workers whose employers won't give them time off to exercise their right to vote. It was a problem in Iowa."

    A large part of Clinton's support seems to come from low-income families and from women, and Obama's support from young people and from higher educated people. I think that Hillary's support will have more trouble attending a caucus (jobs and children to take care of) than Obama's support. Maybe this could checked with the `exit polls' of both states?

    Proxy voting is how it's done elsewhere (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by MikeDitto on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:15:03 PM EST
    It's up to the party to make the rules. First the FOX debate and now this. I think the Nevada state party is having a brainpower problem.

    Of course I think the long-term fix is to eliminate the caucus/delegate process. They are so confusing that only party insiders participate once you get past the precinct caucuses (especially in non-presidential years), and even then I've heard many, many arguments between old veterans about how they are supposed to work that it's clear even the party insiders don't fully understand it most of the time.

    Plus, they are intimidating. Lots of people are crowd-phobic, and the idea of going into a room to be pressured from all sides to support one candidate or another is more than a lot of people want to deal with.

    Your reason .. (none / 0) (#26)
    by Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:55:56 PM EST
    is exactly why a court is likely to toss this out ..  as far as I know .. courts in the past have ruled that the parties can make their own rules .. besides .. what judge is going to throw the election into turmoil this close to actual voting time?  ... caucuses do stink ... but remember something .. Harry Reid is the titular head of the Nevada Democratic party .. nothing gets done with out his approval I bet .. not only that .. but at least one of his kids is working for the NV branch of the Clinton campaign .. this is so transparent .. while I am sure Clinton didn't tell them to do this .. it's one of those things thaat they did with out having to be asked .. besides .. look at the numbers .. how many janitors are you going to disenfranchise .. compared to how many people that work on the Strip? .. I'd bet there are at most 500 janitors/teachers affected ... who knows how many on the Strip .. I'd bet a lot more

    Four of the Plaintiffs (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by commissar on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:34:23 PM EST
    Were present at the meeting where the caucus plan was unanimously approved. Per ABC News.

    These are all Clinton allies behind this suit.

    They were okay with it then, but two days after the Culinary Union backs Obama, they suddenly decide it's problem.

    Shameful and transparent.

    The lawsuit alleges (none / 0) (#29)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:18:27 PM EST
    the plan was changed after that, and the lawsuit says it's not clear how many changes were made or when. The final one that's on the Nevada Dems website says Sept. 24, 2008. The lawsuit says it doesn't know when the final plan was actually adopted although it was announced in October, 2007.

    On the other hand, the lawsuit doesn't allege the plan was changed without the plaintiffs' approval.


    "upon information and belief" (none / 0) (#32)
    by commissar on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:42:07 PM EST
    As I read the complaint, after March 31, it was revised and modified.

    Does the complaint specify "the plan used to say X, and now it says Y?"

    Or does "upon info and belief" cover that?  

    "It has changed, but I'm not gonna tell you how" seems like rather thin grounds to me.


    it was also after the NH-results (none / 0) (#33)
    by wprange on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:59:40 PM EST
    When I compare the NH-exitpolls with the IO-entrance polls from CNN, I get a strong feeling that the age-group 30-45 plus the income-group below $50K were strongly underrepresentent in IO.
    That seems to me low-income families with small kids did have a problem casting their votes in the IO-caucus. This is a group that also seemed to favor Clinton, both in IO and in NH. It could be that that was also a reason behind the suit (and a legitimate one if that was indeed the case in my view).

    Why not (none / 0) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 12:44:39 PM EST
    let the teachers vote where they are?

    Where are teachers on Saturday morning? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Geekesque on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:35:12 PM EST
    The timing on this is transparent.  

    They are just speaking up on behalf of (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:37:09 PM EST
    the school custodians required to open schools as polling places on Sat.

    No, they aren't asking for janitors (none / 0) (#18)
    by Geekesque on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 06:01:37 PM EST
    to get a chance.

    They are trying to prevent thousands of strip workers from voting.

    This is Bush v. Gore all over again.


    What, you aren't buying this explanation? (none / 0) (#19)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 06:04:27 PM EST
    Me neither.

    they are being put to work at their schools (none / 0) (#16)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:50:00 PM EST
    where caucuses are being held. If they don't live in that same precinct, they will miss their own caucus.

    All of them? Not buying that at all. (none / 0) (#17)
    by Geekesque on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 06:00:40 PM EST
    It does not take the entire faculty of a school to run a caucus.

    It takes maybe 3-4 people


    I assume people who work the caucus (none / 0) (#20)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 06:05:15 PM EST
    are volunteering to do so.  

    Indeed. I doubt the teacher's union (none / 0) (#22)
    by Geekesque on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 06:33:48 PM EST
    contract would allow the government to force them to participate.

    You have no information (none / 0) (#30)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:25:59 PM EST
    Perhaps you should get some first.

    Not only janitors (none / 0) (#38)
    by wprange on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:30:42 PM EST
    There will be a lot more people who will have trouble attending a caucus on Saturday from 11 am to 1 pm, like for instance nurses or cashiers in supermarkets and shop-assistants, etc. Usually people (and predominantly women) from low-income families. It sure seems to me that the Casino-workers are getting preferential treatment above workers in smaller businesses or workplaces.

    I've observed a caucus first hand. (none / 0) (#39)
    by Geekesque on Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 12:36:31 AM EST
    You do not need the entire faculty of a school there to help run things.

    You do not.

    It is a nonsense argument.


    I don't think anyone said (none / 0) (#40)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 01:15:05 AM EST
    it was all the teachers.

    Don't assume that (none / 0) (#27)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:10:48 PM EST
    Par. 2 of the complaint says the teachers have "been scheduled" to work the caucuses at their schools and that otherwise the schools wouldn't be able to hold caucuses.

    I don't know whether they volunteered or not, but it's certainly not a given.


    I gather the Nev. Teachers haven't (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 01:16:45 PM EST
    endorsed Obama.

    Nor Have They Endorsed Clinton (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 01:20:14 PM EST
    From the Times article:

    The Nevada State Education Association has said it would not endorse any Democrat, but some of its top officials have endorsed Mrs. Clinton.

    One more argument against caucuses (none / 0) (#5)
    by Linkmeister on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 01:45:55 PM EST
    It seems to me that any method of assessing voters' preferences which requires them to be present at a specific place and time is inherently biased against those voters who can't attend.

    Any Nevadans know why caucuses were chosen over primaries?  I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that caucuses are less expensive to run; could that have been a principal reason?

    Link to Nevada Democratic Rules + NV SoS (none / 0) (#7)
    by joejoejoe on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 03:24:07 PM EST
    FYI - a link to the Nevada Caucus rules.

    Also, NV Secretary of State office.

    The Secretary of State plays a limited role in the caucus process. A caucus is governed by rules established by a political party. The Secretary of State's office will provide both parties with the official registration file for the allocation of delegates, assist both of the parties in ensuring that any applicable federal and state election laws are enforced, and insure that all eligible voters who qualify pursuant to the respective political party rules have the ability to participate.

    Sounds like a good reason (none / 0) (#8)
    by andgarden on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 03:37:07 PM EST
    not to have caucuses.

    Exactly (none / 0) (#9)
    by BDB on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 03:49:07 PM EST
    Why a State that has a large hospitality industry - which operates essentially 24/7 - would have caucuses is beyond me.  I applaud them for at least holding them on a Saturday, but that's still not going to work for a lot of people.

    I prefer primaries generally, but when you have Nevada's voter pool it makes no sense to hold caucuses.  


    So party regulars control the outcome? (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:06:12 PM EST
    Voter Suppression (none / 0) (#12)
    by commissar on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:07:35 PM EST
    But, since we know that only Rovian Rethuglicans engage in such tactics, and since we also know that any comparison of Clinton to Rove is automatically out-of-bounds, therefore we can confidently assert that Clinton is not behind this.

    I am relieved.

    Yearly Kos/Netroots Nation (none / 0) (#13)
    by commissar on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:28:44 PM EST
    Will there be a panel next year on "Progressive Litigation To Limit Voter Rights?"

    Followed by Kos speaking on urging (none / 0) (#21)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 06:06:20 PM EST
    MI Dems. to vote for Romney in the MI Repub. primary.

    fair weather (none / 0) (#25)
    by lordhungus on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:37:22 PM EST
    it has become increasingly apparent that hillary's campaign is insanely fair weather-oriented. after her loss in iowa, her camp blamed the caucus process, including questions of disenfranchisement. after her win in new hampshire, she made no mention of the collegians who didn't get to vote due to winter recess.

    i have been very reluctant to bash anyone, but she seems to be inviting it at every turn.

    non-resident (none / 0) (#36)
    by cpinva on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:14:09 PM EST
    collegians wouldn't vote in the college town to begin with, they'd vote where they actually lived, so this is an idiotic comment on its face.

    she made no mention of the collegians who didn't get to vote due to winter recess.

    embarassed as i am to admit it, up until this year, i didn't really know the difference between a primary and a caucus. in va, we have primaries, so i never had any particular reason to concern myself with the fine distinctions between the two.

    now that i have been educated (ty jeralyn & BTD), caucuses seem an anachronistic method of holding an election, of any kind. i suspect (and this is pure speculation) that the caucus method served two functions: 1. it took care of the politics, all at one time., and 2. it gave people a legitimate reason to get together for a party. this, in a time when most people lived on farms, far away from their nearest neighbors.

    clearly, that time has long since passed, and the caucus no longer is the most expeditious method of taking care of politics, and giving everyone the opportunity to have their say.


    More info from WP. (none / 0) (#28)
    by KcM on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:13:09 PM EST
    Regarding how close the lawsuit is to the Clinton people, the Washington Post story on the suit offers more information about the [likely] connection than is posted above:

    "The Nevada State Education Association, some of whose top leaders have individually endorsed Clinton, filed the suit and is using a law firm with close ties to the onetime front-runner, Kummer, Kaempfer, Bonner, Renshaw, and Ferrario. Former congressmen James H. Bilbray (D-Nev.), a lawyer at that firm, has endorsed Clinton and is stumping for her in the Silver State."

    One dubious paragraph (none / 0) (#31)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:26:05 PM EST
    The WaPo article  says:

    But those sites are also open to any shift worker, from cab drivers to employees at non-union casinos, on duty midday Saturday within a 2-½ mile radius of the nine casino caucuses. They must present identification showing that they work on or near Las Vegas Boulevard, as the "Strip" is officially titled.

    The lawsuit alleges differently. It says (par. 28)only shift workers for entities with more than 4,000 workers scheduled to work on Jan. 19 can vote outside their home precinct.


    Eh (none / 0) (#34)
    by BDB on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:09:29 PM EST
    This seems like politics to me.  Is the teacher's union likely motivated because its leaders support Obama?  Probably.  That doesn't mean it doesn't have a case.  It might or might not (I'm hardly an election law expert).

    But fighting over election rules and ballots is part of politics.  Obama's worked to keep opponents off the ballot before.  

    Let's not pretend Democrats are above using rules to their advantages to get elected.  Sure, in recent national elections we've sucked at it, but it's still part of politics.

    And regardless of the teachers' motivations, if the caucus rules disenfranchise some of them or are otherwise impermissible, they should be challenged.  

    Ooops (none / 0) (#35)
    by BDB on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:10:13 PM EST
    Should've said the teacher's union is likely motivated because its leaders support Clinton.  She's the woman candidate, right?

    last time i checked, yes. (none / 0) (#37)
    by cpinva on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:16:07 PM EST
    Four More Years (none / 0) (#41)
    by phedeen on Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 10:07:58 AM EST
    The Clintons show themselves once again to be the Bush family of the Democratic party. I don't expect the community here at TalkHillary to admit it, but there is no way this suit was filed without the consent of, or on orders from,HRC.

    Voter suppression, race-baiting whisper campaigns, and questionable Diebold results. From a candidate who supported (supports?) the Iraq war and the Patriot Act.I think I know who Karl Rove is working for in this cycle.

    "...meet the new boss, same as the old boss..."

    4000 Registered Democrats ? (none / 0) (#42)
    by msobel on Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 01:20:56 PM EST
    In clark county ?  This must be a typo. I would assume you mean 400,000

    2006 population was estimated as 1,777,539   

    The Culinary Union IS Las Vegas (none / 0) (#43)
    by damianmann on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 01:36:26 AM EST
    First of all, we know that the Teachers Union have endorsed Hillary. We know that the culinary union endorsed Barrack. I don't think there's any secret that this is just dirty politics. The person who stated that the teachers union sup[ports Obama is incorrect.

    I live here in Las Vegas. Our town depends on the tourism business. Without the culinary people we'd be screwed. EVERYONE in this town has a family member, a friend, or knows someone, or works in, the Hotels or a business that thrives on the hotels. Disenfranchising them is akin to going into Detroit and trying to disenfranchise the auto workers. It's a HUGE mistake.

    Also, the culinary union is dominated by so-called minorities...Mexican, african american, etc. So, she may lose a lot of support over this.

    Also, we have TERRIBLE schools in this town. No one in this town likes the teachers. They're lazy and useless...and they have job security that allows them to remain useless. (of course there are exceptions. But, it's no exaggeration to say that, for the most part, these are poorly run schools that are dooming an entire generation.)

    The tactics here are so reminiscent of the Bush era that it's hard to miss the similarity. Obama is offering a way to end this type of p[politics. He's talking about inclusion...not exclusion.