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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