Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader who remains the functional head of the Nevada Democrats, said Sunday that caucuses should no longer be used to nominate candidates for president of the United States.
“Our Democratic Party did a good job,” Reid said in an email to The New York Times. “All caucuses should be a thing of the past. They don’t work for a multitude of reasons.”
Reid’s call to end caucuses adds to the growing momentum around the push for Democrats to shift their presidential nominating contests from caucuses to primaries.
It follows the fiasco this month in Iowa, when state party officials failed to report any results until 22 hours after caucuses began, and the slow-going count in Nevada, where just 60% of precincts have reported results in the more than 24 hours since most caucuses closed.
A few hours after his email exchange with The Times, Reid released a statement reiterating his call last week for Nevada to jump ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire on the presidential nominating calendar.
“I firmly believe that Nevada, with our broad diversity that truly reflects the rest of the country, should not just be among the early states,” Reid said. “We should be the first in the nation.”
He added, “I believe it’s time for the Democratic Party to move to primaries everywhere.”
The Democratic National Committee will not take up the matter of which states will get to go first in the next presidential contest until at least 2021, and no vote on the issue is likely until 2022.
The party began to move away from caucuses during the aftermath of the nasty 2016 race between Hillary Clinton, the eventual nominee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
After Sanders and his allies claimed he was cheated out of a caucus victory in Iowa because of irregularities in the reporting process, the Democratic National Committee incentivized caucus states to shift to primaries. Only Iowa, Nevada, North Dakota and Wyoming, along with three territories, are holding caucuses this year.
Still, Reid’s call to end caucuses is a remarkable statement from the man who is single-handedly responsible for Nevada’s caucuses occupying the third slot on the Democrats’ presidential nominating calendar.
He engineered Nevada’s shift to earlier in the year, just behind Iowa and New Hampshire, for the 2008 presidential cycle. Nevada has since become ensconced, with those two states and South Carolina, at the beginning of both parties’ nominating processes.
The Nevada Democrats have been slow to count and report caucus results partly thanks to new DNC rules that require caucus sites to report not just the number of delegates won by each candidate, but also the raw number of supporters for each candidate.
The presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, on Sunday cited “irregularities” in the results reported by Nevada Democrats and called on the state party to release a raft of new data. The results reported so far show Buttigieg in third place.
Both the Sanders and Buttigieg campaigns voiced grievances after Iowa’s caucuses and pointed to math errors in the allotment of delegates from precincts across the state. Iowa Democratic Party rules, however, declared that the caucus worksheets served as the official records, even if the math was incorrect.
Sanders, who lost Iowa to Buttigieg by a fraction of a delegate, claimed victory anyway because the raw supporter totals — recorded and released for the first time this year — showed him with 6,000 more votes than Buttigieg on the caucuses’ first alignment.
Nevada Democrats have previously sought to shift from a presidential caucus to a primary, but Republicans in control of state government have refused to fund presidential primary elections. Democrats now control every level of state government in the state, after Gov. Steve Sisolak won the governorship in the 2018 midterm elections.