Democrats in the Silver State will for the first time be able to choose their preferred presidential candidate by phone in the state’s first-in-the-West nominating contest next year, part of an overall effort by the state party and the Democratic National Committee to make the caucus process as smooth and inclusive as possible.
To vote by tele-caucus, participants will need to register with the Democratic party by Nov. 30 and sign up for the virtual caucus between Jan. 1 at 9 a.m. and Jan. 15 at 5 p.m. Those who have registered will then receive unique log-in credentials and a dial-in number to call in and cast their presidential preferences by phone on Feb. 16 and Feb. 17.
Details of the tele-caucus process were released by state Democratic party officials on Monday. Officials in Iowa also announced the details of their tele-caucus process the same day.
“Our virtual caucus will offer Nevada Democrats the opportunity to participate in the caucus from home, whether it be those overseas serving in our military, those homebound due to a disability or illness, or any Democrat unable to attend on caucus day,” Nevada State Democratic Party Chairman Will McCurdy said on a conference call.
According to party officials, voters will be guided through the process of selecting and submitting their presidential preferences by an automated moderator — with options to participate in English, Spanish or Tagalog — and will be allowed to verbalize or press a button to select their candidate. Participants will be given an opportunity to confirm their final selections and edit them if need be before finalizing and submitting them.
The party plans to have a hotline with real people who can be contacted in the event that voters have any issues casting their presidential preferences.
Voters will be able to participate via cell phone or landline in addition to other services such as Skype or Google Hangouts. Party officials said there will likely be set hours over the two-day tele-caucus period during which voters can call in to cast their selections.
Votes cast as part of the tele-caucus process will be distributed to voter’s home precinct and counted as if he or she had participated in-person on caucus day. Party officials said they have not yet determined how many presidential preferences voters will be able to rank as part of the selection process — needed in the event that their first choice candidate doesn’t receive enough support to be considered a viable candidate.
Shelby Wiltz, the state party’s caucus director, said that the party opted for a tele-caucus system over an online platform or an app to ensure that Nevadans who don’t have internet access are able to participate.
“One of the things we have to remember is that hundreds of thousands of Nevadans lack access to reliable internet,” Wiltz said. “As interested as we were in offering potentially an online option, we felt that offering an option by phone would allow people who may not have reliable access to internet the ability to participate, and so this was really about accessibility.”
Party officials said they have selected the Democratic consulting firm Stones’ Phones as their vendor for the tele-caucus interface and are still working to determine a vendor for tabulating the results.
Wiltz said that party plans to work hand in hand with the Democratic National Committee and security experts to ensure the integrity of the caucus process. She said that the party will be testing the system and making adjustments based on the recommendation of the DNC and the security team.
“We have been partners with the DNC every step of the way and intend to continue communicating with them at a high level to make sure that we’re really thinking about security at every step,” Wiltz said.
In addition to the tele-caucus, voters will still be able to participate in-person on caucus day, Feb. 22, either at their assigned precinct or at one of the at-large precincts on the Strip. They will also be able to cast presidential preferences during four days of in-person early voting between Feb. 15 and Feb. 18.
Voters who aren’t registered Democrats will still be able to register with the party on caucus day to cast their presidential preferences in person. Party officials have said that no vote totals will be released publicly during the early voting or tele-caucus period, and that all results will be made public at the end of caucus day.