CBS News reporter Tanya Rivero speaks with Steve Sebelius, Politics and Government editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, about whether the Nevada Caucuses risk the same kind of results meltdown and delays that plagued the Iowa Caucuses earlier this month.
Tanya Rivero: All eyes may be on New Hampshire but the next Democratic caucus is happening February 22 in Nevada. Following what happened in Iowa, Nevada is hoping for a smoother run later this month. Let’s bring in Steve Sebelius, he’s the Politics and Government editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Steve, welcome.
So, the Nevada Democratic Party said it would not use the same app or vendor that caused all that confusion and delay in Iowa. Are people in Nevada feeling confident about caucusing after what the saw unfold in Iowa?
Steve Sebelius: Well, I think there’s a good bit of trepidation, Tanya, to be honest with you, because that happened just three weeks before our caucus. We’re doing early voting for the first time ever, any caucus state doing early voting. So how those votes, how they’re going to be counted, how they’re going to be transmitted to the caucus sites, precinct sites on caucus day, is still an open question. So, I think there’s a good deal of concern. The party says it’s working very hard to resolve these things so that they’ll have a smooth caucus. But it would be a lie to say people are calm and getting a lot of sleep right now.
Rivero: What have you specifically learned from officials about what they may be doing to make sure what happened in Iowa does not happen in your state?
Sebelius: Well, first they’ve scrapped the caucus day app and they have scrapped the app for early voting, so that is not going to be used at all. What they’re doing instead is rolling out what they’re calling a “tool” which will be loaded onto iPads, it’s supposedly going to count those early votes to be able to have those tabulated and ready to go at caucus sites and on caucus day.
Now, who made the tool, what it actually is, that’s still up in the air. The party has been very circumspect about revealing the details of that, but I still think there’s a lot of concern about how those votes are going to be counted and whether or not caucus day is going to go smoothly here in Nevada.
Rivero: And Steve, in an opinion column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, you write, quote, “it’s time to retire the presidential caucus.” Why do you think that?
Sebelius: Well, for a number of reasons. First, what we saw in Iowa, the counting process, that needs to be done. A lot of people are not familiar with it. Nevada is a place that a lot of people come to from other states. Most states don’t use this. Just about four states left that actually use a caucus and some U.S. territories out in the pacific.
It’s cumbersome, it’s somewhat chaotic, everybody understands voting day. You go into your polling place, you cast your vote, and you leave. That’s something that can be much easier. The party, however, disagrees with me completely and shows no signs of abandoning the caucus because they know it builds party. It builds databases, it builds their volunteers. It gets people engaged in the process and they certainly don’t want to give that up.
Rivero: Do you think the average voter, though, might be a little intimidated if they feel like they don’t fully understand the process and just stay home?
Sebelius: Well, I don’t know if they’ll just stay home but I definitely think they’re going to be intimidated by the process especially if you’ve never done it before. Now, we have that early voting option where you can go in and you can rank your choices one through five. You have to do three, you can do up to five. Then go home and say you’ve done your duty.
If you go on caucus day, it is very intimidating. There’s loud groups of people. They’re shouting, they’re yelling, they’re campaigning for their candidates. It can be very overwhelming for somebody from a primary state who’s never seen a caucus before. I don’t know if that’s going to keep anybody home and out of the process, I think, because the early voting process exists. But, it is going to be very intimidating, especially for first-timers.
Rivero: And, finally, Steve, which candidates are voters in Nevada watching most closely do you think?
Sebelius: Well, I think after the “results” from Iowa, and what’s going to happen tomorrow in New Hampshire, all eyes are on Bernie Sanders to see how well he’s going to do. Whether or not he’s going to have momentum coming out of New Hampshire coming toward Nevada. Joe Biden has polled very well here, he’s been on top of the polls, he may need Nevada as a comeback if he doesn’t do well in New Hampshire as is predicted. So, I think those two candidates. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is also on the radar here, and Tom Steyer, who has blanketed, I mean blanketed the state with ads. On every horizontal and vertical surface in the entire state of Nevada, there’s a Tom Steyer ad, so he’s in the public mind here as well.
Rivero: Alright, a lot of folks still in the running there. Steve Sebelius, thank you so much.