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Nebraska Democrats to vote on whether to get rid of caucuses

November 25, 2018

Nebraska Democrats will decide next month whether to hold caucuses again or to return to a primary for the 2020 presidential election.

Feedback from party members has been roughly three-to-one in favor of getting rid of caucuses, said Chairwoman Jane Kleeb.

“You’re starting to see the clear will of the party grassroots is to move to a primary,” she said.

Nebraska Democrats first caucused in 2008. The goal was to encourage excitement in the party and to move Nebraska’s nominee selection earlier.

But complaints about the system include the fact that attending a caucus is a several-hour investment and that it could decrease turnout in the primary election.

In 2016, Democrats packed gyms, rooms and auditoriums.

A rule designed to keep the caucus on track required that organizers cut off the registration line 10 minutes after the caucus was set to start. That led to angry voters being turned away after arriving just minutes after the cutoff. Parking at many of the caucus sites spilled over into neighborhoods, so voters had to walk farther to get to the site.

That same year, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, won the Nebraska caucuses and earned those votes at the national convention. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the primary vote, but that didn’t earn her any delegates.

Kleeb also said she expects that a caucus would cost the state party at least $100,000 — maybe twice that — if the Democratic presidential field is as large as expected. And under national party rules, the Nebraska Democratic Party would have to allow mailed-in ballots, which includes securely storing them.

The state party is distributing a survey seeking input on the issue. In Omaha, party officials are hosting a forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday at The Venue at the Highlander 75 North site, 2120 N. 30th St.

The party will vote on whether to make the change at its Dec. 7-8 quarterly meeting in Ord.

Nebraska Republicans vote by primary. Registered nonpartisans can vote in Democratic but not Republican primaries.

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