LAS VEGAS (FOX5/AP) -- The Nevada State Senate passed a bill Monday afternoon that would move the state to a presidential primary instead of a caucus.
Assembly Bill 126 was introduced in February. The bill details the requirements for conducting a presidential primary election. The Senate passed the bill on a 15-6 vote, including Republicans Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Gansert, and sends the bill to Gov. Steve Sisolak's desk for a signature.
Nevada currently operates on a caucus system in which voters from one political party gather to elect delegates, with the largest group winning the votes. The caucus system has been criticized for being complicated, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when many people did not want to physically appear to vote and be part of a delegation.
The push for Nevada to jump past Iowa’s caucuses and New Hampshire’s longstanding first-in-the-nation primary follows a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign led by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Reid and other Nevada Democrats have seized on dissatisfaction in the party about the nominating process that gained steam in 2020.
They’re arguing to replace party-run caucuses with state-run primary elections, which are considered easier to participate in than the in-person neighborhood caucus meetings.
Most significantly, they have said that Nevada is a diverse state with a population that mirrors the demographics of the nation — and therefore a better choice for testing presidential hopefuls than mostly-white Iowa and New Hampshire.
“It’s time for Nevada to take its rightful place, not just first in the West but in the nation, as a diverse state, a state with diverse issues,” said Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation.
Nevada Democrats allowed voters to "early caucus" in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Republican Party, which has most recently kept Nevada’s caucuses as its fourth contest, has not backed the change.
Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald opposes the change, warning that the state acting unilaterally could leave both his party and the Nevada Democrats without national delegates in 2024 and less influence on the presidential nominating process.
The new Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison is from South Carolina and is a protégé of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who has said he’d like to see his home of South Carolina moved up from it’s fourth-in-line place.
But it’s unclear if South Carolina will join Nevada’s push to be first. The state, like Nevada, is diverse. It’s also where Biden pulled out a double-digit win that helped propel him to victories on Super Tuesday and win his party’s nomination.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.