LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Democrats in the early presidential contest states of Nevada and Iowa will be able to cast their votes over the telephone instead of showing up at their states' traditional neighborhood caucus meetings next February.
The tele-caucus plans unveiled by the state parties are aimed at opening the local-level political meetings to more people, especially evening shift-workers and people with disabilities, whom critics of the caucuses have long said are blocked from the process.
The changes are expected to boost voter participation across the board, presenting a new opportunity for the Democratic Party's 2020 candidates to drive up support in the crucial early voting states.
The Nevada Democrats' caucus director, Shelby Wiltz, calls the system "a no-excuse option" for voter participation.
"Any person who might not be able to come on caucus day for one reason or another has an option for participating and saying 'this is the person we'd like to be our next democratic nominee in 2020," said Wiltz.
To participate in the virtual caucus, voters have to register as a Democrat by Nov. 30. Voters will then have to sign up during the virtual caucus registration period between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15.
Once registered, voters will use an automated system to make selections over the phone. At the end of the phone call, participants can change or edit their selections.
"We felt that giving people the ability to participate by phone was the most accessible way to ensure that everyone has their voice heard in this process," said Wiltz.
This year the Democratic National Committee sent out a list of nine new requirements each state must comply with during the early stages of voting.
"I think the Nevada Democratic party is under some pressure from the Democratic National Committee to try to boost turnout and increase participation," College of Southern Nevada professor of social sciences Dr. Francis Joseph Carleton said. "Caucuses always have relatively low turnout rates from voters versus primaries. So I think this is an attempt to move to sort of a hybrid system that's somewhere in between a caucus and a primary."
One concern is voter fraud. While the finer points of security are not yet set in stone the Nevada Democratic Party says it is their number one priority.
"Folks are going to have to go through a multi factor authentication process in order to ensure that that are who they say they are and the right person is participating on caucus day. So we're thinking a lot about those things," said Wiltz.
Voters who want to use the virtual caucus can do so on Feb. 16 and 17 after their registration is confirmed. Nevada's traditional caucus will be on Feb. 22.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.