Politico reported Tuesday that billionaire and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called the caucus system “dangerous” in an interview with Hugh Hewitt.
“The caucus system is dangerous, to use a very nice word. It’s sort of a dangerous system,” he said.
The Nevada Republican Party caucus will be held Tuesday evening, and is closed to party members who register with the Republican Party at least 30 days before caucus day. Unlike Iowa, independent voters cannot switch their registration on caucus day to participate, meaning over 300,000 registered voters (over 20%) are completely locked out of the process.
In 2012, only 8 percent of active Republican voters in Nevada participated in their party’s caucus, a shocking yet standard number for closed party caucuses in the U.S. In Iowa, for instance, 186,795 of 1,060,896 Republican voters (17.6%) showed up to caucus this year — only 8 percent of the state’s eligible voting population.
It isn’t just independents and voters outside the two major parties who are disenfranchised by the caucus system, but also registered members of the Republican Party.
Unlike a primary system, voters do not get the luxury of voting early (which is not even available in all primary states) or going to their local polling location at whatever time is most convenient for them on election day. All voters in Nevada caucus at the same time, so if you have to work or are unavailable for any other reason, you are out of luck.
Though Trump may have his own success in mind, he is right: the caucus system is indeed dangerous. Limiting voter access and participation to such a severe degree that even party members are discouraged from participating or shut out completely results in an election system that is far from democratic.
Currently, there are 13 states and three U.S. territories who use a caucus system in the first stage of the presidential election process. Interesting note, the Colorado GOP actually cancelled its caucus, which was scheduled for March 1 (Super Tuesday), because party leaders said new RNC rules diminish the state’s influence in the nomination process.
According to Real Clear Politics, Trump has a commanding lead in public opinion polls in Nevada — leading by as much as 26 percentage points (CNN/ORC). However, when voter turnout is as low as it is expected to be, the results can be much more unpredictable than in primary states.
The Nevada Republican Party caucus starts at 7 pm PT / 10 pm ET.