Saturday marks the "First in the West" nomination race with Democrats in Nevada caucusing at a critical time in the campaign for the remaining Democratic field.
While New Hampshire and Iowa gave Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg some early momentum, Nevada is the first state that will include a diverse voting base. The Nevada Democratic Party says the Nevada Caucuses is a good litmus test on who could best represent the party and be the Democrats' standard-bearer in 2020.
After Iowa, all eyes on the tabulation
Unlike most primaries, which are run by state boards of election, caucuses are run by the party. Two weeks ago, the Iowa Democratic Party came under fire for a failed vote tabulation as results took several days to be compiled. The fiasco in Iowa was caused by a glitch in an app, and forced the state party chair to step down.
Democrats are hopeful that technology does not fail them again.
Nevada Democrats too are going to rely on technology. Precincts will each use an iPad with a Google Drive document used to report real-time numbers back to the party.
Precinct chairs will also be asked to call the Democratic Party, and send a picture via text message of the paper tabulation that is signed off by representatives of the viable campaigns.
How a caucus works
Caucuses are more akin to community events rather than a typical election. Rather than using a secret ballot, caucus goers will first hear from supporters of the candidates, representatives of the campaigns, or perhaps even from the candidate themselves.
Then, those on hand will literally "take sides," and join with other supporters of that campaign. At the precinct, a determination is made of viable and non-viable candidates (generally 15% is the threshold).
The supporters of non-viable candidates will then be given 15 minutes to join a viable campaign, or abstain. Once the 15 minutes are up, a tally is taken, and the Nevada Democratic Party releases the number of delegates won by each candidate, which is the most important figure of the day. The party will also release popular vote totals.
How are ties broken
If there is a tie at a caucus site that would affect the number of delegates, the precinct chair will use a deck of cards to break the tie. This is Nevada after all.
What is at stake on Saturday
For Saturday's Nevada Caucuses, a total of 36 national delegates will be up for grabs. The Democrats divvy delegates in a proportional basis, meaning with a wide-open field, it is likely that a candidate will not receive a majority of the delegates on Monday.
But with Nevada representing some of the first votes cast in the nomination process, it is important to do well for fundraising and momentum purposes.
Where the race stands
Buttigieg holds a slight lead in delegates over Sanders (23-21). Other candidates with delegates are Sen. Elizabeth Warren (8), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (7) and VP Joe Biden (6). Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not enter the first two nominating contests, and will sit out Saturday’s Nevada Caucuses and the South Carolina Primary on Feb. 29.
Although Buttigieg holds the lead in delegates, it is hard to describe him as the frontrunner. Sanders has a plurality of votes, and leads national polling.
Polls in recent weeks have consistently shown Sanders in the lead in Nevada.
He also has been leading nationally.
Real Clear Politics tracks major opinion polls, and an aggregate of polls show that Sanders has seen his share of the vote go from 19% to 27% in the last three weeks. During that time, Bloomberg has seen his numbers more than double, as he has gone from the back of the pack to nearly even with one-time frontrunner Biden for second.
But on March 3, the biggest night of the nominating race awaits as more than a dozen states, including Texas and California, hold primaries. These states are already conducting early voting, meaning Wednesday’s debate could be the final opportunity for candidates to make an impression before a crucial Super Tuesday race.