Caucuses are offensively anti-democratic affairs. They require participation in a specific time and place, preventing anyone who may be unavailable from exercising their rights as a citizen. (Typically there is no absentee voting in caucuses.) People with disabilities, college students, single parents and people who work unusual shifts are among the most common victims. In Nevada’s caucus, we’ve discovered another: observant Jews. The Nevada caucus is on Saturday.
Nevada’s Republican Party, to its credit, has created an absentee voting mechanism in the caucuses for members of the military. As I’ve previously reported, there is a movement within the Republican Party to encourage or require state parties to allow absentee voting in caucuses for military personnel who are stationed out of state. Iowa chose not to do so, but Nevada did.
This raises the question of why anyone else who cannot be at a caucus site at 9am on Saturday is not simply allowed to vote absentee the way military service members can. Apparently, Nevada Republicans think democracy is only a necessity for the military. Call it another Republican military exception, like the notion that government-provided health insurance is a moral obligation for veterans and an unpleasant burden for anyone else.
Luckily for Nevada’s Jewish Republicans, they have one very influential member. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate who has donated millions of dollars to Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC. As The Atlantic’s Molly Ball reports:
With the caucuses scheduled for a Saturday morning, Adelson, an observant Jew, originally would not have been able to participate. So, largely at his urging, the state’s Republicans will hold a special extra caucus, hours after the rest of the state has finished voting and reporting its totals. In case the symbolism wasn’t clear enough, the extra caucus, scheduled for 7 p.m. Pacific time, is being held at the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus, an Adelson-funded private school in Las Vegas. Party officials insist that’s just a coincidence, but insiders say without the influence of Adelson, a generous donor to local candidates and causes, the rogue caucus almost certainly would not exist.
Note that this exemption applies only to Clark County (greater Las Vegas), where Adelson lives, and not to the few Republican Jews who may live elsewhere in the state. Note that each county gets to set its own caucus time, but they all must be done by 3pm, except for this one. Note further that this caucus will take place after everyone else’s votes have already been counted. Note finally that it creates the theoretical possibility of someone showing up who has already caucused elsewhere. Republicans, who profess to be so concerned about the specter of in-person voter fraud that they want everyone to show photo ID at the voting booths, are remarkably unconcerned about this.
Some would argue that this development demonstrates the corrupting influence of money in politics. It’s one person, one vote, but Sheldon Adelson’s vote is more important than yours. That’s true, but this is actually still a positive turn of events for two reasons.
First, it’s good because it means more people, and not only religious Jews, will get to participate. According to Ball: “Officials expect about 500 to attend the evening caucus, and while it is meant to accommodate those who observe a Saturday Sabbath, such as Jews and Seventh-Day Adventists, the party won’t ‘police’ that requirement, executive director David Gallagher said on Friday’s conference call.” In other words, if you’re a Christian or atheist who just feels like sleeping in and caucusing in the evening, you can, which is as it should be.
Second, the absurdity of this whole affair demonstrates once again that caucuses are outdated, idiotic, immoral and inefficient ways of choosing the leader of the free world. They should be abolished and replaced with primaries. Now, if Adelson would give a few million dollars to that cause, it might turn out to be a better investment than the Gingrich campaign.