LAS VEGAS (AP) — A scheduling quirk that may allow Nevada Republicans to vote in the Democratic caucuses on Saturday is drawing howls of protest and threats of legal action.
The two state political parties organize their own caucus events with differing rules and procedures.
The Democrats are allowing for on-site registration at its caucuses Saturday, a policy that can bulk up its voter numbers. This means anyone can look up their neighborhood's designated caucus site and on the same day, change their party affiliation and have a say between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The Republicans, meanwhile, had a Feb. 13 registration deadline to participate in their contest scheduled for Tuesday. Joe Gloria, the Clark County Registrar of Voters in Las Vegas, said those voter records are already settled with the Secretary of State's official listing, which will be used at the Republican Caucuses.
Gloria said the caucus events are not official elections that his office would generally have authority over, but that this Nevada loophole may be a first. "I don't know if it's legal, but it would be unethical, I can tell you that," Gloria said of the possibility of double-voting.
The Nevada Secretary of State said in a statement Friday said it was monitoring the situation, saying in part: "(I)t is a concern that a registered voter in Nevada might participate in both caucuses. Those voters suspected of participating in both caucuses will be reported to both major political parties and may be subject to challenge and disqualification from further participation in the nominating process."
Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange also issued a statement Friday calling the move voter fraud and threatening legal action against anyone who votes in both contests.
"After reviewing Nevada law, we believe that registering under false pretenses in order to participate in the Democratic caucuses for purposes of manipulating the presidential nominating process is a felony," Lange said.
The Nevada Republican Party urged Republicans to wait until their own party's Tuesday caucus to participate. The Washoe County Republican Party went further, saying Republicans who participate in Democratic caucuses to manipulate the results would be undermining the fundamental American principle of free and fair elections.
But some noted young Republicans have disagreed publicly about the matter.
Calling the Democrats' "misstep" an opportunity to capitalize on, Miranda Hoover, the president of the University of Nevada, Reno College Republicans, on Thursday issued a statement saying that the student group had told its membership that they're allowed them to vote in both contests. "Asking individuals to participate in both is not a normal activity but it is also not illegal; nobody will get arrested," Hoover said, adding that she isn't "endorsing or demeaning" the idea. Hoover couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
The suggestion that a registered Republican could vote in both nomination contests was first reported by Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston. The UNLV College Republicans' president denounced Hoover in a statement to Ralston, saying her call to "subvert the electoral process" is a "malevolent" effort that shouldn't be tolerated.
Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, credited with landing his home state its early-vote status, also slammed any Republicans attempting the move.
"These Republican plans to interfere with the integrity of Nevada's Democratic caucuses are shameful and immoral. Rather than letting voters decide and allowing our democratic system to work, Republicans are resorting to trickery and gimmicks in an attempt to subvert the will of the people," Reid said.