By RIO YAMAT
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nevada Republican Party is suing the state in an effort to maintain its party-run caucuses, even as Nevada shifts to a presidential primary system beginning in 2024.
Nevada lawmakers ditched the presidential caucus model after the 2020 election, passing a law the following year that says major political parties in the state with more than one candidate must hold their primary on the first Tuesday in February. The move pushed Nevada closer to the front of the presidential nominating calendar, upending decades of political tradition.
The Republican Party, which has most recently kept Nevada’s caucuses as its fourth contest, opposed the change.
Now, GOP leaders in the Western state are seeking a court order that would block Nevada’s chief elections officer, Democrat Cisco Aguilar, from making the party participate in the state-run primary process on Feb. 6. Aguilar’s office said Thursday it has not received a copy of the lawsuit and declined to further comment.
The lawsuit — filed Wednesday in Carson City by Republican National Committeewoman Sigal Chattah, who ran unsuccessfully last year for state attorney general — says that the 2021 law violates First Amendment protections guaranteeing freedom of association.
“Individuals are guaranteed the right to organize themselves into political parties,” the lawsuit says, “parties which are self-governed and not subject to state interference.”
In a statement, the Nevada Republican Party said it looks forward to the court upholding a political party’s right to choose how it will nominate a presidential candidate.
If their request is denied, the lawsuit asks for an alternative ruling that would grant the state party permission to hold a parallel caucus and, if the party chooses to do so, assign its delegate votes based on the caucus results instead of the primary results.
A spokeswoman for the Nevada Democratic Party said in a statement the lawsuit is the latest attempt by the GOP to restrict access to voting and “limit as many voices as possible.”
State-run primary elections, which use secret ballots, are largely considered easier to participate in than in-person neighborhood caucus meetings, where voters must publicly disclose their preferred candidate.