LINCOLN — Nebraska Democrats are weighing whether to scrap their decade-old practice of holding presidential caucuses.
The Nebraska Democratic Party’s platform committee voted with no dissent Friday at Southeast Community College to advance a resolution calling for the elimination of presidential caucuses before the 2020 election.
When the resolution was introduced, there were cheers from the group, and several people exclaimed that they dislike the caucuses.
The resolution now will come before all the delegates at Saturday’s state party convention.
The resolution was proposed by Angela Thomas, the Red Willow County Democratic Party chairwoman.
The resolution notes that 75 Democrats came to the 2016 Red Willow County caucus and 331 voted in the primary.
“To make sure that Democrats do not stay home on primary election day, at the expense of down-ballot candidates and issues, it is necessary to end the caucus experiment,” the resolution says.
The party’s State Central Committee most likely won’t make a final decision until March, after the national Democratic Party issues guidance to the states, said Chairwoman Jane Kleeb. She said that the party would continue to have caucuses for party-building but that Democrats would not choose presidential nominees there.
Kleeb said there’s likely to be mixed opinions within the Nebraska Democratic Party.
In a caucus system — like Iowa’s — voters gather in place and discuss the candidates, as opposed to a primary, in which voting is done privately like any other election.
Nebraska Democrats moved to caucuses in 2008 in part to encourage excitement in the party and in part to move Nebraska’s nominee selection earlier.
Other benefits to the party include the ability to register voters on the day of the caucus.
But Kleeb said the caucus system has received some criticism as it grows larger.
“As more and more people are engaging in the caucus, it’s becoming much more difficult to manage,” she said. “So older people and working folks and moms who are trying to juggle kids, it’s difficult to carve out 4 to 6 hours in your day.”
In 2016, a rule designed to keep the caucus on track required that organizers cut off the registration line 10 minutes after the caucus was set to start. It led to angry voters being turned away after arriving just minutes after the cutoff. Parking at many of the caucus sites spilled over into neighborhoods, so voters had to walk farther to get to the site.
By law, Democratic presidential nominees must still appear on the ballot. And Nebraska Republicans still select their nominee on primary election day.
In 2016, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, won the Nebraska caucuses and earned those votes at the national convention. But his opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the primary vote, although that didn’t earn her any delegates.
Kleeb also said that to draw national attention to Nebraska and to rural issues, she plans to make a pitch to host a Democratic presidential debate in Omaha.