Judge Rejects Clinton Supported Lawsuit Challenging Vegas Caucus Sites
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It's become quite a dispute in Democratic circles. The Nevada Democratic Party created "at-large" casino precincts about eight months ago, so that casino employees (most notably, members of the Culinary Workers Union) would be able to participate in the Democratic causes easily and conveniently. At the time, the Nevada Democratic Party said the precincts were designed for the "4,000 or more shift workers per site who could not otherwise take the time off to go to their home precincts." The precincts were approved unanimously.
This wasn't at all controversial until last week, when the Culinary Workers endorsed Barack Obama. After the union endorsement, the Nevada State Education Association, which is backing Hillary Clinton, filed suit, asking that the nine "at-large" precincts be eliminated altogether.
Today, a state court rejected the lawsuit.
Democrats with ties to Hillary Rodham Clinton failed in court Thursday to prevent casino workers from caucusing at special precincts in Nevada.
The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan was presumed to be a boost for Clinton rival Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential caucuses Saturday because he has been endorsed by the union representing many of the shift workers who will be able to use the precincts on the Las Vegas strip.
"State Democrats have a First Amendment right to association, to assemble and to set their own rules," Mahan said.... [Mahan added,] "We aren't voting here, we're caucusing. That's something that parties decide." He said it is "up to the national party and the state party to promulgate these rules and enforce them."
In retrospect, I can't help but wonder if, politically, the NSEA would have helped Clinton's campaign more by simply remaining silent. Not only was the lawsuit a long shot, and not only did it cause unnecessary division, it actually created a stronger incentive for Obama backers to participate in the caucuses. Indeed, the Culinary Union said the suit was an attempt to disenfranchise its members. "Backers of Hillary Clinton are suing in court to take away our right to vote in the caucuses," a union flier said.
Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.