Democracy and Elections

Obama Accuses Clinton of Suppressing Nevada Vote

Since last Saturday's Caucus, the Obama campaign has logged 1,000 complaints -- including tactics by Clinton supporters that interfered with voting.
Barrack Obama's campaign has called on the Nevada Democratic Party to investigate tactics by the Hillary Clinton's campaign that it says "violated party rules and the rights of voters" in last Saturday's Nevada Caucus. The campaign is not seeking to challenge the results, where the Clinton campaign won the popular vote count among caucus attendees but Obama won one more delegate.

The Obama campaign said the Clinton campaign gave precinct captains guidebooks that told them to close the doors to caucuses at 11:30 a.m. a half hour before the party-sanctioned start time. Once the caucus doors are shut, no more participants are allowed inside.

Obama's campaign also said Clinton campaign workers also blocked Obama voters from signing in at the caucus -- preventing them from participating, and that some ballot cards given to attendees were pre-marked for Clinton.

The letter, by Obama's campaign attorney, Bob Bauer, one of the country's top election lawyers, said the Clinton campaign encouraged its representatives to stretch the rules. It cited a Clinton campaign document that said, "It is not illegal unless they [the temporary precinct chair] tell you so."

"This certainly suggests that, for the Clinton campaign, the operative standard was, simply and only, what it could get away with," Bauer write.

On Wednesday, Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said, "Sen. Obama lost and now his campaign is acting out."

Obama's charges against the Clinton's Nevada campaign have grown in recent days. On Sunday, the Obama campaign's Nevada State Director David Cohen and Bauer announced they had 300 complaints, or election incident reports, concerning problems at the caucus. By Wednesday, that number had grown to more than 1,000 complaints, his letter to Nevada State Democratic Chair Jill Derby said.

On Sunday, Bauer said Clinton campaign officials following the campaign's manual successfully convinced party officials to close the caucus doors at numerous locations across the state, but neither he nor Cohen could estimate the number of impacted voters.

Earlier that day, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe sent this statement to volunteers:

"We currently have reports of over 200 separate incidents of trouble at caucus sites, including doors being closed up to thirty minutes early, registration forms running out so people were turned away, and ID being requested and checked in a non-uniform fashion. This is in addition to the Clinton campaign's efforts to confuse voters and call into question the at-large caucus sites which clearly had an affect on turnout at these locations. These kinds of Clinton campaign tactics were part of an entire week's worth of false, divisive, attacks designed to mislead caucus-goers and discredit the caucus itself.

On Wednesday, Bauer said all these tactics showed a "willful intention to distort the process in favor of ... Senator Clinton."

The Nevada campaign was hard-fought and the Caucus was confusing for the tens of thousands of people who attended for the first time, according numerous reports in the Nevada media.

On Friday, the day before the Caucus, there were reports from Obama and Edwards volunteers that voters were receiving telephone calls with misleading information. One Edwards precinct captain said a supporter was told that if she did not caucus on Saturday that she could not vote in the fall election.

At the Luxor hotel Caucus on the Las Vegas strip, party officials running the caucus at first were turning away delegates. Tova Wang, a fellow at The Century Foundation whose expertise is voting rights, saw several of the first dozen people to arrive at 11 a.m. being told they could not caucus, because the site was only for workers who had shifts that day and were to be on-duty between 10.30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The explanation given was this was according to rules created by the state party.

After protests by Wang and would-be attendees, Caucus Chairman Matt Paul, called party officials and then allowed everyone who showed up to participate if they signed an affidavit saying they could not reach their home precinct in time. Approximately 400 people showed up. One third of the attendees registered to vote before the caucus began. Once inside, there was tension between some Obama and Clinton delegates over what Clinton supporters said was pressure from their union to back Obama.
Steven Rosenfeld is a senior fellow at and co-author of "What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election," with Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman (The New Press, 2006).
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