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Gov. Sisolak signs bill to move Nevada to front of presidential primary line


By Clara Bates, Nevada Current
This story was originally published by Nevada Current.

On Friday, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the bill that attempts to give Nevada first-in-the-nation status, ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire, in presidential primaries.

Assembly Bill 126 replaces Nevada’s party-run presidential caucuses with state-run primary elections. The bill also establishes the date for Nevada’s presidential primary election as the first Tuesday of February. 

But the governor’s signature doesn’t guarantee that Nevada will move ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Because the presidential selection process is party-run, the Democratic and Republican National Committees will have to approve the change, and, according to Reuters, did not immediately express their approval.

Iowa and New Hampshire will also fight to retain their positions.

New Hampshire law dictates that its primary must be held before any other state’s, which Republicans in opposition to Nevada’s bill have pointed out.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said the state would do “everything we can to maintain (our position) and I have confidence that we will,” according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Four Republican leaders from early states signed a statement earlier this week in favor of keeping Iowa first and working to “preserve this historic process” of states’ order in the nomination process.

Nevada was one of only a few remaining states with the caucus system, which has been criticized for limiting voter participation and requiring complicated vote calculations. Iowa’s 2020 caucus was mired in technical problems, delaying vote counts by weeks and prompting national criticism of the system.

At the bill signing, Sisolak said that Nevada stands out nationally in its support for voter rights.

“Today, in the great State of Nevada we are sending a strong message that the Silver State is not only bucking the national trend of infringing on voting rights, but rather we are doing everything we can to expand access to the polls,” he said.

Former U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid helped push to get rid of the caucus system and has advocated among Democratic leaders for Nevada to go first. Democratic leadership has also discussed moving South Carolina forward in the lineup. In the 2020 primaries, President Joe Biden came in second in Nevada and first in South Carolina after doing poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Advocates argue that Nevada’s diverse population more closely mimics that of the country. Iowa and New Hampshire’s populations are 85 and 90 percent white, respectively. Just under 50 percent of Nevada is white, and roughly 3 out of 10 members of the population are Hispanic or Latino.

Groups like Mi Familia Vota, Chispa Nevada and Native Voters Alliance applauded the signing.

Guillermo Barahona, civic engagement director of Chispa Nevada, said in a statement that by making Nevada’s primary first in the nation, “our state has a historic opportunity to have our diverse voices guide who will represent us.”

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