Nevada Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange abruptly concluded the state’s nominating convention. (Kaitlin Crowley)

I was proud to represent presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders as a delegate at the 2016 Nevada State Democratic Convention in Las Vegas on May 14. Earlier in the election cycle I had served as a precinct captain, knocking on hundreds of doors in my neighborhood to talk about issues and turn out the vote. I helped preside over a chaotic caucus day when record attendees showed up in support of Sanders at our location, and I was proud when Bernie won by a broad margin in our Reno neighborhood. I’ve organized Barnstorm for Bernie events, phone bank parties, and also made calls to voters in other states in my down time using the Bernie Dialer. I was elated and electrified by our strong performance at the county conventions. I was excited and honored to serve the candidate I believe should be our next president and to be a member of the movement I believe has the power to reclaim American politics. That said, I’m unsettled by some of the reports about the convention that I’ve seen circulate on social media. I’ve seen petitions and write-ups that contain factual inaccuracies and articles that omit key events. I was at the convention from 8 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. when guards arrived, and I’d like to clarify and correct some points. Even among Bernie supporters and activists, the narrative I’m reading about what happened in Vegas is peppered with incomplete or even incorrect claims, and in some cases, a failure to understand convention procedure. Without a doubt, all reports of violence you may have heard or read about are false. But if my fellow Sanders supporters want to seek justice for voter suppression and misconduct in Nevada, we need to have our facts straight. And if we want to keep our hard-earned Bernie delegates at other state conventions and at the national convention in Philadelphia, we need to learn some lessons from the Nevada convention. First, let’s review Nevada’s seemingly complicated, three-tier caucus and convention system. On Feb. 20, Nevada held its caucuses. We met and voted within our own precincts (a precinct is basically a neighborhood). The number of delegates awarded each candidate is decided proportionally here, relative to how many votes they each receive. The results of these caucuses determined how 23 out of Nevada’s 35 national delegates were assigned. Hillary Clinton took 13 that day; Bernie netted 10. This is sometimes referred to as the “first tier” of Nevada’s system. These numbers are fixed, but 12 national delegates remain to be determined at the county (“second tier”) and state (“third tier”) conventions. On Feb. 20, Clinton had received 52.6 percent of the vote to Bernie’s 47.3 percent, so she had the advantage moving into the county conventions. But at the county conventions, not all of Clinton’s delegates turned up to claim their seats. This put her behind because Sanders’ delegates and alternates (people who may take the place of delegates who are absent) attended these conventions in higher numbers. As a result, Sanders was allotted space for more seats than Clinton at the state convention—2,124 to her then-reduced 1,722. Nevada’s 12 remaining national delegates would be determined at the state convention. Because delegates are awarded proportionally at each tier, if Sanders’ delegation had attended the state convention in full force we would have locked up more of this last round of national delegates and won the state. If we had done that as we did at the county level, we might have won Nevada 18 to 17. With that background, let’s get to what transpired at the state convention on Saturday, May 14. What follows is a contextualized account of what I witnessed firsthand as a Sanders delegate. It contains crucial details you aren’t likely to find in other reports. We Sanders delegates were able to register and receive our credentials the evening before the convention, Friday, May 13, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Registration opened again on Saturday at 7 a.m. and continued until 10 a.m. The convention was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., and the Sanders campaign had been encouraging delegates to register the night before and be seated in the convention hall by 8:30 a.m. to participate in the first round of voting. The convention was running late, however, and wasn’t officially convened until 9:45 a.m.—45 minutes behind schedule. You might have read that the convention was called to order 30 minutes early or that our first vote was taken then, while Sanders delegates were still in line. This is not correct. Our first vote by voice, to approve preliminary counts of delegates and alternates who had registered by 9:30, was at 10:15 a.m., more than an hour later than scheduled. The majority of Sanders’ delegates voted against approving these first totals (which had 1,149 delegates and 326 alternates for Sanders and 1,245 delegates and 373 alternates for Clinton). The delegates I spoke with seemed unaware that these numbers would change, because under convention rules delegates in line by 10 a.m. would still be registered. We just needed this first 9:30 count to establish a quorum and begin proceedings. Bernie’s numbers would go up. This was the first public instance of misconduct by Chairwoman Roberta Lange that morning. The temporary rules of the convention under which we were then operating stated plainly that if the outcome of a voice vote was unclear, we needed to stand and be counted. Lange, who chairs the Nevada Democratic Party, failed to acknowledge the presence of the “no” votes, and declared the numbers approved without allowing for discussion or calling for a standing count. This precipitated the first round of protest. Our next voice vote was at 10:35 a.m. We were voting to adopt the temporary rules of the convention as the permanent rules that would govern the day’s proceedings. These rules were available on the Nevada Democrats’ website prior to the convention, and I had them on my phone. Now, in the days before the convention, I’d heard rumors that these temporary rules had been changed to include provisions that would negate the favorable results for Bernie from the county conventions, or that they would put Sanders at a disadvantage in some other way. I’d studied the convention rules, and I didn’t find any last minute alterations. I also couldn’t find any evidence to support the buzz that these rules would somehow overturn the numbers from our county conventions.
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