ABC News’ Sunlen Miller, David Chalian, and Teddy Davis Report: Sen. Barack Obama’s, D-Ill., presidential campaign received good news on Thursday when a federal judge ruled that the Nevada Democratic Party can go forward with nine at-large precincts on the Vegas strip.
Supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., had challenged the at-large districts in court claiming that it was unfair for shift workers on the Strip to be able to caucus at their workplaces when similar provisions have not been made in other parts of the state.
The decision is expected to help Obama in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses because the Culinary Workers — a union which has endorsed Obama — represents the casino workers.
Obama reacted to the ruling following a round table discussion in San Francisco, Calif.
"I’ll be honest with you," said Obama. "We had nothing to do with setting up these rules. We simply were planning to win under the rules that had been set up. Some of the people who set up the rules apparently didn’t think we’d be as competitive as we were and tried to change them last minute."
"But you know," he added, "I think the judge was clear that you can’t change the rules six days before the caucus and that any alteration would have disenfranchised maids, dishwashers, bellhops who work on the strip, so just in terms of politics, we are confident of our organization on the ground. But in terms of policy, I think it was the right decision to make sure that as many people in the caucuses participate as possible."
Clinton spokesman Jay Carson reacted to the ruling by noting that the former first lady’s campaign was not a party to the lawsuit. He also reaffirmed Clinton’s belief that it is unfair for shift workers on the Strip to have access to an at-large precinct while shift workers elsewhere in the state do not.
"While we were not involved in this lawsuit, and have always said that we would play by the rules that we’re given, it has always been our hope that every Nevadan should have equal access and opportunity to participate in the caucus," said a statement from Clinton spokesman Jay Carson.
"Make no mistake," he continued, "the current system that prohibits some shift workers from being able to participate, while allowing others to do so, would seem to benefit other campaigns. More importantly it is unfair. We also are concerned with recent news reports about voter intimidation tactics that would further discourage some Nevadans from participating on Saturday. Our strategy remains the same — we want as many people as possible to participate in the caucus, and we are going to reach out to as many Nevadans as possible in an effort to do as well as possible on Saturday."
According to Bill Buck, a consultant to the Nevada Democratic Party, somewhere between 4-6.5 percent of the total delegates at stake in Saturday’s caucuses will come from the at-large precincts. The Nevada Democratic Party estimates that there will be 40,000 caucus attendees statewide and that 10 percent of the attendees (4,000) will come from the at-large precincts.
Nevada Democrats estimate that there will be 50,000-100,000 shift workers on the Vegas strip during the time of the Nevada caucuses who would be eligible to participate in the at-large precincts.
The Nevada Democratic Party estimates that the nine ballrooms being used as at-large caucus sites can only hold a combined total of 20,000 people from the standpoint of fire martial caps. If turnout exceeds cap in one room, another one of the nine ballrooms will be used as a spillover room.
It is unclear at this time what will happen if all nine ballrooms exceed capacity.