Leahy Endorses Obama, Wants Culinary Workers to Caucus

In announcing his endorsement for Barack Obama in a conference call just now, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont–also the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee–addressed a ruling that will take place today in a Nevada district court over whether workers on the Las Vegas strip should be allowed to participate Saturday in at-large caucus sites.

"I hope they can caucus," said Leahy. "I am one who believes in doing everything possible to get people to vote. If it means opening up extra voting places, having a mobile place, whatever works is what I believe in."

The Nevada State Education Association, a teachers union considered to be supportive of Hillary Clinton, filed the lawsuit opposing the casino caucus sites two days after the state’s Culinary Union endorsed Obama. Many of the workers who would benefit from the casino caucus sites belong to the Culinary Union. Clinton’s supporters, including Bill Clinton, have aggressively argued that the caucus sites, which were agreed upon in March, favor union members above other potential caucusgoers in Nevada.

Leahy didn’t see the logic in increasing the fairness of an election by blocking people’s votes.

"I realize this is a decision they have to make in Nevada as what they’re going to do but I’ve always been of the assumption that we should do everything possible to allow as many people to vote as they can," Leahy said. He added, "If somehow they were shutout from being able to caucus, I think it reduces the legitimacy of the results."

David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager, then jumped on the line and pointed out that "these are the rules that have been in place since March," and that while the Obama campaign "will obviously abide by whatever happens today" in the court, he thinks allowing the caucuses to be held in nine casino sites was the more democratic thing to do.

Leahy then added "The rules were set and they’re following the rules, and the rules should always be interpreted in a way that allows the most people to participate."

"If you are shut out from participating in the nominating process," Leahy said, "you are going to be discouraged from voting all the way down."