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Nevada Democratic Party asks caucus volunteers to sign confidentiality agreements

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The Nevada State Democratic Party is asking site leaders for Saturday’s caucuses to sign non-disclosure agreements that would prevent them from speaking to the media.

The news comes just one day before the Nevada Democratic caucuses. The caucus process here in Nevada has come under intense scrutiny after a similar process melted down in Iowa. Nevada Democrats, lead by operatives with ties to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have worked for weeks to ensure the caucus goes smoothly, worried that a poor showing could imperil the state’s first in the west status and further undermine the entire nomination process.

A Nevada State Democratic Party official told CNN that it’s standard practice to request staff and volunteers to sign an NDA because they are privy to strategic information and said the party also required NDAs in 2018.

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CNN obtained a copy of one of the four-page agreements which states, in part, “I will take all measures necessary to protect the secrecy of, and avoid disclosure and unauthorized use of, Confidential Information of the NSDP.”

The NDA appears to be one that is used for other purposes by the NSDP, since it also references activities other than the caucuses.

“If I am a volunteer and answering phones at the NSDP office or volunteering at an official NSDP event, I am a representative of the NSDP and am not authorized to speak to the press unless given permission by the Executive Director or Communications Director.”

It goes on to say that the interest in Nevada politics may cause them to be contacted by reporters and that those inquiries must be referred to the Executive Director or Communications Director, and it adds, in all caps, “THERE ARE NO EXECEPTIONS.” It also specifies that they cannot provide information to journalists on background or off the record.

Seth Morrison, who had planned and trained to be a site leader, was presented with the agreement Friday and wouldn’t sign it. After the party failed to convince him to sign it, he was then offered a lower level volunteer position and quit.

Morrison says the party told him that the reason for the NDA was for the “security of the election process” because site leaders have access to sensitive information that in the wrong hands could compromise the vote.

“The wording of that agreement is very broad,” Morrison told CNN, noting that the confidential information covered a lengthy list of business methods, practices and other information. “If I were to quote disparage the party or talk to the media without their permission, they could sue me for everything I own.”

Since CNN published its story Friday about the Nevada Democrats using NDAs for its site leads, the party has said signing the NDA is a voluntary option.

Nevada State Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy on Saturday defended the use of confidentiality agreements and told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield on “CNN Newsroom” the goal is “preserving the integrity” of the process and “making sure that folks have an ability to know that when they cast their vote it’s safe.”

Asked if volunteers who signed the agreements would be sued if they talk to the media or others about the caucus experience, he stressed the NDA is voluntary.

“For our site leads who are handling sensitive information who voluntary sign this document, they signed on the dotted line and they’ve reviewed it and they would have to, you know, abide by the rules of what they signed and that’s just a fact,” he said.

When CNN reached out to Morrison Saturday to ask about McCurdy’s remark that the NDA was optional, Morrison said, “He’s lying.”

McCurdy’s Saturday comments call into question why Morrison believed he had to sign the agreement or quit.

Molly Forgey, the communications director for the Nevada State Democratic Party, tweeted Friday evening, “Let’s be clear: these agreements are not required—however, asking volunteers who handle sensitive internal info to sign them is common practice and the state party did this in the 2018 cycle.”

Morrison tweeted to Forgey, saying, “.AMBForgey. So will you allow me to be a site leader? I was told by your staff that I had to sign or quit. Also, I was a very active volunteer on the 2016 and 2018 campaigns and NEVER asked to sign an NDA. I registered hundreds of voters, made thousands of calls.”

Morrison feels the media needs to know what is happening. “Since I felt that there are elements of this process that need to be reported, I could not in good conscience sign that document.”

The possibility that even a small number of volunteers could be quitting the day before the Nevada caucuses is yet another cause for concern that vote can been pulled off in the wake of the fiasco with the Iowa caucuses.

The version of the NDA that CNN has obtained has a space where Executive Director Alana Mounce is to countersign it. Volunteers are being presented with the agreement as they pick up the materials they’ll need for the caucuses from the NSDP.

In Iowa, another state that holds a party-run caucus, an Iowa Democratic Party aide tells CNN, “Caucus volunteers weren’t asked to sign NDAs.”

“I don’t want this to fail,” Morrison said of his disappointment with not being able to help with Saturday’s caucuses, “but the actions of the party left me no choice but to speak out.”

This story has been updated to include comments Saturday made by Nevada State Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy and Seth Morrison regarding the use of NDAs.

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