Chaos Reigns At Nevada’s Republican Caucuses
By Alice Ollstein and Aviva Shen
HENDERSON, NV — Just a few minutes after the Nevada Republican caucuses kicked off, things were already descending into chaos.
Lines around the block. Reports of people voting twice. Ballot shortages.
Not all of the state’s caucuses started at the same time. Some start at 5 p.m. local time, others an hour later. In Clark County voting must be complete by 8:30 p.m., to give officials a head start counting ballots. Other parts of the state will allow voting until 9 p.m.
The votes were then be counted by hand by volunteers, written on an envelope, and texted to state GOP officials, according to the Wall Street Journal.
ThinkProgress recorded that technologically-backward process at a caucus site at Green Valley High School:
Volunteers counting the ballots out loud 1 by 1. The results will be TEXTED into the GOP HQ. #NVcaucus pic.twitter.com/1GPU5nLxVa
— Alice Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) February 24, 2016
There are 11 names on the ballots, even though only four candidates remain in the race. Votes for candidates no longer in the race will simply be tossed.
Ben Tal, the Republican Party site manager for the Green Valley High School caucus, told ThinkProgress the caucus system was ill-suited to Republican voters who need to work during the narrow window of the caucus.
“I think it hurts the Republican Party,” he explained. “Most of the Democrats, they work in casinos and stuff. So they make sure they get time off to go vote. But the Republicans, they are working. They don’t have time, especially with such a big line. They can’t risk losing their job. Sometimes the boss will say, ‘If you’re not here, I will fire you.’ They have to decide whether to put food on the table or to make an impact with their vote.”
First-time voter Angelo Gomez told ThinkProgress he and his peers found the caucus process to be deeply confusing.
“A lot of people are upset about [the caucus]. A primary is so much easier,” the high school senior said. “So many people don’t even know what a caucus is, or that they have to be a registered Republican to vote in the caucus. It may seem like it’s running smoothly here, but for a majority of voters it’s really complicated.”
The Nevada Democratic caucuses also ran into some issues, but the Republican process stands to be much more complicated. Unlike Nevada Democrats, Republicans here forbid same-day caucus registration, a practice that has been a boon for the state’s Democratic registration but has been rebuffed by Republicans fearful of voter fraud.
Wayne Thorburn, a volunteer for the Rubio campaign who traveled from Texas to help monitor this election, complained that the security at the site was lax. “I found a ballot sitting out that had been left unmarked. I could have marked it and turned it in,” he said. “But I gave it to the guy running the precinct. But the security is not very good in this whole process.”
Tal, the site manager, told ThinkProgress they were expecting an unusually high turnout, around 6,000 people. “People have woken up and realized that their voice counts,” he said.
The Nevada GOP tweeted that despite the on-the-ground reports of confusion, they have received no official reports of voting issues.