The final day of the Nevada Democratic Party’s early presidential caucuses wrapped up Tuesday, as thousands of Democrats lined up at 55 locations around the state for their last shot at filing an early preference card before the traditional caucuses on Saturday.
Turnout appeared to be heavy at several sites around Clark County, as lines and waits were not uncommon. While some voters left the lines without submitting a preference card, most pressed on with only limited complaints.
According to the party, more than 36,000 Democrats filed preference cards during Saturday, Sunday and Monday’s early caucuses. Tuesday’s numbers weren’t available, but a final tally is expected Wednesday.
It was the first time in U.S. history a caucus state offered some sort of early voting, the party said.
The preference cards collected during early voting will be factored into the more than 1,700 individual caucuses Saturday. Voters were asked to list their top three-to-five choices for the nomination on their cards.
Progress was slow as Enterprise Library opened as an early caucus location for the first time Tuesday.
Kay Darr had been in line for about 90 minutes as she neared an entrance to the library with about 30 people still ahead of her.
She said it was hard for older folks like herself to stand for that long. There was a separate, much shorter line at the library for those with disabilities or who can’t stand for long periods, but it was not advertised.
“Going to the caucus was the worst thing we ever did in Nevada, and we’ve done some dumb things,” Darr said.
Darr was not willing to publicly share her preferences.
Joe Vecchio said he got into line at 9:45 a.m., 15 minutes before the site opened, and counted 45 people in front of him. After he had not made it inside by 11:30 a.m., he decided to leave, saying he probably would not try to caucus again.
“No, not after that,” Vecchio said. “There has to be a better system then this.”
Vecchio said he planned to vote for whoever the Democratic nominee is, and he encouraged those in line to do the same.
Others in line said they had seen people leave, often getting called back to work on the weekday, but they were willing to stick it out.
Cardenas Market at Eastern and Sahara avenues had a strong showing of voters Tuesday afternoon. The line to vote spanned the area of cash registers and stretched out the front doors.
Mary Cantwell said she waited nearly two-and-a-half hours to cast her vote for former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg as her primary choice. She said the early voting process was “simple enough.”
And the wait to vote did not scare her away.
“When I pulled up and saw the line outside and everything, it restored my faith in America because many of us have been down for such a long time feeling like we were hopeless,” she said.
She said that feeling of hopelessness comes “directly from the president.”
Also in attendance to vote was Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who has been a supporter of former Vice President Joe Biden. She said Biden is the only candidate who will get her support.
Titus said the early turnout shows Democrats are enthusiastic. She said she was concerned at first about the process of folding in early votes to the caucuses this weekend, but now she is confident the state Democratic Party will get it done.
“All eyes are going to be on them,” she said.
Cheyenne High School
Sandra Grant stood in a long line to vote Tuesday morning at Cheyenne High School.
She said she was excited to vote and glad to have the opportunity to vote early, but she wished there were more workers to handle 100-plus voters standing in line in the high school gymnasium.
Bobby Bell also found a long line of some 100 voters at Cheyenne. He waited until Tuesday to vote with the hope he would avoid long lines like the ones experienced at several voting locations on Saturday.
Bell didn’t seem to mind, though. He’s a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and was a delegate for Sanders four years ago during Nevada’s caucus, which he said was an exhausting endeavor. He decided to avoid the experience this year by casting his vote early.
“That was grueling, a caucus,” Bell said. “I don’t think I could handle it. It went all day long.”
Bell said he would like to see the caucus system ended in Nevada.
“Back in the old days, people wanted to do it themselves and be there for the entire process,” Bell said. “But all the people who go to the caucus — they are still a tiny percentage of the actual voters. We should vote ourselves.”
Bell said he’s supporting Sanders first, then Buttigieg followed by businessman Tom Steyer.
“Bernie, he’s just been out there fighting for so long,” Bell said.
This was the scene at an early caucus voting site in South Reno just before the 8 PM cutoff tonight. About 30 people still waiting to check in and much longer line of people waiting to turn in ballots. They added more staff to check-in desk to speed things up. #NevadaCaucus pic.twitter.com/Nt0q6Gq08A
— Bill Dentzer (@DentzerNews) February 19, 2020
Meanwhile, the final day of early voting ended as it began: with long lines to vote.
Hundreds of people remained in line at the College of Southern Nevada’s Charleston campus by the time polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Judith Whitmer, second vice chair of the Clark County Democratic Party, said the line had been hundreds strong since the voting site opened at 8 a.m., and it never faltered during the 12 hours it was open.
Whitmer said the line was cut off at closing time, but everyone who was in line by 8 p.m. would be able to cast their vote. She said she expects to be here “for at least another couple of hours” after the 8 p.m. cutoff.
Despite the long hours, Whitmer said it was exciting to see how many people had turned out to submit early ballots and how many people were first-time voters, turning in voter registration paperwork with their ballots.
Chrystina Aguilar waited in line for three hours with her kids, Elias and Eva, and got her ballot in just after 8 p.m.
She said it was important for her to stand in line and get her caucus vote in because “this is our duty.” Her children, who will be voting in their first presidential election this year, said they were excited to make their voices heard as young voters.
In Reno, at the early caucus site at the Democratic Party’s offices, a 90-minute to two-hour wait was the norm for most of the afternoon and into the evening as temperatures dipped into the 30s.
Officials reported no issues beyond the lengthy wait.
“Very smooth once we got inside,” Tim Griswold said. “Just a lot of people turned out. And that’s a great thing.”
Lines were also long at 8 p.m. at the caucus site at the Truckee Meadows Community College science center in south Reno.
Contact Rory Appleton at RAppleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Glenn Puit, Alexis Egeland, Colton Lochhead and Bill Dentzer contributed to this story.