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Paper option helps speed Nevada caucus early voting on Day 2

Updated February 16, 2020 - 10:29 pm

For at least one early voting precinct in the Las Vegas Valley on Sunday, pivoting to a paper check-in did exactly what Nevada Democratic Party officials said it was designed to do: speed up the process when necessary.

But state Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy II, who shook hands with voters outside IBEW Local 357 in Las Vegas, did not address specifically whether lessons had been learned from the day before, when voters at multiple presidential caucusing sites reported waiting for hours and a local Democratic club leader said the party didn’t have enough iPads to check voters’ registration.

McCurdy said the system allows “our precinct chairs to utilize a low-tech, easy option on caucus day.” McCurdy also said volunteers would “be ready” and continue to be trained through the week on a Google-powered custom calculator being used to track results.

The state Democratic Party’s efforts on early voting through Tuesday and on caucus day, Saturday, are being carefully watched across the U.S. because of the tabulation debacle in Iowa’s caucus earlier this month. Nevada Democrats had planned to use apps that mirrored the one that failed in Iowa, but dumped the technology and developed a new system in short order — under intense scrutiny.

Planned backup

The state party’s process calls for voters to check in using a PDF file pre-loaded onto iPads. They are given a card with a personal identification number and their Nevada secretary of state ID number to connect them to their home precinct. Voters then enter the numbers from their voter cards into a Google Form “as an additional method to track participants and streamline data collection.”

Paper sign-in sheets were built into the plan as a backup.

Volunteers using iPads at the AFL-CIO site scrolled manually through pages of voter information to find voter names and IDs before giving each voter a ballot.

At the Culinary Local 226 site in Las Vegas, volunteers were observed using iPads to check-in voters who reported waiting about an hour to vote. Participants at the IBEW Local 357 site reported a wait time between 40 minutes to an hour.

Paper moves voters faster

At the AFL-CIO site in Henderson on Sunday, a digital Google Form held up voters and was eventually cast aside by 2:30 p.m. to move them through the line more quickly. Three voters near the front of the queue at that time said they had been waiting for about two hours.

Molly Forgey, communications director for the Nevada Democratic Party, confirmed that the change was meant to move voters faster through the process. By the time voting ended at 5 p.m. Sunday, no line was seen outside the site.

Forgey said the shift to paper occurred only at that site, although two voters at the IBEW Local 357 site also reported not using a Google Form. The Review-Journal and other media were not allowed inside as observers because the union’s bylaws require executive board approval at least a week in advance, union spokesman Ronnie Young said.

Even though some voters complained about long wait times at sites visited by Review-Journal reporters Sunday, others believed the state Democratic Party’s second day of its first-ever early voting for presidential caucuses went about as expected. No major issues were reported.

The party said more than 18,500 Nevada Democrats turned out Saturday, but it wasn’t immediately known how Sunday’s figures compared.

‘Our big moment’

At age 20, Tiffany Zamora’s first chance to take part in a presidential race was Sunday. Outside the United Steelworkers Local 711 in Henderson, she said the early caucusing process made sense and was easy to understand. Her older brother, Eddie Zamora, 32, said he favored early voting over the traditional caucuses.

“It’s more straightforward,” he said.

Nevada Treasurer Zach Conine said the payoff with early voting will take shape in the form of a more “inclusive” turnout in terms of racial demographics.

“Iowa looks like me,” said Conine, who is white. “But Nevada doesn’t; the country doesn’t.”

As state Democrats turn out to select their pick to face President Donald Trump in the November general election, McCurdy called it “our big moment.”

Choices, choices

Outside the IBEW site, Ann Sherfield, 46, said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was her first choice, followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who recently dropped out of the race.

For Sherfield, the decision is rooted in Sanders’ signature health care proposal: “I’ve had family members who have been negatively impacted by the insurance industry so, you know, Medicare for All, I think, is the best option for everybody.”

Early voters are asked to fill in their top three to five choices for the nomination on a paper ballot and place it into a secure box.

Neither Joe Turchiano, 59, or Christine Lawrence, 56, chose anyone other than Yang. In a new rule, voters who would like to only select one candidate may pick “uncommitted” as the second and third choices.

“There’s some Democrats that it’s just like, there’s no way I’ll go with (them),” Turchiano said.

Lawrence, an educator, was confronting a similar dilemma but, unlike Turchiano, she refused to consider Trump as an option.

“But it’s hard to dumb down after Andrew Yang,” she said.

Both said they had been attracted to Yang’s embrace of universal basic income in lieu of spending money on programs they said were broken.

Debrae Little said she picked Sanders, who appealed to her preference for fair, equal treatment of all people.

But Little, who chose former Vice President Joe Biden as her third option but could not recall her second, also had no trouble choosing any Democratic candidate over Trump.

“I wanted to take a little bit of everyone and put it together and make one candidate,” she said about the list of Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Early voting for Nevada’s Democratic presidential caucuses will take place through Tuesday. Democrats will be allowed to select up to five candidates in order of their preference at any voting site in Clark County. Those votes will be tabulated at voting sites on Saturday.

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Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter. Contact Dalton LaFerney at dlaferney@reviewjournal.com or at 702-383-0288. Follow @daltonlaferney on Twitter.

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