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Nevada Holds Early Democratic Caucuses Ahead Of Saturday's Voting

NOEL KING, HOST:

The next contest in the Democratic nominating process is in Nevada. The caucuses are on Saturday. But in an effort to make it easier for people to vote, the state party added early caucusing, where voters can put down their preferences on paper. In the first two days alone, 26,000 people voted. NPR's Tamara Keith has this story.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: When we first encountered Phil Kromsky (ph), we were looking for the end of a very long line of people waiting to vote. And we weren't even close.

PHIL KROMSKY: It's just been a long process, a couple of steps forward at a time, very slow.

KEITH: He pointed us to a ballroom where he joked that we'd find a lot of disgruntled senior citizens. This early caucus was being held at Sun City Anthem, a retirement community.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: OK, welcome new voters. Welcome to the waiting room. We're very, very glad to have you here - about 300 of you.

KEITH: The line snaked around the ballroom, with chairs available for people who needed a break. Nevada Democrats added four days of early voting to make the caucuses more accessible. Instead of the traditional, time-consuming gathering to persuade your neighbors, early caucusers rank their choices on a paper ballot. Pam Topper (ph) said even with the long lines, she prefers this to the caucus day scene.

PAM TOPPER: People cannot spend four hours away from their jobs at a set time. So I was pleased to see that there's early voting, which is why I chose to do this.

KEITH: She clearly wasn't alone. And a lot of people said they were caucusing for the first time because of this new option. Scott Derek (ph) thought it was pretty easy, but that's because his wife handled the hard part.

SCOTT DEREK: I played pool for 2 1/2 hours while she stood in line, so I thought she was just in and out and I was going to come and vote later. But she stood in line this whole time and got me when she got to the front of the line. I can't believe she waited this long.

KEITH: Two and a half hours into his own epic journey, Kromsky rounded a corner.

KROMSKY: I can smell it. I think I'm - what? - 10 minutes away, maybe.

KEITH: At a traditional caucus, everyone in the room knows how everyone else voted. With this paper-based process. There's more privacy. We stopped Zelda (ph) and Paul Gilbert (ph) as they were walking out.

ZELDA GILBERT: I don't know how he voted. He doesn't know how I voted.

KEITH: So they huddled.

Z GILBERT: Hang on a minute.

KEITH: They've been married for 51 years.

Z GILBERT: Do you want to tell them?

PAUL GILBERT: Warren.

Z GILBERT: Yeah, me too, which surprised me 'cause until I walked through the door, I didn't know who I was voting for.

KEITH: As for Kromsky, he wouldn't say who he ended up picking. But he said the process was actually quite smooth once he finally got in to vote.

KROMSKY: There was nothing complex about it. The most complex part was standing in line all this time.

KEITH: Some people simply couldn't or wouldn't wait - people with little kids and Chuck Madine (ph), who took one look at the line snaking through the ballroom and headed for the exits.

CHUCK MADINE: I don't know if I can wait this long. It's killing my whole day off.

KEITH: Today is the last day for early voting. A Nevada Democratic Party spokesperson says the volunteers and staff are working to make every site run as efficiently as possible, given the very high voter interest. Another big test comes on caucus day Saturday, when all these early votes are incorporated into the traditional in-person caucuses.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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