Nevada caucuses open with a few hiccups

LAS VEGAS — Schools and community centers across Nevada opened their doors Saturday to thousands of Democratic voters waiting in long registration lines, directing them to their respective precincts as some party volunteers pined for the simpler exercise of a primary election.
 
Early signs indicated a few stumbles for a state Democratic Party that has been made intensely aware that it is under the microscope after the Iowa debacle. Voters at one Las Vegas-area high school had to wait an hour to sign in as organizers scrambled to find a master list of voters that had not been delivered.
 
In some areas, volunteers did not show up at the scheduled time, and supporters of various campaigns were pressed into neutral service as precinct chairmen.
 
But fears of an overwhelming turnout that would swamp the system appeared to ease after caucusing got underway. A swarm of more than 75,000 early voters seemed to have taken some of the pressure off Saturday's in-person voting process, hinting that Nevada Democrats may have avoided a worst-case scenario — a repeat of what unfolded in Iowa.
 
The caucuses carried a distinctively Nevada flair, even as an unusual but brief rain shower washed over Las Vegas. A stretch Hummer disgorged a few voters at Palo Verde High School, west of the Strip, as campaign volunteers gawked. The casinos and mega-resorts stretched out in a panoramic view below Desert Oasis High School to the south.
 
At Desert Oasis, some precinct chairmen said they did not receive briefing papers until around 7 p.m. on Friday, just 12 hours before they needed to be on-site.
 
Most precinct chairmen had taken hourlong webinars to explain the caucus process. But they had to rush to absorb reams of instructions on complicated delegate math and the realignment process the state party sent along the night before.
 
At Palo Verde, which hosted 13 different precincts, voters searched for their designated rooms, scrutinizing hand-printed signs taped to doorways and windows. The school auditorium was home to six precincts, each divided by strategically placed gray garbage bins.
 
Bobbi Altman, the precinct chairwoman overseeing a dozen or so voters huddled around tables in the back of the auditorium, stood beside an iPad issued by the state party, which would be used to integrate early voting results with those of the voters who showed up today. She showed a reporter a worksheet taped to the wall outlining the 15 steps they would follow to tally the results — a process that begins with voters aligning themselves with a preferred candidate before a realignment process and eventually the allocation of delegates.
 
The list of candidates voters could choose from included several who have since ended their campaigns — former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickTop Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden Andrew Yang endorses Biden in 2020 race Deval Patrick backs Biden MORE (D), entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangAndrew Yang to launch issues-based podcast Majority of young Americans support universal basic income, public healthcare: poll Granting cash payments is a conservative principle MORE, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetCyber threats spike during coronavirus pandemic Democrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website MORE (D-Colo.) and former Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyJohn Delaney endorses Biden Nevada caucuses open with a few hiccups Lobbying world MORE (D-Md.). Altman recalled her last caucus, in 2016, when only former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much GOP challenger seizes on outrage against Massie Juan Williams: Mueller, one year on MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Sanders still sees 'narrow path' to Democratic presidential nomination Tenants call on lawmakers to pass rent freezes MORE (I-Vt.) were on the ballot.
 
"It was much easier," she said. 
 
At Desert Oasis, voters packed into the high school’s hallways, cafeteria and gymnasium wearing royal blue “Bernie” T-shirts and pins or holding light green “Nevada for Warren” signs. The high school walls were covered in signs for a different election — the young Desert Oasis Diamondbacks who are running to be high school class president, vice president, treasurer and secretary.
 
The Nevada Democratic Party had banned campaigns from handing out stickers, fearful of being assessed fines by the venues where they caucused.
 
Early results showed Sanders jumping out to a lead over his closest rivals, seizing delegates in small precincts where the tally was easy.
 
But in larger precincts, the long process threatened to drag for hours.
 
"I think we all agree we need to go back to primaries," Altman said.