LAS VEGAS – Shortly after the roulette wheel and the slot machines, the smoky bars and flashing lights, the Nevada Democrats will soon have a say in helping determine the presidential candidate for their party.

Seven casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip are among 200 caucus venues that host caucus on Saturdays across the state. It is the third contest on a 2020 election calendar characterized by chaos and uncertainty after the opening votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, overwhelmingly rural states.

Even when voters started arriving at their caucus sites, everything was quiet at Bellagio, where workers at the workplace could do caucus instead of in their area of ​​residence.

Almost two hours before the noon caucus began, some campaign volunteers with placards and T-shirts stood guard, ready to make one last appeal on behalf of the chosen candidate. Not many caucusgoers had appeared; a lot of reporters and cameras had.

The first presidential competition in the West will test the strength of candidates with black and Latin voters for the first time in 2020.

“Nevada represents an opportunity for these candidates to demonstrate their appeal to a wider swath of our country,” said state attorney general Aaron Ford, a Democrat who does not approve of a candidate.

Nevada’s population aligns more with the United States as a whole than Iowa and New Hampshire: 29% Latin, 10% black and 9% Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, a moderate who fought with minority voters, was already downplaying caucuses and looking beyond Nevada.

“This is a great day. We are excited. But it’s the beginning of the next chapter of our campaign, and this chapter will be really fast because we have so many states that we will cover and so many events, “she told the Las Vegas Campaign volunteers.

The vote comes at a critical time for the Democratic Party.

Self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders emerged as the clear leader of half a dozen more moderate candidates who save each other. Everyone wants to be the preferred alternative to the Senator from Vermont in the race to face President Donald Trump in November.

Meanwhile, questions remained about Nevada Democrats’ ability to report election results quickly and new concerns emerged about foreign interference in the 2020 contest.

Sanders confirmed that he was informed by U.S. officials about a month ago that Russia was trying to help his campaign as part of Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the election.

“It was not clear what role they would play,” said Sanders. “We have been told that Russia, perhaps other countries, will be involved in this campaign.”

He added: “Here is the message to Russia: stay away from the American elections.”

Despite the distraction, Sanders was confident of Nevada. He has strong support from Latin Americans and union workers who have warmed up to his calls to transform the nation’s economy and political system to help the working class.

There was skepticism about Pete Buttigieg’s ability to conquer a more diverse group of voters after strong endings in Iowa and New Hampshire. Joe Biden, who fought in those early states, looked to Nevada’s black voters to demonstrate that he still has a viable path for nomination.

Elizabeth Warren and Klobuchar were fighting for momentum, hoping to benefit from a sudden surge of external money from the newly created super PACs.

Billionaire Tom Steyer spent over $ 12 million in money on television advertising in Nevada, according to data obtained from The Associated Press.

New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who dominated the political conversation this week after a paltry debut in the debate phase, was not in the vote. He’s betting everything on a series of delegate-rich states that will start voting next month.

Caucuses were the first since technical flaws and human errors plagued Iowa caucuses. Nearly three weeks later, democratic state officials have yet to publish the final results.

Nevada Democrats have projected confidence in their trial, although President of the National Democratic Committee Tom Perez refused to commit to release full results on the day of the vote. He said that a number of factors, including early voting and a potentially high turnout, could influence the tabulation and timing of results. In addition, Nevada, like Iowa, reports three sets of data from the multistage caucus process.

A potential complication is the reporting system.

On Friday, party leaders issued a reminder clarifying that while caucus leaders can still use an online form to submit results from individual pens, they should use a dedicated hotline to call and message the results as the primary form of reporting. .

In Iowa, the overwhelmed telephone lines caused the leaders of the caucus to wait for hours, contributing to the delay in communicating the results. Nevada Democrats received additional help from other state parties to help manage the reporting process on Saturday night.

The early vote could represent another challenge for calculating the results of the caucus.

The state party increased its responsibilities by offering early voting, which Iowa has not attempted. The party said that around 75,000 Democrats cast the first ballots and the majority consisted of people attending caucuses for the first time. In 2016, 84,000 Nevada voters participated in democratic caucuses.

A small but significant number of votes cast in advance has been disqualified.

Of the more than 36,000 votes cast on Monday, 1,124 votes were largely canceled because voters forgot to sign them, according to the state, which did not release the final numbers. Party officials said they were turning to these voters to encourage them to the caucus in person on Saturday.

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