Politics

Here's What a Caucus Looks Like

February 25th 2016

By:
Sarah Gray

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — It was organized chaos at Palo Verde High School, located in the community of Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nevada — and not just because Dr. Ben Carson's wife Candy Carson, conservative pundit Glenn Beck, and even front-runner Donald Trump showed up at the site, causing a frenzy.

People swarming Donald Trump at Palo Verde High School

The high school was one of the locations for the 2016 Nevada Republican caucus. Billed as the "first in the West," the GOP's Nevada caucuses have historically produced their fair share of drama; including low voter turnout and delayed results in 2012.

On the line for candidates in Nevada was a share of the 30 delegates the state will send along the Republican National Convention in July. To put that in perspective, candidates need to win 1,191 delegates to secure the party's nomination. Nevertheless, the stakes could not have seemed higher inside the school's auditorium.

At around 5:20 p.m. there was a line of eager caucus-goers extending out of the school. Some were frustrated by the line, while others were excited that this may indicate higher voter turnout. According to NBC, it would indeed prove to be a record-breaking night for voter participation in Nevada.

Unlike during elections run by the state — the Nevada State Republican party runs the caucus — signs, campaign volunteers, and even candidates or their surrogates are allowed in and around the caucus sites. Outside the school there were volunteers with Rubio and Cruz, signs for Trump (and a humorous anti-Trump sign that read "Trump supporters beware, Megan [sic] Kelly may appear at any time").

Sign outside of caucus place

Inside the caucus site, volunteers helped attendees find their precinct and directed caucus-goers to their respective tables or classrooms to cast their vote. Voters who registered by February 13 showed up at the location, found their precinct table or classroom, and checked in with the person in charge of their precinct by showing identification and signing in. From there, they could either chat at the table about who they're voting for, or just fill out a paper ballot.

At just after 6 p.m. , the room began to pick up, as Candy Carson entered to deliver a speech on behalf of her husband, candidate Dr. Ben Carson. She was rapidly followed by conservative pundit Glenn Beck, who was there on behalf of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Candy Carson at Caucus Site

But the flurry of photo-taking and cheering could not compare to the fanfare that took place when GOP frontrunner and businessman Donald Trump entered the room — interrupting Beck's speech — flanked by campaign personnel and what this reporter surmises was a Secret Service detail. Trump, who owns a hotel on the strip, would go on to win the caucus handily.

Trump spoke briefly, boiling his stump speech down to repealing Obamacare, helping veterans, and securing the borders. "Thank you so much for being here," he said to the throngs of people who surged towards him. "I wanted to be here myself."

Donald Trump at Palo Verde High School

Few people remained in their seats during Trump's visit to the caucus site (despite his distaste for caucusing system as a whole); Trump took photos, shook hands (including mine) and when ATTN: asked him if he had a message for young voters, Trump pointed to himself and responded, "stay with me."

The billionaire real estate mogul then moved outside followed by a swarm of followers, while an announcement asked that people continue voting.

Donald Trump at Palo Verde High School

ATTN: asked a Millennial voter, 19-year-old Michael Lasso, who is attending University of Nevada, Las Vegas how he felt about Trump's visit.

"I felt great; I am a huge Donald Trump fan," Lasso said. "I tried to attend his rally but I had school that day, so I wasn't able to go. You know seeing him here was just great."

Lasso was leaving Palo Verde, after caucusing for Trump, when he saw the Secret Service pull up. He immediately re-parked and headed in to see the billionaire candidate.

"I think foreign policy drew me towards him," Lasso explained, when asked why he was supporting Trump. "Foreign policy, healthcare, you know he does a lot of things for the veterans too."

"Honestly I think, you know a lot of people talk about how he — how he might — people talk about how he's racist or how he might send a negative message," he said. "But at the same time, you know, I don't think it's bad to feel that an outsider might be good in the White House alongside so many politicians, who don't get the job done."

The polls closed at 8:30 p.m. at Palo Verde High School, which is the same time as Clark County, according to the Clark County Republican Party website. This is different than other areas of the state, where some polls close at 9 p.m. At a little after 8:30 p.m. site manager James Smalls told ATTN: that there were very few complaints. Some complained that the site didn't open until 5:30 p.m., but Smalls refuted that claim. Smalls also said they had a higher voter turnout than anticipated.

At 8:37 p.m. people were still lining up to vote, and were told that the polls were closed. Angry voters, some of whom demanded their right to vote, were allowed to fill out provisional ballots. Smalls explained that the website had two different times on it (confirmed by the screenshot below).

Clark County GOP website