Excitement for Trump breaks Nevada GOP turnout record
LAS VEGAS - First time caucus-goers, many energized by Donald Trump's angry outsider campaign, flooded the polls driving turnout to record levels in Nevada's first-in-the-West presidential preference event.
Trump received 34,531 votes in Tuesday night's contest, more than the total number of people who caucused four years ago. The Nevada Republican Party said Wednesday that attendance at its latest caucus set a record with more than 75,000 voters who cast ballots, more than double the 33,000 people who caucused in 2012.
A fired-up voter base caused an unusual surge in GOP voter registrations leading up to the contest. About 5,200 new Republicans registered in the two weeks before the caucus participation deadline of Feb. 13 in Clark County alone.
Many of them said they were excited about Trump, the billionaire businessman who took 46 percent of the state's vote total. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was a distant second with 24 percent of the vote.
First-timer Robbie Roth of Las Vegas showed up at the Durango High School caucus site and said she was excited enough about Trump that she sought out information about how to participate.
"First time we've been interested enough. We always vote. But this time it's interesting," she said.
The flood of people caused problems at Clark County's largest caucus site. Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas, which reported 2,100 ballots counted, had a line that went deep into the parking lot and confusion among voters once inside. Some said they were turned away while others showed up late. There was also a disputed precinct with more ballots than sign-in signatures and the site ran low on ballots.
Retiree Eduardo Madrid, 74, and his wife bumbled around in the chaotic cafeteria with hundreds of others for more than hour before deciding to go home. They said they were told they were in the wrong place but couldn't find answers about where to go.
The couple said they registered as Republicans to vote for Trump but generally consider themselves Independents.
"This is our first caucus. We're disappointed. This is not efficient," Madrid said.
He echoed the sentiment of many Trump supporters seeking an outsider.
"We're tired of politicians. All talk and no action," he said. "I don't want a politician."
For battle-ground Nevada, the Republican turnout, while close, still trailed the 84,000 people who showed up at Saturday's Democratic caucus.
Democrats overall still maintain a registration edge in Nevada with 471,000 active voters on the rolls at the end of last month and accounted for 39 percent of Nevada's active voter base. Republicans had about 423,000 registered voters at the end of January, making up 35 percent of Nevada's 1.2 million active voters.
Former state Sen. Maurice Washington estimated 1,500 people caucused at Reed High School in Sparks. He said voters seemed significantly more enthusiastic than the last time around.
"It was like the difference between light speed and hyper speed," he said.
Republican voters in Nevada are less familiar with caucuses than Iowa. Both states are home to about 3 million people, but the Iowa Republican caucus turnout was more than 180,000.