Voting begins in Nevada Caucuses

Voting is underway across Nevada as the most diverse state so far has its say in the Democrats' nomination fight.

Presidential candidates made their last urgent pleas as voters prepared to weigh in.

Saturday's caucuses are the third contest in a 2020 primary season that has so far been marred by chaos and uncertainty in overwhelmingly white, rural states.

While state officials aren't promising they'll report results on Saturday, Nevada's first-in-the-West caucuses will test the candidates' strength with black and brown voters for the first time in 2020. Self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders has emerged as the front-runner in the still-crowded field.

Several of the Democratic presidential candidates are out among the voters as the Nevada caucuses get underway. Pete Buttigieg greeted supporters at a Las Vegas caucus site shortly before the start. The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor shook hands and exchanged small talk with those gathered at a south side high school.

Buttigieg nodded to Nevada's diversity compared with the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire that have already held contests. He says Nevada offers him a chance to prove he has a broad base of support. Buttigieg has been dogged by low polling numbers with minorities, particularly black voters.

Elizabeth Warren swung by a suburban Nevada caucus site to pose for pictures with supporters and offer doughnuts to volunteers. She ducked inside for a moment and called out to voters still waiting in line to caucus. She said: "Thank you for participating in democracy."

At Rancho High School, a 38-year-old Las Vegas resident, community organizer and political activist was changing her voter registration from independent so that she could caucus. 

Lashonda Marve-Austin said: "I'm black, so I don't want a candidate that just wants to do the right thing for black people. I want them to do the right thing for all the people. She added: "And then I'm poor, so I don't want them to just do the right thing for poor people, I want them to do what's right for people overall."

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee is expressing confidence that the Nevada caucuses will go smoothly and won't repeat the problems that muddied the results in Iowa. The hours ahead will show whether he's correct. 

Tom Perez spoke to reporters Saturday at a caucus site at the Bellagio hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip. He says the goal in Saturday's caucuses is to release the results as soon as possible but "first and foremost, to get it right."

Perez says the popularity of early voting made processing those votes difficult but party officials have worked overtime to accomplish the task.

Nearly 75,000 people participated in a four-day early voting period that ended on Tuesday. Their choices will be added to results of Saturday's in-person caucusing. Perez says the party has trained more than 3,000 people to carry out the caucuses, with training going on as recently as Friday. 

Voting begins in Nevada Caucuses