Local residents wait to cast their votes during the Nevada caucuses inside the Coronado High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 22, 2020.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images
The Nevada Democratic presidential caucus is too early to call Saturday afternoon as entrance polls indicate Sen. Bernie Sanders has a significant lead in the initial round of voting, according to NBC News.
Nevada Democrats are choosing their presidential favorites in a test of whether 2020 White House hopefuls can extend early success — or earn enough support to even stay in the race.
Voters gathered to caucus at 3 p.m. ET in the third nominating contest of this year’s Democratic primary. Nevada awards 36 pledged national delegates proportionately, based on congressional district level and statewide results.
The state has drawn significant attention, and not only because voters of color get their first real chance to make their preference known this cycle. Nevada has faced questions about whether it can report results smoothly, following the disastrous Iowa caucus earlier this month riddled with apparent technological and reporting errors.
After the presidential field winnowed in recent weeks, only seven Democrats still seeking the nomination were on the ballot in Nevada:
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
- Billionaire activist Tom Steyer
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Preference cards are seen at a Nevada Caucus voting site at Coronado high school in Henderson, Nevada, February 22, 2020.
David Ryder | Reuters
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on his way to top-three showings in multiple national polls, is not on the ballot.
Sanders, who left the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary about even with Buttigieg in the national delegate race, led recent polls of Nevada. His campaign hopes strength with young Latino voters can help to propel him to victory in the caucuses.
Buttigieg and Klobuchar, coming off top-three finishes in New Hampshire, hope to show they can have success in a state where voters of color make up a significant share of the electorate. Meanwhile, Biden and Warren hope to inject life into once promising presidential campaigns.
The state Democratic Party has said roughly 75,000 people voted early in the caucuses. They picked a favorite and at least two more candidates in case their first choice does not meet the 15% viability threshold needed in most precincts. The state holds more than 2,000 precinct caucuses.
Voters whose first choice does not meet the level of support needed can change preference after the initial round of caucusing.
About two-thirds, 65%, of caucus voters are white, according to entrance polling data. Another 18% identified as Hispanic or Latino, while 11% identified as black. Sanders appeared to have a massive edge among Hispanic or Latino voters with roughly half of support, according to entrance polls.
Out of four issues — health care, climate change, income inequality and foreign policy — 43% of voters chose health care as the most important topic they considered when deciding whom to support, according to entrance polls. Another 25% picked climate change.
Meanwhile, 18% chose income inequality, and 9% picked health care.
More than six-in-ten voters, 63%, said they support replacing private insurance with a single government plan. About a third, 34%, said they oppose such a system.
Sanders backs a single-payer “Medicare for All” system, which led the powerful UNITE HERE Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas to criticize him. The organization did not endorse one of his opponents, however.
Two thirds of voters consider themselves liberal, while 34% identify as moderate or conservative, according to entrance surveys. Sanders has a significant lead among liberals, and is neck-and-neck with Biden among moderate or conservative voters.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.