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October 1, 2014

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Slow count doesn’t win friends for GOP caucus

Image

Paul Takahashi

Clark County Republican Party officials and voters count ballots during a special “sundown” caucus at the Adelson Educational Campus that capped off the Nevada GOP presidential caucuses on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.

Searchlight Republican Caucus

Roy L. Phillips, left, of Cal-Nev-Ari, signs-in for a Republican caucus at a community center in Searchlight Saturday, February 4, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Romney Wins Nevada

Surrounded by U.S. secret service agents, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney shakes hands with supporters at the Nevada Republican caucus Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, at the Red Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

GOP Caucus in Clark County

John Metzguer, center, and Leroy King, right, both of Henderson, sign in for the Republican presidential caucus at Green Valley High School in Henderson on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Nevada Caucus Count

Volunteers count and record caucus totals at Clark County GOP headquarters Sunday morning. Launch slideshow »

Special Evening Caucus at the Adelson School

Clark County Republican Party officials and voters count ballots during a special Launch slideshow »

Gingrich Comes in Second

Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks during a news conference after the Nevada caucus at the Venetian Saturday, February 4, 2012 Launch slideshow »

A painstakingly slow hand count of Clark County’s presidential caucus vote delayed final results by more than a day, prompting accusations of fraud and conspiracy from supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, doubts from national Republicans about Nevada’s ability to run a caucus and derision from national political observers, who called for Nevada’s status as an early caucus state to be summarily yanked.

While no evidence of fraud was uncovered, the prolonged count capped a caucus marked by disorganization, bickering and bumbling at nearly every turn.

By the time Clark County finished counting, the vote had long been tallied in the rest of the state, a victory had been declared (Mitt Romney) and the candidates had given their speeches and left the state. Only their lawyers stayed behind to monitor the count.

“We are going to get this right,” Clark County Chairman David Gibbs said early Sunday morning. “If it takes us a little bit of time to get it right, we are going to take the time.”

Clark County Republican volunteers were tasked with the tedious process of counting each ballot in 1,075 precincts and matching the total with the number of voters who had signed in at each caucus site. Volunteers worked from Saturday afternoon until 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning, returning at 9 a.m. and working until the job was done Sunday night.

In a handful of precincts, the ballot tally didn’t match the sign-in tally. Dealing with the discrepancies slowed and confused the process. Some precincts were off by one vote because precinct captains forgot to sign in.

For the most part, campaigns did not dispute precincts where the discrepancies involved fewer than 5 votes.

Other precincts had greater discrepancies. Party officials said they would confer with campaign lawyers about how to deal with those precincts. One possibility included tossing them out completely.

Counters put all disputed precincts — about 200 — into one “trouble box,” which was the focus of the count Sunday night. The precincts were discussed by a council of counters, Clark County GOP officials and campaign representatives -- one per candidate.

Sun City Anthem proved to be one the most difficult caucus location to sort out.

“For some reason, they just threw scraps of paper in. And then some of these are homemade,” Clark County Chairman David Gibbs said.

The disputed ballots did not cast any doubt on Romney’s win. He took the state by almost 10,000 votes. But because Nevada’s national delegates are awarded in proportion to the number of votes won by each candidate, the second- and third-place tallies were significant.

Gingrich edged out Paul for the second-place finish after a straight day and a half of ballot-counting, taking 21.1 percent of the vote to Paul’s 18.8 percent. Romney’s fate also changed with the Clark County GOP recount: The totals put him over 50 percent, giving him his strongest-yet first-place finish of the campaign.

That means Romney will be taking 14 Nevada delegates to the convention, while Gingrich will be awarded 6 and Paul 5. Santorum, who pulled 10 percent of the statewide vote, will receive 3.

The process that began so bitterly ended rather smoothly: Counters threw out less than 20 ballots in the end, including 10 for Romney in an unsigned, unsealed envelope.

“Our goal was not to disenfranchise voters,” Gibbs said. “Unless we saw something that was obviously odd, we counted it.”

But all that ends well isn’t necessarily well for the future of the Clark County’s GOP’s caucuses.

The fiasco was reminiscent of the 2008 Republican state convention, where party officials abruptly ended the state convention after Paul supporters forced a rules change that would have given them a better shot at electing their own delegates to the national convention.

The Clark County count fueled outrage, accusations of fraud, and multiple threats to sue from Paul supporters.

Paul’s campaign staff issued a restrained statement describing the party’s caucus process as “deeply flawed.” But angry accusations flooded in from his supporters around the country.

“Looks to me like the whole process in NV is a mess. I smell a rat,” wrote one supporter on the Clark County GOP’s Facebook page.

At the end of the day, Paul officials said they were content — though a little disappointed in the party.

“It didn’t need to happen this way. With more planning, more process — more space for observers ... people being in close quarters added to the tension,” said Carl Bunce, Paul’s Nevada campaign director. “A couple of changes and you won’t have national staffers breathing down the necks of county people. Cause we’re in different worlds.”

Republican Party officials held a tense meeting with lawyers from each of the presidential campaigns early Sunday. Uneasy campaign officials gave the county party room to continue counting before issuing public comments on the process.

But as the counting stretched past the 24-hour mark, political reporters from around the nation mocked Nevada’s inability to quickly finalize its results.

“The biggest loser in Nevada’s Republican caucuses? The state’s feckless GOP,” wrote Politico.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza tweeted: “Nevada not helping their case to hump further up in calendar with this sloooooow count.”

Even some of the volunteers counting ballots seemed to be aware that Nevada’s political stock was sinking as the count dragged on.

“I have no doubt when we go through all those boxes again we will find stray sign-in sheets here and there,” one volunteer said.

Party officials largely brushed off the criticism, saying they were committed to getting the count right, and stressing it was better to be slow and steady if that meant ultimately avoiding the problems that forced Iowa to reverse the winner of its first-in-the-nation caucus days after it was originally announced.

“We won’t be Iowa!” Nevada GOP officials repeated.

Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.

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  1. The NVGOP ran a process with caucuses occurring across the state with a volunteer army. No State monies fund this effort. Thousands of people are trained to handle a couple thousand precinct rooms. We have counties who, in the Western tradition of independence, dislike being told how to do anything. Efforts by particular campaign operatives to disrupt, alter, obstruct or discredit appear at every turn in Nevada.

    The national party had a lot to say about which state went in which order, and Nevada thus landed on Feb 4 - a Saturday. In reponse, an effort was made to include religiously observant persons in a careful, validated process -- not withstanding, again, people wishing to diminsh their right to participate. The NVGOP rightly moved to protect that right, and we did.

    Yesterday representatives of Ron Paul's campaign were ranting "We don't know what we don't know" as justification for delaying certification of Clark County results. That was just the latest of many games played -- and it was nothing more -- and it too failed.

    After all the efforts to discredit Nevada's effort, the procedures established were followed. Human error resulted in 20 ballots being disregarded. Twenty!

    By any standard that's a success. Suggestions and reporting to the contrary are totally wrong and misplaced when you consider what was accomplished.

  2. National news outlets are mocking Nevader Repub's incessantly; even the 'conservative' ones...

    What a fiasco!
    And Teapublicans want to 'take the country back'???
    Thanks anyway, guys; you've done enough already!!!

  3. I don't know who chairs our state GOP - but they should be booted. Once again we look like amateurs on the national stage. It's embarrassing.

  4. Has to make you think when they have this much trouble running a caucus do we really want to consider letting them run our country?

  5. The Tea/Republican Party are champions at jerking around votes any which way they can.

    I get the impression, in light of all the things Tea/Republicans do nationally, that there is a result that is already decided upon. After a democratic process happens where their voters are involved, they suddenly scream WAIT! Then calmly say, we gotta look at this, we gotta re-count, there was a coffee stain on a few vote ballots, some were illegible, some had frayed corners, those were the wrong ballots, they should not have been red, they should not have been the blue ones, they should have been chartreuse mauve, no, WAIT! It was all an evil socialist Islamo communist Kenyan colonialist plot concocted by the diabolical triumvirate of impending doom Obama/Reid/Pelosi to subjugate the GOP! Just throw ANYTHING out there to delay the process and come up with the result they want it to be. And no one can question them. Because they'll have an excuse for everything.

    So, don't worry, Tea/Republicans. The Nevada GOP Party Elite will tell you who won. THEY will tell you who to vote for. You ain't gotta say in the matter. Your caucus vote don't matter. You just follow. They lead and make the decision. The rich run your party. The regular folk out there are not allowed to ask questions about it. They just need to do what the hell they tell them to do. In other words, they just want your vote. After they get it, THEY'RE FULLY WITHIN THEIR RIGHTS TO SCREW YOU.

    Or maybe it's just like LastThroes says in the previous comment: They can't count worth a crap.

  6. I would suggest the attacks be pointed at the Clark County GOP not the state party. From all I have heard all other counties (including Washoe) were well trained, organized and had few issues. The decisions Clark County made on how to proceed (some decisions are made at the county level) caused issues. Also, those who went in with causing trouble on their mind did exactly that.

  7. The NV GOP caucuses are the sole fault of the local NV GOP who did not bring us the Iraq invasion nor the stock collapse. But then they are not know for their ability to organize much at all (except for parties at a Basque restaurant near Carson City).

    Dennis (Dipstick) Are you saying the RINO/DINO Congress (that voted to approve the Iraq Invasion and the laws that brought down the economy) gave us the Caucus problem? That party has the secret motto: RINOs/DINOs proudly fooling America's partisan voters for the last 60 years.

  8. The bottom line, today's Republican Party lacks credibility with independent voters and Ronald Reagan voters. This will be the deciding factor in the general election. The job numbers will continue to improve, and the general public acceptance of the Afford Health Care Act as many more Americans understand the benefits will favor individuals and families. All of this and much more will propel voters, independent voters, to make a reasonable selection in choosing President Obama for a second term.

  9. I love the caucus method of voting, but something has to be done about the limited time you have to vote. With a primary you have a twelve hour window. In a caucus, you are assigned a one hour window.

    My precinct was from 8AM to 9AM. My wife was at work in a casino and couldn't vote. She got off at noon, but our caucus was over.

    If there were morning and evening times for each precinct, everyone should be able to find a time that will work. Plus you wouldn't have to process the entire precinct in one hour.

  10. So much for the persistent pre-caucus hype about live results being released via Twitter. Although, to be fair, I don't believe they every said WHICH day those results would be released.

  11. The NV Republican Caucus did not reflect on EITHER of the national parties at all.

    Long time Vegan neither the RINO nor DINO party has helped the national economy in the last 4 years.

    The national job numbers continue to be horrific. But the NV local job numbers are even worse and this is due to the poor job results elsewhere but especially in the disorganized, broke, and pitiful state of CA which has had openly delusional and slightly suicidal legislatures and Governors for at least ten years.

    The White House is right to let the news on jobs go quiet as they risk more by claiming the dubious credit for the continuing HIGH and horrific but statistically flat national job news.