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November 25, 2014

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Special evening caucus at Adelson school ignites more controversy

Image

Paul Takahashi

Voter Stephen Melancon speaks to the media at the Adelson Educational Campus during a special “sundown” caucus that capped off the Nevada GOP presidential caucuses on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. Melancon was denied entry into the caucus because he refused to sign an affidavit stating he was unable to vote earlier in the day because of religious reasons.

Late caucus creates stir

KSNV coverage of sunset caucus, Feb. 4, 2012.

Special Evening Caucus at the Adelson School

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

A special evening caucus organized for religious voters who observe a Saturday Sabbath was swarmed with Ron Paul voters, causing long lines, angry confrontations and cries of voter disenfranchisement.

Paul, a 12-term Texas congressman, won the precinct, but with the outcome statewide already decided before the caucus began the bigger impact was the continued controversy surrounding the special caucus.

Long lines stretched out of the main building and around the corner at the caucus site, the Adelson Educational Campus in Summerlin. The caucus began about 40 minutes later than scheduled and a second overflow room was opened to handle all of the voters.

Some attributed the large turnout to a series of robo-calls that went out to Ron Paul supporters, notifying them of the evening caucus and billing it as a second chance to participate for voters who missed the morning session, according to several voters who received the calls.

The decision to hold the evening caucus was unprecedented, generating concerns about the potential for voter fraud and questions about the influence of Sheldon Adelson, who founded the private school where the caucus was held and is an ardent supporter of Newt Gingrich.

Adelson and his wife Miriam, who have together contributed $10 million to a super PAC supporting Gingrich, were both in attendance at the caucus.

The Clark County Republican Party viewed the caucus as a special exemption made only for voters who missed the morning caucuses for religious reasons. To that end, the party made every voter who wanted to participate sign a "declaration" stating that they were unable to vote in the morning because of religious reasons.

"I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of Nevada that the foregoing is true and correct," the declaration read.

Those who refused to sign the form were not allowed to caucus, angering some voters.

Michael Dicicco, 23 and a Paul supporter, said he was unable to attend the morning caucus because he was working and came out to the Adelson school after receiving a call from the Paul campaign.

"I thought this was a second opportunity to vote," said Dicicco, who was turned away after refusing to sign the declaration. "I don't understand why I wouldn't be able to vote if I'm not Jewish."

While many of the participants in the evening caucus qualified under the religious exemption, others – who missed the morning caucus for a variety of reasons including work, illness or oversleeping – said they signed the declaration anyway so they could caucus.

But others left or were turned away when they heard about the form they would be required to sign. County GOP officials were unclear what, if any, punishment could be sought against voters who lied on the declarations.

Metro Police were called to remove Stephen Melancon, who was obstructing the entrance while trying to question a Clark County GOP official about the declaration.

Melancon, a high school teacher who said he was a Republican delegate in the 2008 elections, missed the morning caucus because he had to cover a shift at an adult mental health group home where he also works, he said.

"It makes the whole thing a sham," he said of the declaration. "It bothers me that in a process like this they're requiring people to lie (in order to caucus). I didn't come here to do anything other than cast my vote for Ron Paul."

Even some who were attending the evening caucus because they had been honoring the Sabbath were uncomfortable with the form.

"I don't think it's any of their business why I'm here," said Donna Fisher, who is Jewish. "They should just be glad I'm out here to vote."

Clark County GOP chairman David Gibbs said requiring voters to sign the declaration was legal under the rules of the caucus, which were approved by the state and county parties.

"What you have is a bunch of folks who showed up late or didn't make their morning meetings and now they want a second chance," Gibbs said. "We made this exception for people who couldn't attend for religious reasons."

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  1. How well publicized was it that only those who had missed the morning session for religious reasons would be allowed to participate in the second one?

  2. The caucus actually got live CNN attention where Las Vegas residents could actually talk about the problems here without any editing by the media. In a State where there are so many shift workers, anyone should be able to go to an evening event. More of these should be done or they need to get away from a Saturday vote. Did not see Sheldon - did not see alot of Orthodox either. I did see for once - Las Vegas get a chance unfiltered to speak about candidates and how they can make a difference. With two candidates already in other states, Nevada should be begging for more media attention to keep candidates focused on our issues - which are the core of the issues of the country.

  3. Unlike traditional Primaries where polls open and remain open for long hours, caucus procedures are designed to proved limited windows of participation with those times established long in advance so everyone knows.

    There were NO calls made by NVGOP officials telling people they could, because they were otherwise occupied or slept through their caucus or were busy washing their car, could now show up in a specific limited session to accommodate religiously observant persons.

    The votes by people who should have come earlier in the day with everyone else but who chose to impose themselves on this late Caucus without qualification for it, in my opinion, ought not be certified. Mr. Paul should direct his political operatives to stand down. These folks seem to think that being loud is the same as being right. On this topic when the national media ask Mr. Paul his opinion on the matter we will all learn whether he respects America's tradition of respecting all religions or whether his supporters' strident behavior carries more weight with him.

    The effort to accommodate religiously observant persons reflects the best intentions of the GOP to include anyone who wished to participate. Mr. Paul's people seeking to exploit and deligitmize that effort is regrettable to say the least.

  4. Holy Smokes...

    Though it may have been a moot point at that juncture, it is rather ironic that Ron Paul won the precinct. I'm sure there are some happy Nevader Ronulans!
    If that bunch had a less controversial candidate, they'd be a force to recon with.

  5. Reckon, I reckon.

  6. Having the caucus in the evening only for Jews was wrong. It demonstrates that the GOP was pandering to one religion. No one should be required to affirm that they are of a particular religion to vote. What is next for the GOP, a state run religion? Shame on the GOP for putting religion over peoples' right to vote.

  7. It was a fine idea to hold the evening Caucus because of the 'Saturday Sabbath'...

    But ANYONE should have been EQUALLY ABLE to vote @ the Adelson Precinct...
    You had to sign a Religious Declaration???
    Under Oath & penalty of Perjury?

    Wrong, wrong wrong.