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October 23, 2017

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Long lines part of frenetic finish to Nevada’s early-voting cycle

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Yasmina Chavez

Ben Carson addresses the crowd during a rally for Presidential Candidate Donald Trump at Trump-Pence Nevada Headquarters, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016.

Ben Carson Rallies for Donald Trump

Ben Carson high-fives a support as he enters the building during a rally for Presidential Candidate Donald Trump at Trump-Pence Nevada Headquarters, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Launch slideshow »

The throngs of voters waiting outside a polling site at a Mexican grocery store more than two hours after polls were scheduled to close proved a fitting finale to Nevada’s early-voting period, which Democrats dominated statewide and even more so in Clark County.

The mobile site exemplified the kind of success Democrats had during the two-week early-voting period: Two-thirds of the 1,904 voters at the Cardenas site today were Democrats, according to a Sun analysis of early-voting data.

Democratic operatives — even U.S. Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto — showed up to Cardenas Market in eastern Las Vegas long after sunset Friday to encourage voters not to leave the line when the polls closed at 8 p.m. (Clark County officials had said the polls would stay open long enough to allow everyone in line a chance to vote.)

Earlier in the day, dozens of eager high-schoolers, many clad in Cortez Masto campaign T-shirts, were dispatched in the neighborhoods near Cardenas, encouraging the largely low-turnout population to vote early before it was too late.

Caught working in his garage just before 5 p.m. Friday, Simon Terrazas, a 56-year-old metal worker, seemed unsure about early voting but told a canvasser he “probably” would vote, adding that he was concerned about the way Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has acted toward Hispanics. It worked: County records show Terrazas was one of those 1,904 early voters at Cardenas.

“Trump got his wall after all,” tweeted Yvanna Cancela, director of the Culinary Union, Friday night. “A wall of beautiful voters.”

Democrats typically outperform Republicans during Nevada’s early voting. And when the final early-voting numbers rolled in Saturday afternoon, it didn’t look good for Republicans.

Democrats came out of early voting with an almost 56,000-person advantage statewide. Most of that was driven by Clark County, where the number of Democratic voters exceeded Republican counterparts by nearly 73,000, though they also managed to outperform in more-conservative Washoe County, by 1,000 voters.

Nevada’s deep-red rural counties, where Republicans voters outnumbered Democrats in early voting by more than 2 to 1, were responsible for closing some of that gap, though the number of voters in Clark County dwarfs that of any other county.

Republican operatives and volunteers remained optimistic Saturday morning. More than 100 Trump supporters packed the campaign’s Las Vegas headquarters bright and early to hear from Republican presidential candidate-turned-Trump-surrogate Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

“I think on Tuesday there’s going to be a giant surprise,” Carson told the group, projecting a Trump win on Election Day.

Asked why in an interview afterward, Carson pointed to what he has seen traveling around the country.

“Enormous amounts of enthusiasm, people telling me that they’re seeing people coming out of the hamlets and the hills that they’ve never seen before,” Carson said.

The Trump campaign has long touted its supporters' enthusiasm. On Election Day, it will become apparent how well that enthusiasm translates into votes at the polls.

Before the Carson event, 68-year-old Pamela Walters said she was attracted to Trump’s “blow up the system and start again” message from the beginning. Walters, a first-time Republican voter, began volunteering a month ago and says she has knocked on the doors of 100 houses a day since, mainly in Summerlin and Green Valley.

During the event, she was impatient to get out and start knocking on doors again.

“Hurry up, hurry up, we’ve got to go walking,” she said to herself while Fallin was speaking.

And that’s all the race comes down to now: turnout on Election Day.

On the other side of town Saturday afternoon, groups of Republican volunteers were out canvassing in Summerlin, battling for every last vote.

“Unaffiliated. Good. I like objections,” said Greg Moore, a 65-year-old retirement adviser-turned-Republican volunteer, as he approached one of the doors.

A few houses later, Moore tried to convince a man who said he planned to vote Republican down the ticket, but couldn’t vote for Trump for president. One of his worries was that the stock market would tank if Trump were elected.

“The stock market’s going to be fine. The stock market is impervious to what’s going on in Washington,” Moore tried. “Don’t you want to drain the swamp?”

He tried talking about Clinton’s emails, but nothing could convince the voter.

Although Southern Nevada is the largest locus of voters, Republicans can’t win the battle for the Battle Born State without Reno and the rural counties.

“The formula has never been more crystal clear: You’ve got to win Washoe — the better you win Washoe and the better off you are — a landslide in the rurals, and win a majority of the nonpartisans,” said Nevada Republican consultant Greg Ferraro, who isn’t affiliated with the campaign, in a recent interview. “That’s the formula.”

That’s why Eric Trump, one of Trump’s sons, visited Pahrump last week. That’s why former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was in Elko on Saturday. That’s why Trump rallied several thousand supporters at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center on Saturday evening.

“It’s up to the great people of Washoe County to get it done,” Trump said at the rally. “You are the people. You’re going to get it done.”

And if he doesn't win? Trump suggested again Saturday that the system might be “rigged” against him and that what happened at Cardenas on Friday night is an example of that.

“It’s being reported that certain key Democratic polling locations in Clark County were kept open for hours and hours beyond closing time to bus and bring Democratic voters in,” Trump said. “Folks, it’s a rigged system. It’s a rigged system, and we’re going to beat it.”

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