(Reuters) – More than 26,000 people took part over the weekend in early voting in Nevada, the state with the next nominating contest in the Democratic White House race, and more than half on the first day were first-time caucus-goers, the state party said.
Nevada Democrats added four days of early voting across the state this year to accommodate those who could not make it to the statewide caucuses scheduled for Feb. 22.
The first day of early voting on Saturday brought out 18,000 Democrats, with 56% of those voters participating for the first time, the party said. By the end of Sunday, the total early turnout was more than 26,000.
State Democrats said they were encouraged by the totals, although local media in Nevada reported some sites were plagued by long lines and waits. About 84,000 voters participated in the last Democratic caucuses in Nevada in 2016.
“We added four days of in-person early voting in order to make the caucus more accessible and encourage more people to participate in the process for the first time – and that’s exactly what’s happened,” said William McCurdy, the Nevada state party chairman.
The Democratic caucuses in Nevada are the third nominating contest in the race to find a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump in the November election, and the first with a more diverse population after contests in predominantly white Iowa and New Hampshire.
Nearly one-third of voters in the Nevada Democratic caucuses in 2016 were either black or Latino, according to entrance polls.
Nevada is hoping for a smoother caucus experience after Iowa’s kick-off contests earlier this month were plunged into chaos when an app failed and results were delayed for days. The Nevada party has announced it will not use the same app or vendor for the caucuses.
Nevada Democrats used scannable paper ballots for early voting in their caucuses. There were 63 early voting sites across the state on Saturday, and 24 on Sunday.
Early voting will continue on Monday and Tuesday ahead of next Saturday’s presidential caucuses at more than 250 locations around the state.
Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Andrea Ricci