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Nevada's dueling primary and caucuses are underway: What to know

Nevadans are set to cast their votes in a presidential primary and caucuses this week, with the Democratic primary and Republican primary taking place on Tuesday and the Republican caucuses -- whose results will actually help determine the party's nomination, unlike their primary -- scheduled for Thursday.

Despite the state's "first in the West" title -- and despite its potential role as a battleground in the November general election -- Nevada has been largely quiet so far this election compared to other early voting states like Iowa, New Hampshire and even South Carolina.

That's because of the non-competitive nature of the current Democratic presidential field and the rapidly winnowing Republican field, coupled with the somewhat convoluted dueling contests that have made the results of the GOP primary and caucuses even more predictable.

On the campaign trail, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is already declaring himself the winner of Nevada -- based on the fact that he and long shot candidate Ryan Binkley are the only two competing in the caucuses, which is the only way to win the state's 26 delegates that will ultimately help award the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Nikki Haley, on the other hand, is on the state-sanctioned primary ballot, essentially giving up on her eligibility to win any delegates.

Haley's campaign manager, Betsy Ankeny, has told reporters that the state has never been a priority for them and claimed the caucuses are "rigged for Trump."

"We have not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada," Ankeny said on Monday.

Nevada Republican Party National Committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid said he's "disappointed" but "not surprised" to hear about the Haley campaign's latest comment on the caucuses -- calling that criticism "baseless allegations."

"She deliberately chose to not compete with the leading candidates and now wants a scapegoat," DeGraffenreid said.

MORE: Explaining Nevada's dueling 2024 primary system and why it matters

For Nevada Republicans, the competing contests have brought attention to what could have been a quiet February, now with many Republican voters receiving mail-in ballots and going into early voting confused as to why Trump's name is not on the primary ballot.

"There have been multiple Republicans that have come in here and were upset -- or confused -- when they found that Trump wasn't on the ballot," said Jill Douglass, a member of the Nevada Republican Party who has been volunteering at a polling location in Las Vegas during the early primary voting period.

"They wanted to know: Why can't they go ahead and caucus now? Why is there a stand-alone caucus? Why are there different ballots?"

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump engages with supporters during a campaign event at Big League Dreams Las Vegas on Jan. 27, 2024 in Las Vegas. (David Becker/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump engages with supporters during a campaign event at Big League Dreams Las Vegas on Jan. 27, 2024 in Las Vegas. (David Becker/Getty Images, FILE)

Douglass told ABC News that there was even a voter who came into change his party affiliation to vote for Trump in the Republican primary, only to find out Trump is not on the primary ballot -- and even worse, the voter won't be able to participate in the Republican caucuses because he would have had to change his affiliation by Jan. 9.

"So yeah, it's caused a lot of confusion," Douglass said, recalling her interaction with voters coming into her polling station the past week.

So why is there a Republican primary and caucuses in Nevada?

Nevada has long been a caucus state for both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. But this year, the state is holding presidential preference primaries for the first time in more than two decades due to a recent law that mandates a presidential preference primary to be held if more than one candidate files for a party.

The Nevada Democratic Party decided to forgo its caucuses and adopt the state-mandated primary. President Joe Biden is competing on that ballot along with author Marianne Williamson and various other long shot candidates seeking the state's 36 Democratic delegates.

But the Republican Party decided to ignore the state primary and continue on with their caucuses, even declaring that those participating in the primary would be ineligible to win any delegates from the state -- hence the two separate contests with two separate ballots.

Throughout last year, the Nevada Republican Party was deeply divided over the primary versus caucus question. Some Republicans even accused the state GOP of favoring Trump by pushing caucuses -- whose more intricate rules were seen to be leaning toward the former president, given his deep ties in Nevada -- while the party leadership pushed back against such allegations, saying it's just how they've been doing presidential elections for a long time.

MORE: Nevada primary moves expose intraparty strife, concerns of a Trump-friendly process

Eventually, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum had filed to be on the caucus ballot other than Trump, and former Vice President Mike Pence and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott put their name on the primary ballot, other than Haley.

With all of those other Republican presidential hopefuls ending their campaigns over the last month, Trump and Haley are now the only realistic contenders for the caucuses and the primary, respectively.

Voters confused

For months, the Republican Party and the Trump campaign have been trying to educate voters about the fact that delegates are awarded only through the caucuses -- with the party sending out mailers and fliers and Trump himself at rallies telling supporters not to waste their time at the primary and instead come out to caucus for him on Thursday.

"It's very confusing why there's even a primary ballot?" Sheila Arceo, a longtime Las Vegas resident, told ABC News at a recent Trump campaign event.

While admitting chaos and confusion has existed about the two contests for those new to Nevada's political system, DeGraffenreid, the GOP committeeman, blamed the Nevada secretary of state's office and county clerks for having "gone to great pains to pretend the caucus doesn't exist."

"Had they simply added a note, with no further details, that voters should go to NevadaGOP.org to get information about candidates not on the ballot, there would be no confusion," he added.

Clark County GOP Chairman Jesse Law contended that the confusion that has arisen from the dueling contests actually gave the caucuses more publicity and attention that would not have existed otherwise.

"Those who are like, 'I don't know what to do' are now investigating what to do and are going to be the ones who show up," Law said. "We can have far more than what I was handicapping we could get."

And regardless of delegates, turnout could be a key factor for both Trump and Haley because some say Haley's anticipated primary victory -- despite not earning her any delegates -- could serve as a boost for her if the Nevada primary, which is more open and accessible and tends to get more participation, gets a higher turnout than the caucuses.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition's Annual Leadership Summit at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas on Oct. 28, 2023 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition's Annual Leadership Summit at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas on Oct. 28, 2023 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images, FILE)

So far, participation in the Republican primary has been relatively low based on early voting statistics related by the secretary of state -- with Republicans making up just 39% of a total of 23,692 early votes cast, while Democrats make up roughly 61% of the early votes.

MORE: 'Who the hell does he think he is?': Biden goes after Trump's rhetoric in Nevada

Trump on minds of Republican and Democratic voters

For some Republican voters, Trump has been both the motivating factor and a demotivating factor when it comes to participating in the now non-competitive contests this week.

Acero, who said she voted for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz during the 2016 presidential caucuses and voted for a third-party candidate during that year's general election, has changed her mind about Trump after seeing him as president and will be caucusing for him on Thursday.

"I think he's for the people -- not the elites," Acero said. "He's rich but he's fighting to keep jobs here in America as opposed to all the manufacturing jobs going to China."

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Pearson Community Center in Las Vegas, on Feb. 4, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Pearson Community Center in Las Vegas, on Feb. 4, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

But Natalie, a Las Vegas voter who asked not to give her last name because she was discussing her political views, told ABC News that she's not motivated to participate in the primary or caucuses because she "would like to see somebody new."

"America is such a huge country, we have so many people here. Can we find somebody with new energy?" she said. Still, if it ends up being another rematch between Trump and Biden, she said she'd vote for Trump.

Also on the minds of many Democrats who were walking out of a polling location during early voting in a non-competitive primary contest: Trump.

"We cannot have Trump, whatever it takes to do that," Anthony Nyitray said about his decision to cast his ballot early last week.

"Even though it's just a primary, we wanted to definitely express support for our candidate and show that there's people still engaged," he continued. "I know a lot of people are getting turned off this cycle and choosing to not participate. We wanted to still show that people are fired up."

Nevada's dueling primary and caucuses are underway: What to know originally appeared on abcnews.go.com