Voters in the western U.S. state of Nevada cast ballots Saturday for their preferred Democratic Party candidates, who hope to defeat incumbent Republican President Donald Trump in November's national election.
The Nevada caucuses are the third contest for the Democratic presidential hopefuls pursuing their party's nomination, following those in Iowa in the U.S. heartland and New Hampshire in the northeastern part of the country.
Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire with overwhelmingly white populations, Nevada is a far more ethnically diverse state, where the population is approximately half white, nearly 30% Hispanic, 10% African-American and 10% Asian.
Nevada Democratic Party officials hope to avoid the calamitous vote-tallying process in Iowa earlier this month, when they unveiled a flawed vote-counting app that produced unreliable results from the voting precincts.
Nevada officials abandoned plans last week to use the same app that was used in Iowa in favor of a "caucus calculator" that has been pre-loaded on iPads. The calculator will help party officials tabulate the results from caucus-goers in precincts and from early voting, which Nevada allowed for the first time.
Nevada party officials estimated nearly 75,000 people cast ballots over four days of early voting during which there were few problems, save the long lines at some polling stations. Early voting was heavy, as those 75,000 nearly equaled the total number of Nevada caucusgoers in 2016, officials said.
The Nevada caucuses will test whether the candidates' can garner support from Nevada's more diverse electorate.
Of the seven candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, is the favorite to win in Nevada, according to recent polls, after winning the popular vote in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of the Midwestern U.S. city of South Bend, Indiana, has also emerged as a leading candidate in Nevada after strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.
A new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll has Sanders as the leading candidate nationwide, with four other hopefuls locked in a second-place tie, as former vice president Joe Biden falters and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is not participating in Nevada, gains ground.
The poll showed Biden, Bloomberg and Senator Elizabeth Warren tied with support from 14% of Democratic primary voters, followed by 13% for Buttigieg and 7% for Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Nevada caucusgoers will congregate at precincts throughout the state and fill out a preference card that lists the candidates they can vote for. Two rounds of voting will take place Saturday and candidates are required to reach a 15-percent threshold to be viable, enabling them to earn delegates.
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Caucusgoers who supported a nonviable candidate in the first round can opt to join the campaign of a candidate who is still viable. They can also gather with other supporters of another nonviable candidates in an attempt to reach the 15% threshold.
Officials will conduct a second and final count of all the votes, including the early votes. After the final vote, a formula grants delegates to viable candidates by voting precinct.
Results in Nevada, home to the country's gambling mecca of Las Vegas, could begin to become available within a few hours after voting begins.
President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday "the Economy, Jobs, the Military & Vets" will propel him to victory in Nevada during the November general election and said Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, whom he described as "Corrupt politician man Adam 'Shifty' Schiff," has asserted the Russians "are pushing for Crazy Bernie Sanders to win" in November.