By Conor Shine
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.”