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A look at election day in Nevada

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today's the last day for voters in Nevada to cast their ballots in the state's Republican and Democratic primary. President Biden, who was in the state this past weekend, is expected to win the Democratic primary. And former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is the only major candidate still running in the state-run GOP primary, which is mostly because former President Donald Trump is not on the ballot. NPR's Ashley Lopez is in Las Vegas and with us now to explain what's going on. Hey, Ashley.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Hey there.

SHAPIRO: First, why are there both primaries and a separate caucus this week?

LOPEZ: Well, the reason that there's, like, this whole other election is because the state Republican Party doesn't like some changes that were made to Nevada's elections back in 2021. They don't like that the state expanded mail voting, and they don't like that the state moved away from using caucuses, which are the most restrictive ways to vote because they require voters to show up in person at a specific place and at a specific time.

SHAPIRO: But they decided to have a caucus anyway.

LOPEZ: Yeah. That's right. I mean, because of a legal back-and-forth and some influence from the Trump campaign, the Nevada GOP just, like, decided to do their own thing. And even though Trump and Texas businessman Ryan Binkley are the only candidates partaking in the caucus on Thursday, the caucus, in many ways, is the more important Republican presidential contest because it decides how delegates are divvied up. And Trump is expected to win all those delegates.

SHAPIRO: I imagine voters or, you know, anyone who's not super-plugged into what's going on...

LOPEZ: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: ...Could be pretty confused by this.

LOPEZ: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: What have you heard from people you've talked to?

LOPEZ: Well, Republican voters I have talked to are very confused and either annoyed or pretty frustrated. I talked to some Trump supporters today at a polling site in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Las Vegas. One of those voters, Pat Rapaccuiolo, said she voted in the Republican primary and ended up voting for none of the candidates, which is an option for primary voters in Nevada, I should say. And that's because she said she was expecting to see Trump on the ballot.

PAT RAPACCUIOLO: I came for Trump, period. He wasn't up there. I'm here today in the rain, and I'm disappointed.

LOPEZ: Rapaccuiolo says she's going to vote in the caucus, however, because Republican voters can both vote in the primary and the caucus. But I will say the Nevada secretary of state's office told me they have been getting a lot of calls from confused Trump voters pretty much throughout this entire election. And state and local election officials say they they've just been, like, directing people to the state party's website because that's really all they can do.

SHAPIRO: Well, while Republicans are figuring things out, it's easy to forget that Democrats are also voting today. So...

LOPEZ: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: What did you hear from voters casting ballots in the other primary?

LOPEZ: Most of the Democratic voters said they voted for President Biden, some with more gusto than others. But I also heard some Democrats say they ended up voting for none of the candidates because they just, like, aren't happy with Biden and don't really like the alternatives either. I talked to Todd McCann. He voted for President Biden at the Stupak Community Center, which is near the Las Vegas Strip, and he says he's also not super-into his options during this election.

TODD MCCANN: You know, I wished it was another candidate. I think he's probably too old, but out of what's out there, there's no other choice.

LOPEZ: I will say that this is what I heard from people who were voting in person at the polls today. And it's worth noting that the biggest share of voters will likely be from people who voted by mail in Nevada.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Ashley Lopez reporting from Las Vegas. Thank you.

LOPEZ: Yeah. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD AND GHOSTFACE KILLAH SONG, "SOUR SOUL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.