LAS VEGAS (AP) — Clark County officials are pushing back against suggestions from Donald Trump and the Nevada Republican Party chairman that polls were inappropriately kept open late in a Las Vegas Democratic stronghold on the last day of early voting.
The comments came during a rally Donald Trump held in Reno on Saturday, the day after Clark County logged record-setting turnout on Friday. Democrats notched a six percentage point turnout lead statewide in two weeks of early voting.
“Last night in Clark County they kept a poll open till 10 o’clock at night so a certain group could vote,” Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald said in opening remarks. “The polls are supposed to close at 7 p.m. This was kept open till 10 p.m. Yeah, you feel free right now? You think this is a free and easy election?”
Trump also brought up the late closures, saying they were evidence of a rigged system.
McDonald appeared to be referencing an early voting site at Cardenas supermarket in the heavily Hispanic East Las Vegas neighborhood, which was still processing voters for about two hours after its posted closing time. Pictures of voter crowds there got attention on social media, where some Democratic operatives joked that the long line was the wall Trump had requested.
Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said Saturday that there was no formal extension of closing time at the site, but he said elections officials often keep sites open to accommodate all voters in line. He said all or almost all polling places in the Las Vegas area did so on Friday.
The last early ballot in Clark County was cast at 10:10 p.m. on Friday at the Silverado Ranch Plaza, a suburban shopping center.
Kulin said elections officials err on the side of allowing as many people to vote as possible, and they likely would not turn away a voter who joined an existing line shortly after closing time.
“If there’s a line when closing time comes, we just keep processing voters until there’s no more line,” he said. “We’re flexible because we want people to vote.”
Officials with the Nevada Republican Party and Trump’s campaign didn’t respond to an inquiry about whether they would pursue a formal complaint over early voting site closing times.
At least one progressive group characterized McDonald’s remark as racist toward Latino voters.
“We aren’t ‘a certain group,’ we are Americans fulfilling our patriotic duty to vote,” said Artie Blanco of the group For Nevada’s Future. “Statements like this from McDonald and his party are nothing more than a failed attempt at voter suppression. All voters regardless of their ethnicity should have every opportunity possible to vote.”
Groups including the Immigrant Voters Win PAC have been conducting an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort in East Las Vegas as they try to drive enough Latino voters to make Nevada unwinnable for Trump. Turnout at the East Las Vegas Community Center early voting site was up 67 percent this year compared with 2012; 68 percent of the 5,878 ballots cast there in the past two weeks were from registered Democrats.
Of the 4,703 ballots cast during the three days of early voting at the Cardenas grocery store, 66 percent were from registered Democrats, according to county data.
Trump Deputy Campaign Manager David Bossie said Sunday that he’s optimistic about strong Latino voter turnout and projects Trump will get 20 to 30 percent of it. “I don’t think the Clintons should be counting their chickens just yet,” he said.