Sanders leads Nevada caucuses according to early entrance polls; lack of volunteers causes concerns: Live updates

As Nevada voters head to caucus sites on Saturday, it will be the first chance for the west and a diverse electorate to weigh in on the 2020 presidential race.

After a fiery Las Vegas debate last week, during which candidates’ attacks on each other made clear a splintering Democratic field, results out of the Silver State have the possibility to maintain momentum for the front-runners or save campaigns that emerged from Iowa and New Hampshire with lackluster results.

With fears about the accuracy of the caucuses looming after Iowa’s disaster, Saturday’s showing will be a test of the party’s damage control techniques implemented after Iowa. Among the four early states, South Carolina is the only one left between the campaigns and Super Tuesday, and momentum out of Nevada has the potential to reignite a campaign or cement a candidate’s standing outside of the top tier.

PHOTO: A volunteer counts votes during the Nevada caucuses to nominate a Democratic presidential candidate at the caucus polling station inside the Coronado High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 22, 2020. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: A volunteer counts votes during the Nevada caucuses to nominate a Democratic presidential candidate at the caucus polling station inside the Coronado High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 22, 2020. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

Follow along, as the ABC News team keeps a close watch of what happens in Nevada.

All times are eastern.

Here’s how the day is unfolding. Please refresh for updates.

5:15 p.m. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar left Nevada to cast early vote in home state

According to a campaign spokesperson, Sen. Amy Klobuchar left Las Vegas shortly after speaking to staff and volunteers at a “get out the caucus” kickoff event this morning.

She flew home to Minneapolis to cast her vote early, the spokesperson told ABC News.

Minnesota is a Super Tuesday state.

ABC News’ Lisette Rodriguez reported.

4:50 p.m. Still no votes in from Nevada precincts

While caucuses began about an hour and 45 minutes ago, no votes have come in yet out of Nevada, ABC News Political Director Rick Klein reported.

Though Sanders’ supporters have dominated the room in several caucus sites where ABC News was present, he noted. In one site, Sanders was the only viable candidate.

Reminder: Candidates need to get at least 15% in an individual caucus to walk away with anything, and at least 15% statewide or in a congressional district to get delegates out of the Nevada caucuses.

ABC News’ Rick Klein and Alex Stone reported.

PHOTO: Bellagio hotel workers hold Bernie placards before caucusing at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Feb. 22, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Bellagio hotel workers hold Bernie placards before caucusing at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Feb. 22, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

4:15 p.m.: Entrance polls show less participation from racial and ethnic minorities

Based on ABC analysis of preliminary entrance polls, there has been a decline in the participation of racial and ethnic minorities.

Nonwhites accounted for 35% of caucusgoers, compared with 41% in 2016.

Hispanic caucusgoers joined young and very liberal Nevadans in backing Bernie Sanders in the state’s Democratic caucuses, and he won broad support among those focused on two of his signature issues: health care and income inequality.

Sanders’ 28% support from blacks improved on his 22% versus Clinton in 2016. Blacks, by contrast, were Joe Biden’s single best group in Nevada. Yet Biden fell back among other voters.

As in the two previous states, caucusgoers far and away cited health care as their top issue — 43% placed it first among four issues tested — and Sanders won 39% support in this group. He won an even larger share, 51%, among the majority who said they support a government-run, single-payer health system.

Another issue was less successful for Sanders: His support lagged among the majority of caucusgoers (64%) who said they care more about defeating Donald Trump than supporting the candidate who agrees with them on major issues.

ABC News’ polling director Gary Langer contributed.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg greets Nevada voters at the Sierra Vista High School caucus site on Feb. 22, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg greets Nevada voters at the Sierra Vista High School caucus site on Feb. 22, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)

3:27 p.m. Buttigieg says to supporters in Las Vegas: “We think we’re gonna have a great day here.”

Former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg stopped in at a Las Vegas caucus site this afternoon, remaining optimistic about a strong finish in Nevada.

“Our goal is a strong finish and a lot of people supporting us,” he said. “I think the percentage that we need to hit is the kind of thing that the pundits will work out. And our focus is making sure we have a very strong support.”

He focused his attacks on Sen. Bernie Sanders and the potential that he will break away with a large delegate lead.

“You know, this is critical. I mean, we could wake up in 10 days with Senator Sanders with a prohibitive lead, or we could wake up on the road to a unified party, and obviously, that’s our focus,” he said.

ABC News’ Justin Gomez contributed.

PHOTO: Campaign volunteers stand outside the Nevada Caucus site at Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada, U.S. February 22, 2020. REUTERS/Patrick Fallon (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)
PHOTO: Campaign volunteers stand outside the Nevada Caucus site at Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada, U.S. February 22, 2020. REUTERS/Patrick Fallon (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

3:20 p.m. Lack of volunteers could present problems

The caucuses might only be just getting underway, but a lack of volunteers at various caucus sites, according to a Democratic presidential campaign in Nevada, could potentially muddle the party’s efforts to run a smooth process.

One observer at a Las Vegas area site believes that the site only has enough volunteers because early voting helped alleviate some of the turnout on caucus day.

“I am at a site that houses multiple precincts and lines are mostly short due to early voting. Lots of candidates and campaign volunteers. Only enough NV Dems because of small turnout,” said Seth Morrison, a former site lead who is only observing a caucus in Las Vegas today after quitting his role over the state party’s nondisclosure agreements.

CBS News first reported that the campaigns were informed by party leaders about a “deficit of volunteers.”

Prior to caucus day, the Nevada Democratic Party touted that they “have over 3,000 volunteers, including over 300 site leads who are actively receiving robust training for early vote and Caucus Day.”

The state party today continues to assure that they have “thousands of volunteers,” before adding that it is “common” for campaign volunteers to help run precincts.

“We have been recruiting and training volunteers all the way through this morning to ensure we have the capacity we need and we are confident in having the necessary volunteer numbers to cover caucus sites today. We have thousands of volunteers working hard across the state today and this is not occurring at the vast majority of sites and precincts,” said Molly Forgey, communications director for the Nevada Democratic Party. “It’s common and not unusual for campaign volunteers to help with running precincts on Caucus Day — this happened in 2016 and in 2008.”

One Nevada Democratic Party official also told ABC News that the party has “the coverage that we planned for.” According to the party, there is an average of eight volunteers per caucus site so roughly more than 2,000 volunteers across the state.”

“As of half an hour ago, more than 1,000 volunteers had already logged in to use the caucus calculator,” the official added.

In the days leading up to caucus day, some of the precinct chairs ABC News spoke with said that beyond the angst over the technology, a shortage of trained volunteers was a top concern.

ABC News’ John Verhovek, Kendall Karson and Meg Cunningham reported.

PHOTO:Nevada voters line up to participate in the caucus at Cheyenne High School in North Las Vegas, Feb. 22, 2020. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
PHOTO:Nevada voters line up to participate in the caucus at Cheyenne High School in North Las Vegas, Feb. 22, 2020. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

2:45 p.m. A more diverse electorate turns out

Based on ABC News analysis of preliminary results from the Nevada Democratic caucus entrance polls, a more diverse and more liberal electorate than in Iowa or New Hampshire is participating in the Nevada Democratic caucuses, albeit with a shared priority — defeating President Donald Trump in November.

Whites account for 65% of caucus-goers in preliminary ABC News entrance poll results, compared with about 90% in Iowa and New Hampshire. Hispanics make up 18% of Nevada participants; blacks, 10%.

It can matter in vote preferences: Bernie Sanders won 53% of Hispanics and 49% of whites in a two-way contest with Hillary Clinton in Nevada in 2016, but just 22% of blacks, a core Democratic group in which he consistently fell short that year.

Even if Nevada is more diverse than the earlier states, today’s preliminary results mark a decline in the participation of racial and ethnic minorities in these caucuses — nonwhites total 35% of caucusgoers, compared with 41% in 2016. That may change as additional results come in.

Among other groups, independents account for 19% of caucus-goers in these early results. They were a key group for Sanders in 2016, when he won 71% of Nevada independents, compared with 40% of Democrats — another pattern than persisted in subsequent primaries that year.

Age and ideological groups also may be key. Sanders won a thumping 82% of caucus-goers under age 30 in 2016, and 62% of those 30-44, while his support from seniors plummeted to 24%. He was especially strong with young voters in Iowa and New Hampshire this year, as well.

Sanders also owes his Iowa and New Hampshire results this month disproportionately to voters who identified themselves as very liberal. They accounted for a quarter of the electorate in Iowa, a fifth in New Hampshire — and they make up 30% of Nevada caucus-goers in these preliminary entrance poll results. That compares with 33% in Nevada in 2016.

PHOTO: Poll workers check voters in during early voting in the Nevada Caucus at Chinatown Plaza Mall, Feb. 15, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Poll workers check voters in during early voting in the Nevada Caucus at Chinatown Plaza Mall, Feb. 15, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Labor may be another group to watch; 24% of caucus-goers are from union households, compared with 16% of New Hampshire primary voters on Feb. 11. Union households accounted for 28% of Nevada caucus-goers in 2016.

Whatever the differences with the previous states, there’s alignment on goals and issues. Sixty-four percent in preliminary Nevada entrance poll results say they care more about supporting the candidate who can defeat Trump than one who agrees with them on major issues. That’s similar to the results in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Also, 62% in Nevada support a government-run, single-payer health care system, again similar to Iowa and New Hampshire results, with a majority for one of Bernie Sanders’ signature issues (along with Elizabeth Warren). And, also like the previous contests, 43% call health care the top issue in their vote, out of four that were tested.

Nevada caucusgoers made up their minds comparatively early; just 15% say they finally chose their candidate today or in the last few days, compared with 36 percent in Iowa and 51 percent in New Hampshire.

The Nevada entrance poll measure caucus-goers’ initial preferences; final results can differ, since those whose candidate falls short of 15% get a second choice.

The entrance poll includes a sample of early-caucus participants.

MORE: Sanders and Bloomberg rise, Biden falls, with sharp shifts in views of electability

ABC News considers preliminary exit poll results on the proportion of early participants to be unreliable; that estimate awaits additional data.

The botched vote count in the Iowa Democratic caucuses seems not to have fazed most Nevada caucus-goers: Eighty-two percent say they expect the votes to be counted correctly.

ABC News’ pollster Gary Langer contributed

PHOTO: A voter casts a ballot on the final day of early voting for the upcoming Nevada Democratic presidential caucus, Feb. 18, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PHOTO: A voter casts a ballot on the final day of early voting for the upcoming Nevada Democratic presidential caucus, Feb. 18, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

2:17 p.m. DNC chair confident in Nevada precinct captains

In a quick gaggle at the Bellagio Hotel caucus site in Las Vegas , Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez told reporters that precinct chairs have received adequate training that continued as late as Friday.

Perez downplayed how approximately 1,000 voter preference cards cast during the early-voting stage this week were nullified because they lacked a signature. He also said he thought the voters had been reminded that “no election is perfect.”

He said the party needed to have a real conversation about caucuses after the debacle in Iowa but that the party, from his perspective, can’t just mandate they go away.

ABC News Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks reports

2 p.m. Nevada caucus by-the-numbers

Amid the second caucuses of the primary season, and the first nominating contest in the west, eight Democratic contenders are vying for 36 delegates.

The candidates on the ballot are former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, businessman Tom Steyer and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Only Democratic caucuses are held today, after the Nevada GOP voted last year to forgo a 2020 presidential caucus as part of a broad effort by the Republican National Committee to give “undivided support” to the president.

Caucusgoers will head to their designated precincts to declare their pick for president beginning at noon.

To keep up with the results, read more here.

PHOTO: Voters line up outside the Culinary Workers Union Hall Local 226 on the first day of early voting for the upcoming Nevada Democratic presidential caucus, Feb. 15, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Voters line up outside the Culinary Workers Union Hall Local 226 on the first day of early voting for the upcoming Nevada Democratic presidential caucus, Feb. 15, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Early voter turnout shattered expectations

Unlike Iowa, Nevada, for the first time, offered three days of early voting — Feb. 15-18 — in an effort to make the caucuses more accessible.

More than half of those early voters were first-time caucus-goers, the party said, a testament to the increased enthusiasm in the third official contest of the primary season.

About 75,000 Democrats participated in early voting, the party said.

MORE: Several 2020 Democrats face major cash crunch ahead of competitive primaries

By the close of the early voting period, 2020’s turnout in the Silver State had already reached nearly 90% of 2016’s total caucus turnout of roughly 84,000.

On top of that, those votes already had been cast by the time the candidates took the debate stage in Las Vegas last Wednesday.

PHOTO:Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden arrives at the Columbia Urban League annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Keeping The Legacy Alive breakfast in West Columbia, S.C., Jan. 20, 2020. (Randall Hill/Reuters)
PHOTO:Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden arrives at the Columbia Urban League annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Keeping The Legacy Alive breakfast in West Columbia, S.C., Jan. 20, 2020. (Randall Hill/Reuters)

Diverse voters will finally weigh in

Nevada is the first diverse state to weigh in on choosing a nominee. Sanders has enjoyed fairly strong support from communities of color, although former Vice President Joe Biden is typically seen as the front-runner when it comes to such support across the nation.

A January Washington Post-Ipsos poll, showed that although Biden leads his rivals by more than 2 to 1 overall among black Americans, he trails Sen. Bernie Sanders 42% to 30% among black Democrats ages 18 to 34.

Biden’s support among black voters has also declined, dropping from 51% last month to 32% now, according to the ABC News-Washington Post poll released on Feb. 19. A poll released this week by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal shows Biden and Sanders with roughly equal support among African American voters.

(MORE: Biden banking on diverse voters in Nevada)

According to U.S. Census data, 29% of Nevada’s population is Hispanic or Latino, and 10% is black or African American.

In addition to those diverse voters, 14% of the state’s workforce is unionized, teeing up what could be an interesting showdown among those who’ve been courting the union vote.

That faction of the party has come into question in recent weeks as Sanders has undergone a rocky back-and-forth with the powerful Las Vegas-area Culinary Workers Union, which distributed fliers to its members criticizing Medicare for All, after they spent years picketing for the private insurance that protects the union’s 60,000 members.

Biden got a boost on Thursday, netting an endorsement from Latino Victory Fund, his first from a national Latino organization. He’s spent his time on the trail touting his diverse support and arguing that without that backing, it would be impossible to beat Trump.

“I’ve been saying from the beginning, I think the most critical thing that has to happen is we have to elect someone in fact who can run in the purple states, win Pennsylvania, win in Florida, in places we haven’t won before,” Biden said Monday.

PHOTO: Senator Elizabeth Warren is interviewed by MSNBC's Chris Matthews in the spin room after the NBC News Democratic Debate in Las Vegas, Feb. 19, 2020. (Brian Cahn/ZUMA Wire via Newscom)
PHOTO: Senator Elizabeth Warren is interviewed by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in the spin room after the NBC News Democratic Debate in Las Vegas, Feb. 19, 2020. (Brian Cahn/ZUMA Wire via Newscom)

Electability remains the focus of the Democratic field, despite Sanders’ front-runner status

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has two more delegates than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but Sanders is considered the front-runner after a strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, and polls that put him safely ahead of Democratic rivals.

Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas was the last chance for the candidates to try and draw on the differences among the field.

Buttigieg took the stage on the offense, going after Sanders for “polarizing” the country.

“We have a responsibility to energize and unify,” Buttigieg said in Las Vegas after the debate. “For Sen. Sanders to say it’s not enough unless you go further — if you’re not for that revolution, you must be for the status quo — that’s a picture most Americans don’t see where we fit.”

(MORE: Nevada caucuses offer first diverse test of the 2020 primary: Here’s how they work)

Within the feud of moderates versus progressives, the candidates have honed their pitches on who can beat President Donald Trump in November. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took a veiled dig at Sanders during the debate, arguing that voters are worried about gambling on a revolution.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (John Locher/AP)
PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (John Locher/AP)

“Democrats want to beat Donald Trump. But they are worried. They are worried about gambling on a narrow vision that doesn’t address the fears of millions of Americans across this country who see real problems and want real change. They are worried about gambling on a revolution that won’t bring along a majority of this country,” Warren said.

She went after her other competitors, as well, attempting to prove to voters that she could take on Trump on the debate stage.

“Amy, I looked online at your plan, its two paragraphs. Families are suffering. And they need a plan,” Warren said, criticizing Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s health care plan.

Her campaign touted her post-performance fundraising numbers, saying she’d raised $ 5 million in less than 24 hours after the debate.

She has continued to play the long game on the trail after lackluster performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, calling on the fact that 98% of the delegates needed to nab the nomination this summer have yet to be allocated. Despite that, she’ll need a strong showing in Nevada to prove that her campaign belongs in the top tier.

Bernie Sanders leads in 1st and final alignments as results trickle in: Live updates originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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