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After Nevada's primaries, voters in the state say they're frustrated

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Nevada held its presidential primaries yesterday. President Biden won the Democratic contest, as expected. In the Republican primary, there was a bit of a surprise because the none-of-these-candidates option beat out Nikki Haley, the only major candidate who chose to go on the ballot. NPR's Ashley Lopez has been listening to voters.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: There was a lot that wasn't working for voters on the last day of primary voting in Nevada. Here in Las Vegas, it was raining. It was kind of cold, and a lot of people already voted by mail in an election many didn't find all that exciting.

TODD MCCANN: You know, I wished it was another candidate.

LOPEZ: That's Todd McCann. He voted for President Biden in the Democratic primary at a community center near the Las Vegas Strip. He said despite his lack of enthusiasm, voting for anybody else would be like throwing away a vote. First-time voter Phoenix Hartman agreed and also begrudgingly voted for Biden.

PHOENIX HARTMAN: I am not very happy with how he's been handling the situation in Israel, but what can you do? Better than Trump, at least. And none of the other candidates. I was going to vote against him just to make the statement I disapprove, but all the other candidates didn't seem real - too much better, anyway, so...

LOPEZ: Democratic voters did have other options. Self-help author Marianne Williamson was on the ballot here. But Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips, who is also running against Biden, wasn't. And voters had another choice. They are able to pick an option labeled none of these candidates. For Latoya Oates, who also participated in the Democratic primary, none got her vote over President Biden.

LATOYA OATES: I'm just not fond of him or Trump at this point. I just - I'm sure that I'm going to have to make a choice. But right now, I - and I didn't. I just feel like we need two different candidates.

LOPEZ: And then there's the Republican primary, which tripped up some voters.

AUSTIN VICK: Yeah. Kind of strange we can't write Trump in. That's who I'd be voting for.

LOPEZ: That's Austin Vick. He wanted to vote for the former president in the Republican primary, but Trump wasn't on that ballot. Instead, Trump will appear on the ballot in a caucus election being held by the Republican Party on Thursday. For Republicans, winning the caucus is like hitting the jackpot. Whoever wins on Thursday gets all of the state's delegates, and Trump happens to be the only major candidate in that contest. And state party leaders, like Michael McDonald, urged Republicans to ignore the primary and instead caucus for Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL MCDONALD: February 8, mark your calendars. That's the day you show up to caucus for Donald J. Trump. You don't need February 6. That's for the Democrats.

LOPEZ: That's why Tuesday's election was kind of frustrating for Trump supporters like Pat Rapaccuiolo. She showed up at a polling site in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Las Vegas, and she found out there that she couldn't vote for who she wanted.

PAT RAPACCUIOLO: I don't want any of them. I'm here today in the rain, and I'm disappointed.

LOPEZ: Even if the Republicans' primary didn't actually mean that much in the end, state election officials have said this whole situation caused a lot of grief for voters. They said throughout the primary, they heard from countless confused Republicans. But for Pat Rapaccuiolo, Tuesday was just a bump in the road.

RAPACCUIOLO: I wanted to vote for him, period. But I will anyway. Sooner or later, he'll get my vote.

LOPEZ: She plans to figure out where her caucus site is and support Trump on Thursday instead.

Ashley Lopez, NPR News, Las Vegas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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.