The number of people who participated in the four-day early voting period here in Nevada approached the total turnout of the 2016 caucuses, a Nevada Democratic Party aide tells CNN.
The high early turnout is reason to celebrate for Nevada Democrats, who see it as proof that voters are interested in the Democratic nomination fight. But questions remain about whether Saturday’s caucuses can run smoothly and avoid the calamity that has delayed official results from Iowa’s caucuses earlier this month.
Nevada Democrats, according to the aide, expect the number of people who participated in early voting in the state to be around 70,000, once all the counting of the early ballots from the four-day period, Saturday to Tuesday, is complete.
The party is still counting ballots from the final day of early voting, but state party Chairman William McCurdy II said Wednesday that the final turnout for that day alone could be around 33,000 – nearly equivalent to the 36,000 ballots that the party said were cast during the first three days.
Those numbers are significantly higher than Nevada Democrats expected and comes close to the roughly 84,000 people who caucused in 2016, when there was no early vote. (The early voting process was introduced this year after a rule change by the Democratic National Committee.)
A party official also told CNN that more than 50% of those who cast early ballots were first-time caucusgoers.
Some Nevada Democrats hope the size of the early vote in Nevada could alleviate stress on caucus day because many Democrats believe the day-of turnout this coming Saturday will be lower than it was in 2016. But the same Democrats admit it is impossible to know how many Democrats will show up on Saturday and note that 118,000 people caucused in Nevada in 2008.
Nevada Democrats have worked feverishly to avoid Iowa’s fate, including deciding not to use the app that was at the root of many of that state’s problems.
One source involved in the changes between the two caucuses said the party is “trying to quickly figure out what needs to change based on what happened in Iowa.”
A team of operatives from DNC is in Nevada to assist with the caucus process.
That includes, according to a party aide, helping count and tabulate early votes.
The state party also announced on Wednesday that they will have 55 training sessions by Friday for caucus volunteer to access a host of materials that could be need on caucus day. The focus on training is in response to caucus volunteers who told CNN they were worried about how much they knew about the “caucus calculator” they would be using on Saturday and what to do if they had an issue.
“We understand just how important it is that we get this right and protect the integrity of Nevadans’ votes,” said Shelby Wiltz, the state party’s caucus director. “We will continue to train our volunteers to make sure we have a successful caucus.”
The Nevada State Democratic Party held a conference call with all of the competing campaigns on Tuesday night, an aide told CNN, to brief them on the early vote and what will be done with ballots that were deemed void during the counting process.
This was the latest call in a series between the campaigns and the state party. The same source involved in the caucus process said the party was “just trying to overcommunicate at the moment” – a lesson, they said, that was learned by the lack of communication in Iowa.
The Nevada State Democratic Party received 940 early ballots on Saturday and Sunday that had to be voided, state party officials told CNN. The number represents 3.7% of all early votes cast over the weekend, the officials said, and the majority of those voided ballots stemmed from a lack of signatures on the ballots.
Only 65 ballots submitted over the weekend had to be voided due to voters not selecting three candidates – representing less than a quarter of a percent, according to the officials.
A party spokeswoman did not provide updated numbers that include ballots cast on the final two days of early vote.
Campaigns were told this week that the party was unable to notify people that their votes didn’t count after the fact and said that campaigns needed to do that, an aide to one campaign said. As of Wednesday afternoon, however, the party has not released the list of names to the campaigns.
Voters whose ballots were voided will have to attend caucuses on Saturday in order to have their preferences counted.
CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.