For months Donald Trump has been saying he wants a wall built by Hispanics, and on the last day of early voting in Nevada he certainly got one.
Thanks to an unprecedented Democratic Party push in the Latino community headed in part by fired-up Culinary Union Local 226, a line of last-minute early voters was so long that one polling place at a Cardenas Market had to be kept open until just after 10 p.m.—three hours later than usual. Voters were packed tighter than the watermelons in the store’s produce department.
Yvanna Cancela, political director of Local 226, excitedly tweeted, “Looks like Trump got his wall after all. A wall of beautiful voters.”
The time extension was legal, and the polling place was observed by officials from the Clark County Registrar of Voters office, but the last-night crush of humanity immediately raised a suspicion of favoritism or even fraud by the chairman of the Nevada Republican Party Michael McDonald, who seemed downright Trumpian at a Saturday rally in Reno.
“Last night in Clark County, they kept a poll open ‘til 10 o’clock so that a certain group could vote,” McDonald said.
Sound familiar? When you’re losing, always remember to cry foul.
“The polls are supposed to close at 7,” McDonald continued, revealing his ignorance of the process. “This was kept open until 10. Yeah, you feel free right now? You think this is a free and easy election? That’s why it’s important.”
Not that Trump needed any encouragement to chatter about the system being “rigged” against him, but when he took the stage he chided, “It's being reported that certain key Democratic polling locations in Clark County were kept open for hours and hours beyond closing time to bus and bring democratic voters in. Folks, it's a rigged system. It's a rigged system and we're going to beat it. We're going to beat it.”
Clark County’s population is more than 30 percent Hispanic. More than 57,000 voters cast ballots on the final day in Clark County, surpassing the high turnout in 2012 and setting a record. Many voters waited in line for hours at the Hispanic supermarket on Bonanza Road near Lamb Boulevard in the predominately Latino section of the the Las Vegas valley. They were greeted at one point by a clearly energized Catherine Cortez Masto, the former state Attorney General challenging Republican Rep. Joe Heck to fill Harry Reid’s U.S. Senate seat.
But it wasn’t the only early voting polling location to remain open while registered voters were in line to cast their ballots, Clark County spokesperson Dan Kulin said.
No one in line was turned away, and the final ballot was cast at 10:10 p.m. at Silverado Ranch —several miles from the Mexican market that had become the focus of the state GOP chairman’s fretting.
Given an opportunity to clarify the inaccurate speculation from the campaign’s Nevada surrogate, Trump Kellyanne Conway doubled down in a Sunday “State of the Union” interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“We just always want the laws followed and the rules followed, and I do predict that you're going to see really long lines—serpentine-like lines of Tuesday—of folks there for Donald Trump on Tuesday," she said, adding that she believes Hillary Clinton’s campaign receives “special favors and perhaps special rules.”
Tapper reminded her that polls commonly are kept open so that those already in line can vote. That’s the way it was in Clark County.
“In reality, we did not extend the closing time,” Kulin said. “We keep processing voters as long as they’re there.”
Although the volume was higher than normal, the process remained the same.
“Friday was a record-breaking single day of early voting turnout for us,” the spokesman said. “The last day of early voting is typically the busiest, and certainly we saw that again on Friday. ... We’re there to help voters exercise their rights as citizens to vote. early voting helps make voting more convenient for the voters, and so when voters show up to vote early we will help them exercise their right.”
But what about GOP concerns over voter fraud?
“We’re not aware of any significant concerns,” Kulin said.
Labor organizer Cancela added, “Veiled racism is still racism.”
John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas journalist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @jlnevadasmith