Voters around the Las Vegas Valley complained Saturday that they were denied an opportunity to vote in the Republican presidential caucuses because they showed up late for their precinct meetings.
Party officials acknowledged that confusion about the caucus process disenfranchised some voters.
"We did our best to get the word out that people needed to be there at 9 a.m., but we had some circumstances where people didn't get the word," Clark County Republican Party Chairman Dave Gibbs said. "It's unfortunate that they weren't able to participate today."
Gibbs said he didn't know how many voters were turned away, but he acknowledged that people probably were denied an opportunity to vote at sites around the valley.
He promised to address the problem before the next presidential caucus.
"We'll look to see what improvements we need to make to get the word out," he said. "We'll look at improving communication."
Tom Thomas, a site manager at Cimarron-Memorial High School, said about 20 people were not allowed to vote there because they showed up at 10:30 or 10:45 a.m., after the balloting had already taken place. Thomas said most of his 26 precincts had completed voting by 10 a.m.
Josephine Brancatelli, 77, said the party gave her confusing instructions about when to vote.
She said she and her husband, Arthur, showed up at Palo Verde High School about noon and learned the caucus site already had been shut down for the day. About a half-dozen other people were in the parking lot looking to vote, as well, she said.
"I'm very frustrated," Brancatelli said. "It meant a lot for me to vote this time, and I wasn't able to."
Thomas said he was told that about 20 people were also turned away at Becker Middle School because they showed up late.
Party members who arrived late at Coronado High School also were not allowed to cast ballots, voters there said.
"People showed up at the wrong time thinking this runs all day like a primary," said Rachel Stephens, 24. "The instructions were unclear, and the party was disorganized."
Others tweeted at and emailed about their frustrations after being turned away elsewhere.
"I ... went to Basic High School at 10 and the person said it was over at 9:30 but yet the sign said 9-1:00," Josh Martinez tweeted. "I received plenty of calls from candidates but no one ever told me where to go caucus or how it worked."
Darlene Manassee and her husband wrote that the caucus process was "un-American" after the couple were turned away from a voting site in Sun City Anthem when they showed up late.
"We were told they would be open until 1 p.m.," Manassee wrote. "... We arrived at 11:30 a.m. as they were shutting down and were not allowed to participate. ... Now, I have not been able to make my voice be heard, which is what my right as an American should be."
Thomas said the caucus format can be confusing.
"People get in the habit of voting in primaries where they can vote any time of the day," he said. "But in a caucus, people can miss out if they're not there when the process starts up. The caucus is like showing up for an appointment. If you show up late, you miss the appointment."
Gibbs said the party encountered other problems during the voting.
A handful of people went to the wrong location, and party officials fielded about 300 calls from voters who didn't know their precinct numbers, he said.
"By and large, it went well," Gibbs said. "For the most part, when problems cropped up, we were able to take care of them."
At Green Valley High School, caucus- goers desperate to find their precincts wandered aimlessly around the halls.
As classrooms began to fill with voters who were able to locate their precinct, some scrawled their precinct numbers onto makeshift signs with whatever markers, pens and paper they could find.
Some signs were taped to classroom doors. For those without signs, it seemed voters might never find the right place to caucus. And time was ticking down.
"This is ridiculous," Wendy Paez, 53, said. "It's discouraging. You want to be part of the process."
Paez stopped in the middle of the hallway and leaned against the wall, trying to make sense of the paperwork in her hand as if it might lead her to the correct location. She expressed relief when someone tacked a sign to a classroom door with her precinct number.
Confusion was a common theme throughout the process as people continued to struggle during voting from a lack of ballots. Voters in precinct No. 7683 had to wait 10 minutes until a volunteer rounded up enough blue ballots to vote. Those too antsy to wait for official ballots elsewhere tried to make their own.
Paul Petty is glad not many Republicans showed at Chaparral High School to participate in the party caucus.
"This was a cluster," said the school's caucus manager at 10:45 a.m. as the caucus wrapped up and precinct groups handed in their envelopes containing their candidate votes.
About 1,000 participants were dispersed into 40 rooms based on their precincts. But Petty wasn't allowed to hand out ballots until every group was settled. That way, every group would be handed one ballot per person, no extras.
There was only one problem. Petty had just two people to cover the whole school and hand out ballots when the caucus started at 9 a.m.
Growing impatient, several precinct groups voted on their own, not using the official blue ballot. Then, they put their pieces of paper into their precinct envelope and sealed it.
Now, Petty is worried their votes won't count in the caucus.
"These caucuses are a nightmare," he said.
Review-Journal reporter Trevon Milliard contributed to this report.Contact Jeff German at jgerman@review journal.com or 702-383-0246. Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.