Now, many voters are signaling that they're confused — and angry.
Driving the bulk of the confusion is the absence of former President Donald Trump’s name on the state primary ballot.
Nevada elections and party officials have, over the last several weeks, fielded thousands of calls from voters who have received ballots in the mail for the Feb. 6 state primary, not realizing Trump is competing only in a Republican caucus two days later, according to officials with local GOP parties, the state and a voting rights group.
Trump is not on the ballot because he did not file for the state election. He is expected to easily win the caucuses and claim all of Nevada's 26 delegates.
This is the first time Nevada is experiencing the dual contests. The shift happened after a Democratic-led state Legislature changed the law, eliminating state-run caucuses after the 2020 election. The state Republican Party nevertheless decided to hold a caucus. It has decried the state-run primary, saying that it is a waste of taxpayer money and that it is suspicious of the possibility of voter fraud.
Amid the flood of calls, some GOP leaders say they’re telling voters to cast a ballot, but instead of picking Nikki Haley — the only major candidate listed — they're telling them to select the "none of these candidates" option. They’re then encouraging them to caucus for Trump.
One Republican leader didn’t exactly hide his disdain for Haley — who has visited the state only once since last May.
“We tell them there’s three things you can do with your ballot: Write ‘none of these candidates,’ or you can put it in the shredder, or you can blow your nose with it,” Bruce Parks, chair of the Washoe County Republican Party, said of the mail-in ballots of the state-run contest. Washoe is the second-most populous county in Nevada, and Parks said he’s fielded some 1,000 phone calls in the last week from Republicans distressed over their ballots.
Conventional wisdom is that Haley will easily win the state-run primary, because she is the marquee candidate on the ballot. As of Tuesday, more than 40,000 Republicans had already voted in the state primary election, according to the secretary of state.
But in Nevada, there's also an option to vote “none of these candidates.” If that were to somehow log more votes than Haley — a phenomenon that’s happened in the past in Nevada — the former South Carolina governor would still be deemed the winner, but the public vote totals could be embarrassing.
That was an outcome Parks shrugged off.
“Nikki Haley sent a clear message to everybody in Nevada that she did not care about Nevada,” he said. Haley and several former candidates have said the caucus is cooked for Trump because of the party's strong ties to the former president.
A win for Haley, however, could garner her some positive media attention even though she wouldn't win any delegates.
A Nevada secretary of state spokesperson said one-third of all the calls the office has received since the beginning of the year have been concerning the caucus and/or Trump, and it’s been a top issue in emails it’s received so far this year. The standard response is that Trump did not file in the primary and is participating in a party-run caucus.
In the less populous Nye County, the Republican chair said he personally fielded about 500 phone calls since mail-in ballots started hitting homes the first week of January. He said he told those who wanted to vote for Trump they could select “none of these candidates” on their ballots and then caucus.
“This has just been creating a tremendous amount of calamity,” Nye County GOP Chair Leo Blundo said. But, he added, he also sees an opportunity.
“This has been a monumental tool to get engagement into the party apparatus, get Republicans activated, engaged and involved in the party, which is what’s critical,” he said.
Many Republicans have been critical of the state for moving to a primary election.
“Due to Joe Biden’s embarrassing defeat to Bernie Sanders in 2020, Nevada Democrats changed the caucus to a primary,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said in a statement. “The Republican Caucus is on February 8th and we encourage all registered Republicans in Nevada to get out and Caucus for President Trump to make their voices heard.”
When the presidential primary field was more crowded, candidates complained that the fix was in for Trump in Nevada because of the party's connections to the former president.
The party hierarchy traveled to Mar-a-Lago last year, and six GOP leaders were recently indicted on charges related to serving as so-called false Trump electors in the 2020 campaign. Several 2024 candidates, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Haley, opted to appear on the primary ballot. Scott and Pence have since dropped out.
Competing in the caucus came with a $55,000 price tag. And the Nevada GOP dictated that candidates could only choose one contest in which to compete. (Voters, however, are free to participate in both the primary and the caucus if they want.)
“I talk to the people in Nevada, they will tell you the caucuses have been sealed up, bought and paid for for a long time. So that’s why we got into the primary,” Haley said at a Jan. 21 stop in New Hampshire. “The caucus is what it is. And these are people who are involved in it that are trying to stop it. But that’s the Trump train rolling through that. But we’re going to focus on the states that are fair.”
Elko County GOP Chair Lee Hoffman said he’s had to educate voters who have called with the mistaken idea that if they don’t participate in the state-run primary, they won’t be able to vote in the general election. It's put Republican leaders in the unlikely position of telling voters that this time, they're allowed to vote twice: both in the primary and the caucus. Either way, they are not precluded from voting in the general election.
“This is the first year where there has been all this confusion between a primary and a caucus, and I just literally don’t know what to expect,” he said. “In a lot of ways, because people got those ballots without their candidate, it lit a fire under them.”
Kerry Durmick, Nevada state director of All Voting Is Local, a nonpartisan voter advocacy group, said even the smallest counties in the state were receiving hundreds of phone calls with questions. The group is helping educate people on both the caucus and the primary.
"We're just really focused on making sure that people know the facts about how to vote and how to vote for who they want to vote for," Durmick said. "Because the primary system is more accessible. ... This is going to be the most accessible election in Nevada's history."