Fil-Ams participate in early voting ahead of Nevada caucus

EARLY VOTING. Voters line up at Chinatown Plaza Mall in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Feb. 18 to cast their ballots early ahead of the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, Feb. 22. More than 33,000 people turned out on Tuesday, the final day of early voting, according to the Nevada Democratic Party.  | AJPress photo by Robert Macabagdal

LAS VEGAS — Filipino American voters in Clark County turned out during the early voting period leading up to Nevada’s caucuses on Saturday, February 22. 

For the first time, Nevada — the third state to vote in the 2020 Democratic primary — has Tagalog as a language option for caucus materials, which reflects Filipinos being the largest Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) group in the state. 

There are 168,200 Filipinos residing in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) in 2018.

At the Chinatown Plaza Mall along Spring Mountain Road on Tuesday, Feb. 18 — the last day of the early voting period that started last Friday — voters reported waiting up to an hour to cast their ballots.

For Fil-Am millennial Erwin Ventura, who voted on Tuesday night 30 minutes before the polls closed at 8 p.m, the process was “pretty easy.”

AJPress photo by Robert Macabagdal

Unlike the Iowa caucuses, Nevada voters were met with a low-tech approach instead with presidential preference cards where they ranked at least their top three (and up to five) candidates in order of preference. 

“I knew I had to pick three choices, but other than that, I wasn’t too sure about the rest of the process so I did my own research,” Ventura told the Asian Journal after submitting his ballot. 

Election workers were on hand to check voters in with iPads that contained voter rolls and moved voters through the voting stations set up at the mall’s entrance. The iPads were also equipped with custom calculators on Google forms to tabulate the votes. 

According to caucus rules, if the candidate that the early voters choose doesn’t get at least 15% of the total vote tally, their second and third preferences will be considered. 

Ventura said he ranked Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been leading in national polls, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as his top two picks, respectively.  

Erwin Ventura, a physical therapist, voted in the Nevada caucus for the first time. | AJPress photo by Christina M. Oriel

“I feel the nation needs somebody who is representative of everybody regardless of your race or whether you’re straight, gay, or an immigrant,”  he said. “I think Bernie represents that to the best extent. I can respect what Warren is trying to do and I think America is ready for a woman in charge so if Bernie isn’t the choice, I’d give it to her.”

Frank De La Vega, a retiree who lives in Summerlin, said he participated for the first time in a caucus on Tuesday to “experience [my] right as a citizen.” He came to the precinct with five friends who also voted. 

“There’s a need to be aware of the dangers of the present guy in the White House,” De La Vega said. 

He shared that he selected former Vice President Joe Biden as his top choice because of “his necessary experience with passing legislation.”

Las Vegas resident Minerva Honkala lines up to vote at Chinatown Plaza Mall. | AJPress photo by Christina M. Oriel

Fil-Am community leader Minerva Honkala said her preferred candidate already dropped out of the race, but is committing to vote for the eventual Democratic nominee come November. 

“I really wanted a change so whoever is the best choice among the Democratic candidates, I will vote for that person,” Honkala said. 

In the caucus, however, she threw her support behind Biden as well to “carry on the leadership during Obama’s eight-year term.”

In the past year, Democratic presidential candidates have been courting AAPI voters in Nevada, as they’re considered the fastest-growing ethnic group. The number of eligible AAPI voters grew 49% from 2012 to 2018.

Recent campaign outreach efforts have included Filipino kamayan dinners and field staffers attending Lunar New Year festivities.

Before dropping out of the presidential race, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and his campaign led a Tagalog caucus training session in December. 

For Felipe Danglapin, Booker was his top choice, but he has since decided to back former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg because his “policies are something that both sides of the aisle can work with. [They’re] not too extreme from the left or from the right.”

“I first met Mayor Pete in person in May 2019 and from there, I am very impressed [with] how intelligent he is and how he handles himself answering the questions,” said Danglapin, a business and tax advisor,  adding that he believes Buttigieg can “unite the country.”

Early caucus voting took place from Feb. 15 to 18 as sites were set up around the county, such as at hotels and casinos on the Vegas strip for workers who work late shifts, union offices, and local libraries. 

Tallies from the four-day period will be added to the counts from Saturday’s caucus. Over 33,000 individuals voted on Tuesday, bringing the total to more than 70,000 voters, according to the state’s Democratic Party 

Nevada has 36 delegates up for grabs.  

Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is an award-winning editor and communications strategist based in Los Angeles with experience in content, strategy and branding for media ecosystems, inclusive fintech startups, small businesses and direct-to-consumer products.

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