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Nevadans Voice Issues That Drove Them To Caucus

A panoramic photo. There are several rows of long tables with people sitting down and talking.
Lucia Starbuck
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KUNR
Voters chat about politics at a caucus site located at the Jot Travis Building at the University of Nevada, Reno on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Presidential hopeful and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders came in first place in Nevada’s Democratic caucus over the weekend, but at least one precinct in Reno, Nevada had Spanish translation issues.

For the first time, the Nevada State Democratic Party made it possible for caucus participants to fill out presidential preference cards in Spanish and Tagalog, in addition to English.

People stand outside a building. The letters on the wall read, "Home of the Hawks."
Credit Stephanie Serrano / KUNR
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KUNR
The entrance of Hug High School, a caucus site in Reno, Nevada on Saturday, Feb. 22.

But some Latino voters at Hug High School in Reno were still confused because the party did not provide an in-person Spanish interpreter.

Melanie Sanchez, a young billingual woman, was an observer who ended up providing Spanish translation on the fly.

“This process is very confusing,” Sanchez said. “Especially if you're not a native English speaker, they don’t make this process easy. If I could help someone make the process a little bit easier, then I’m happy to help.”

Sanchez was born in Mexico and can’t vote, but she said that if the party is serious about including the Latino voice in this election, they need to make more accommodations for non-English speakers.

People are standing in line and talking in a gym.
Credit Stephanie Serrano / KUNR
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KUNR
Inside the gymnasium at Hug High School, a caucus site in Reno, Nevada on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Brandon Munoz was also there. He's an 18 year old, first-time voter and a proud son to immigrant parents. While caucusing at his alma mater, he thought about his parents who are undocumented. 

“I feel strongly that it's a big part and my part to make their voices count, too,” Munoz said.

Munoz said the Latino community has been living in fear, which he believes was caused by the Trump administration, after anti-immigrant statements were made by the president.

Just a few miles away, at the University of Nevada, Reno, there were mostly young voters between the ages of 18 and 24.

They were packed into an auditorium at UNR, where the mood was light and optimistic. Strangers sat at long, curved tables and chatted about what a Sanders presidency would look like.

Brian Rodrigues smiles for a photo. There are people in the background but they're blurry.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR
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KUNR
Brian Rodriguez caucused for Bernie Sanders at the Jot Travis Building at the University of Nevada, Reno on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Brian Rodriguez is a 24-year-old, pre-nursing major at UNR who supported Sanders. He also caucused for Sanders in 2016, because of his stance on immigration reform.

“Both my parents are from Mexico. My dad is a citizen, he was naturalized, and my mom has her green card. She wants to become a citizen, but that whole process ... it's difficult for her to go through because she doesn't speak English,” Rodriguez said.

Henry Dalton smiles for a photo. In the background are empty chairs.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR
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KUNR
Henry Dalton caucused for Bernie Sanders at the Jot Travis Building at the University of Nevada, Reno on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Another supporter is 18-year-old Henry Dalton. He likes Sanders’ climate change proposals, like cutting fossil fuels.

“It's my future and it's everybody's future who exists on the planet currently,” Dalton said.

There were seven precincts at this caucus site and Sanders was viable in all seven. While he racked up delegates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar also nabbed a handful.

Stephanie Serrano (she/her/ella) is an award-winning multimedia bilingual journalist based in Reno, Nevada. Her reporting is powered by character-driven stories and is rooted in sound-rich audio. Her storytelling works to share the experiences of unserved communities in regards to education, race, affordable housing and sports.
Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America focusing on community reporting and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local community issues are her passion, including the affordable housing crisis, homelessness, a lack of access to healthcare, protests and challenges facing vulnerable communities in northern Nevada.
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