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'She's a spy!': Reporter banned from Nevada caucus

February 04, 2012|By Ashley Powers
(EPA/MICHAEL NELSON )

Reporting from Henderson, Nev. — I got kicked out of a Nevada caucus.

I had gone Saturday morning to a community center at Sun City Anthem, where I’d interviewed voters during previous elections. A hub for an age-restricted community of mostly retirees, the building was so packed that one precinct had been moved into the lobby.

I chose at random precinct 1721, where voters had crammed into a small, stuffy room. It wasn’t much of a secret that I was a reporter: I wore a press badge issued by the Clark County GOP around my neck and was scribbling on a yellow notepad the size of a hardcover book.

After about 10 speakers touted their presidential favorites – most of them backed Mitt Romney – the caucus chairwoman, whose name I didn’t catch, announced that no reporters were allowed in the room. The voters sitting near me, who knew I was a reporter, called out that I was taking notes.

The caucus chair, who was standing at the front of the room, repeated: No. Press. Allowed. I said that wasn’t true and held up my press pass.

The chair asked who I was.

“Ashley Powers from the Los Angeles Times.”

To understand what happened next, some context is in order. There is a wing of the Nevada GOP that is very concerned – critics would say paranoid – about outside forces messing with the balloting process.

Awhile back, state party officials suggested registering voters on caucus day. The same tactic handed Democrats 30,000 new voters in 2008, and helped pave the way for President Obama’s commanding victory in the state. But some members of the Nevada Republican Party, convinced same-day registration would lead to voter fraud, protested furiously enough to kill the proposal.

So the verdict on my presence was loud, and near-unanimous.

“BOOOOOOO!”

“You’re a bunch of liars!” someone shouted.

“Spy! She’s a spy!” someone else said.

A woman waved a button at me, which said: DON’T BELIEVE THE LIBERAL MEDIA.

Tough crowd, I thought.

Then a man walked over to me and said if I didn’t leave, he’d call security. So I left the room while voters cast their ballots.

A short time later, a male party volunteer tried to tell precinct 1721’s leaders that they were wrong, but at that point I was persona non grata. When I tried to reenter the room, an elderly man said people were still voting, grabbed my arm, pushed me away and shut the door in my face.

I had been tweeting about the fracas, and on my way home, the Clark County GOP official who’d issued me my press badge gave me a call. Bobbie Haseley was gracious and apologetic.

“It shouldn’t have happened,” she said.

She told me that people in the room had said I had been trying to record the balloting with some sort of video device. Let me be clear: Not one vote had been cast by the time I was thrown out. Also, I don’t own a video recorder or an iPad. I make a reporter’s salary, after all.

I told Haseley I appreciated her call and that, at the very least, the morning had been memorable.

Also, sympathetic voters had slipped me what they said were the precinct results: Mitt Romney, 60; Newt Gingrich, 42; Ron Paul, 8; Rick Santorum, 8.

Ashley.powers@latimes.com

Twitter.com/ashleypowers

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