Critics said the arcane caucus format might be to blame for the low turnout.
"The conversations I've heard for over a year is: 'Why are we still doing this caucus? Nobody likes it,'" said Cheryl Van Ocker, a GOP activist in rural northern Nevada. "They would like to have a primary."
So why would any state choose to hold a caucus instead of a traditional primary?
For one thing, caucuses generally don't cost taxpayers a cent, a big plus among tea party Republicans concerned about excessive government spending. While public dollars are used to cover the cost of primaries, caucuses are paid for by each local and state political party.
Proponents claim caucuses also create a sense of community, allowing neighbors to civilly debate politics and elect precinct captains who can go on to make important decisions within the state party.
"It connects and energizes people in a way that going into the voting booth doesn't," said Jill Derby, a former Nevada Democratic chairwoman who hosted the state's successful Democratic caucuses in 2008.
Still, Derby cautioned: "It takes tremendous organization. You have to do the work to train people."
On Saturday, Barbara Vallard, 75, signed into a caucus location in Las Vegas and then stood around, unsure of where she was supposed to go and how she could vote. Told she would have to wait until everyone had signed in before she could cast a ballot, she fretted that she was going to be late for an appointment.
But Vallard, a Romney supporter, said she wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's good to hear other people's beliefs," she said.
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