The line started forming at 4 a.m. for early voting in Las Vegas

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Steve Marcus

Michael Stringer, 19, center, waits for an early voting site to open during the first day of early voting in Henderson Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. It was his first time to vote in a presidential election, he said.

Sat, Oct 17, 2020 (4:47 p.m.)

Debra Patel was in it for the long haul this morning as early voting opened in Nevada.

Patel was one of hundreds of people lined up at the voting site outside the Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson.

She arrived at 9 a.m., just as the polls opened, but the first voters got there as early as 4 a.m. The line stretched hundreds of yards, snaking through the mall parking lot and coiling in on itself.

“I’ll be here 10 hours if I have to,” said Patel, a supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Patel said she was voting in person because she has concerns about mail-in ballots and wanted to make sure her vote was counted. Because of concerns about the coronavirus, state lawmakers passed a bill this year to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

But President Donald Trump, whose campaign unsuccessfully tried to block the mail-in voting plan in Nevada, has been sowing seeds of doubt about the process, saying it is ripe for fraud. There is no evidence mail-in ballots are linked to any sort of substantial voter fraud.

Gov. Steve Sisolak held a quick news conference at the Boulevard Mall, another voting site, about noon before dropping off his ballot.

“No matter how you vote, do it early,” Sisolak said. “We know that there’s going to be some lines. We ask you to be patient and take your time to exercise your right.”

“I cannot stress enough how important voting is in this election,” said Sisolak, a Democrat.

Early voting continues through Oct. 30, while mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3.

Natalie Tefft, a Trump supporter at the Galleria voting site, said voting early was the easiest option for her with her work schedule. She also expressed concern about mail-in ballots, saying she wanted to use the voting machines to make sure her vote is counted.

Ryan Larson said he was waiting in line because he didn’t receive his mail-in ballot, but he didn’t expect the line would be so long. Arriving 15 minutes before the polls opened, Larson, a Trump voter, said he thought he would be among the “early birds.” Instead, he said, he’d just have to “suck it up” and wait.

Elisio Sanchez said he has more confidence in voting in person, though he voted by mail for the first time in this year’s Democratic primary.

Sanchez said he arrived about 7:15 a.m. and found the line longer than he expected. But, he said, “I’d rather wait in the 9 a.m. heat than the 3 p.m. heat.”

Across town at the voting site at the East Las Vegas Community Center, the wait was shorter. Voter Mauricio Villa, said he had been waiting about 15 minutes and was nearly halfway through the line.

Villa, a Biden supporter, said he thinks mail-in ballots are “unreliable” and feels safer voting in person.

Rey Santiago said he was voting in person to make sure his vote was counted. Santiago, a Biden supporter, said he initially went to the Boulevard Mall to vote but left because the line was too long.

As voters hit the polls, the Democratic and Republican parties were busy drumming up support for their candidates.

The Trump campaign held a get-out-the-vote rally in Reno with U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei and Trump’s Nevada campaign co-chairman and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt.

The campaign also held a march to the polls with state GOP Chairman Michael McDonald in Henderson. Trump is scheduled to make an appearance in Carson City on Sunday.

The state Democratic Party, meanwhile, held an event Friday with U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen and state party Chairman William McCurdy II.

Rosen said health care access is on the ballot, drawing attention to efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act that will soon go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“A week after this election, the Supreme Court will begin hearings on the ACA, including a requirement that inhibits insurance companies from discriminating against pre-existing conditions,” Rosen said in a statement.

“If Trump gets his way and overturns the ACA, 300,000 Nevadans could lose insurance coverage,” Rosen said.

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