(CNN)Thousands of Nevadans waited for hours this weekend to do something that has never been done before this primary season: early voting in a caucus.
The change by the Nevada Democratic Party this year is aimed at opening up the otherwise restrictive caucus process and boosting turnout in the state. Nevadans are notably familiar with early voting — more than 56% of the state voted early in the 2016 general election.
And it’s clear that opening up the process could be a boon for the Democratic Party here. The state party announced that more than 18,000 Nevadans voted on Saturday, with some waiting more than three hours to do so. That number grew to more than 26,000 total by the end of the weekend.
But early voting is a unique addition to the caucus process, and its success rests on whether the Nevada Democratic Party can successfully link the votes cast early with the precincts where those voters would have expressed their presidential preference this coming Saturday.
Adding pressure to the process: The Iowa caucuses were thrown into chaos because of a faulty app and overwhelmed, leading to questions about how Nevada’s caucuses will go.
Here is what you need to know about early voting in Nevada.
Early voting began on Saturday, February 15, and Nevadans have four days — until Tuesday, February 18 — to cast an early ballot.
The party has set up more than 80 locations across the state, with only a few being open all four days. Those locations include union halls, schools and event spaces.
One example is the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 hall in Las Vegas, where both union members and non-union members waited more than an hour on Sunday to cast their ballot.
“Nevada is an early vote state,” said Bethany Khan, spokeswoman for the Culinary union. “I think that trend will stay true in the caucus … This is the first time the union has been an early vote location and this site has seen hundreds of people come through on day one of early vote.”
When a voter walks into an early voting site, they check in with an election volunteer who has a PDF voter roll pre-loaded onto an iPad. If a voter is not a registered Democrat, they will need to register with the party at that time.
The voter, after being given a pre-generated voter PIN, is asked to enter their information into a check-in form via Google.
The voter, once they begin the actual voting process, is then asked to rank either their candidates one to five in order of preference on a ballot.
That preference list is unique to caucuses and is done so that if the voter’s top choice does not reach viability in their caucus site on caucus day — that means they usually have 15% of the room supporting them — their support can go to their second or third choice. Voters can express support for up to five choices in ranked order. For example, if a voter who voted early puts former Vice President Joe Biden as their top choice but Biden is not viable in their caucus site on Saturday, their second choice will be counted upon realignment.
The voter, once finished, signs their ballot.
The only complaints so far have been the wait times.
Some voters waited well over three hours to vote in at least one precinct on Saturday, and some voters worried that the delays would continue throughout the four-day process.
Voters even began to drive around Las Vegas looking for early voting sites with shorter lines. While the Culinary Union set up an early