Special Nevada caucus participants sign religious declaration

(JTA) — Participants in a special Saturday night Republican caucus in Nevada were required to sign a legal declaration stating they could not attend their regular caucus due to their "religious belief."

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the front-runner in the GOP presidential race, won the caucus with some 48 percent of the vote, followed by ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 23 percent and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) with 19 percent. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum garnered 11 percent of the vote.

Clark County last month moved its Feb. 4 caucus to 7 p.m., six hours after the state’s totals were scheduled to be reported, after a member of the Orthodox community complained that he would not be able to participate in the caucus since it conflicted with Shabbat.

Many supporters of Paul showed up at the caucus because they had missed their regular one for reasons other than religious. Some Paul officials suggested that what they described as the “religious test” would lead to lawsuits, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Paul won the Clark County caucus with 181 votes, more than double the other Republican challengers.

“This was designed for those who could not participate today due to religious observances,” said Dave Gibbs, the chairman of the Clark County Republican Party, according to The New York Times. “That’s all this is.”

The caucus also was open to Seventh-Day Adventists.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who with his wife recently donated $10 million to a super PAC formed to help Gingrich, attended the caucus after telling reporters last week that he was not Orthodox and would not attend. 

The special caucus was held at the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus, an Adelson-funded private school in Las Vegas.

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