The first week of early voting in Nevada for the primary election has concluded. Increasingly, early voting has become the choice of a larger and larger majority of voters in Nevada. Traditionally, early voting has skewed Republican compared to election day and over all results; absentees have usually been even more Republican.
Since the Presidential Caucuses are held earlier in the year, it is easier to compare 2016 with 2012: Both years had a Senate primary in a Presidential election year with clear front runners, at least one House seat with a competitive primary in Clark County (home of Las Vegas and a majority of Nevada voters), and no other statewide races on the ballot.
And so, the comparison. The number of active registered voters in Nevada in 2016 is 22% higher than it was in 2012, so naturally the number of voters in the primary can be expected to be higher than in 2012. However, the number of primary voters so far at this point in early voting is only 12% higher than in 2012, with 65,414 early voters in 2016 compared to 47,950 after the first week in 2012.* This, of course, does not mean much when it comes to either turnout in November, or new registrants between now and November.
The state can be divided, as Caeser might say, into three parts: Clark County, which contains Las Vegas and 70% of the states population; Washoe County, which contains Reno and 20% of the states population; and the rural counties, which contain 10% of the states population.
Clark County leans Democratic, while the rural counties are overwhelmingly Republican if not more conservative (hard right 3rd parties can be elected to partisan office in many rural counties). This leaves Washoe as the “Bellwether” county which has, with two notable exceptions, always gone with the statewide winner in every statewide contest in Nevada this century.
That being said, the numbers do not bode well for the Republicans. A comparison of turnout, as a percentage of the vote is noted below for statewide, Clark County, and Washoe County results:
As a starting point between 2012 and 2016, this is an ominous sign for Republicans. Their statewide turnout gap shrunk from over 9 points in 2012 to less than 3 points in 2016. Even more ominously, their deficit in Clark County shrank from 2 points to 10. Even in Washoe County shrank from 16 points to 11 points.
The one big caveat, however, is that primary numbers are not reflective of what will happen in November. Indeed, there were many races where one candidate in a non-partisan race received a majority of votes in June, but was wiped out in November.**
Let us, then, take a gander at registration numbers. As noted, only active registration numbers will be considered, as inactive registrations are a poor predictor of the electorate in a state with a highly mobile, including interstate mobile, residency.
Statewide, the Democrats have a 66 thousand vote advantage compared to 2012 statewide advantage of 39 thousand. In Clark County, the Democrat advantage increased from about 76 thousand to 114 thousand. The only bright spot for Republicans was a slight increase in advantage in Washoe county from under 4 thousand to well over 5 thousand.
As noted, registration before the June primary is not necessarily indicative of results in November. Take, for example the number for 2014.
In 2012, the Democrats has a statewide registration advantage of about 39 thousand, compared in an increased advantage of over 62 thousand in 2014, which is close to the 2016 advantage of about 66 thousand. In Clark County the 2014 Democrat advantage was over 102 thousand was closer to the 114 advantage in 2016 than compared with the only about 77 thousand in 2012. Yet, despite the registration advantage being better for Democrats in 2014 at this point than in 2012, the Republicans did much, much better in 2014 than in 2012. In particular, the Republican candidates for Assembly won more votes than Democrats for the second time in three elections.
In large part, 2014 results in Nevada were due to the popularity of Gov. Sandoval and the fact that “None of these candidates” won the Democratic Gubernatorial Primary (with the actual candidate winning the November slot effectively retiring out of country and not campaigning on iota). However, Republicans winning more votes for Assembly candidates than Democrats was not a fluke, as this was a repeat of the statewide results in 2010.
That being said for 2014, the 2016 results will more likely mirror 2012 results than 2014. This does not spell absolute doom for Republicans in November, though Hillary Clinton is a prohibitive favorite to win Nevada’s six electoral votes. Even in 2012, Republican Dean Heller won the U.S. Senate Race, the only Republican to do so in a state that Obama won. Even the state Senate would have flipped to the Republicans if it had not been for a special election to fill a vacancy due to the resignation of a Republican state Senator who resigned due to a scandal (the seat was retaken by Republicans easily in 2014).
To whit: Hillary is favored to win Nevada’s electoral votes; The Democrats are less favored to keep the U.S. Senate Seat; the Assembly will likely flip back to the Democrats and GOP control of the state Senate is endanged.
To greater whit: November will come down to turn-out, mostly from the effects of the Presidential race.
Considering just how unpredictable this Presidential election cycle has been, it’ll come down to “we’ll see” when it comes down to impact on non-Presidential races in Nevada.
* Nevada has two weeks of early voting concluding the week before the scheduled election. Nevada also allows absentee voting, though it is not as unlimited as many other states.
** For non-partisan races, there has been several statutory changes regarding run-offs, with some confusion thereto from some quarters.
*** There are two minor parties with full ballot access in Nevada: The Libertarian Party and the Independent American Party, the later having past affiliation with the national Constitution Party and with their own literal armed militia; the later has far more registered members than the Libertarian Party. The non-partisan vote in Nevada has traditionally skewed conservative in voting patterns.