Early voting in Nevada has begun, and will continue for two weeks until the weekend before Election Day. The first day of early voting tends to have one of the heaviest Democratic turn-outs vis-à-vis the Republicans, and this is again the case again this year: Democrats have built up a voter edge of over 12,000, for a voter lead of 23%, which is 9% above the Democrats active voter edge. Only half of the rural counties have reported results, so the overall first day vote will likely be comparable to the first day of early voting in 2012—which should worry Republicans severely.
Nevada est omnis divisa in partes tres
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.
Total active voter registration is up in Nevada by 16½% from 2012. However, the Democrats voter registration lead is down slightly from 90,187 in 2012 to 88,818 in 2016. From this, the first day early voting numbers, 2016 might turn into a replay of 2012, at least on the statewide level, which is bad news for Donald Trump, but potentially good news for Republican U.S. Senate nominee Joe Heck. Interestingly enough, these numbers are an improvement for Republicans since the primary election in June.
But the voter registration increase was not even across the state. In Clark County, The Democrats boosted their lead by 14,792 from 127,471 to 142,263. This was balanced out by the Washoe, where Republicans increased their lead by 2496 from 1169 in 2012 to 3665 in 2016; the rural counties adding 10,927 to the Republicans active voter lead.
This is bad news for Republicans attempt to keep control of the legislature, with nine of the ten seats they picked up in 2014 coming from Clark County, and only then by less than 2000 votes in five of the most marginal Assembly seats. Though Republicans received more votes for the Assembly in two of the last three elections, both those times were in non-Presidential election years.
While the U.S. Senate race is tight, the race to control the state Senate for the next four years is even more so, which they control by one seat (11-10). In 2012, Republicans won three of the four “swing” seats up for regular election: SD15 (by 0.4% or 266 votes) in Washoe County and the Clark County districts of SD18 (by 2.8% or 1471 votes) and SD6 (by 1.6% or 901 votes); Democrats won SD5 (by 4.0% or 1996 votes). In both SD15 and SD18, the Republicans increased their active voter registration leads from 903 to 1407 and 410 to 1967 for SD15 to SD18. SD5 is held by a popular Democrat, and saw the Democrats active voter registration lead grow from 3475 to 4056, making this seat a bit harder to win.
In SD6 there is both good news and bad news. The good news for Republicans is that though the Democrats increased their lead from 4803 to 5406, this increase of 603 is less than the 2012 margin of 901 votes. The bad news is that in 2012, the seat was won by a Republican that has the full backing of Gov. Sandoval and the machine that he’s built up, while this year is a candidate who not only defeated Sandoval’s choice, but voted against the massive tax increase Sandoval pushed in 2015, which means that the current Republican candidate, Victoria Seaman, won’t have the campaign strength that the previous state Senator, now Lt. Gov. Hutchinson, had.
Interestingly enough, the Republican would have picked up the state Senate in 2012 if it were not for a loss in the SD9 special election held to fill the vacant seat for the succeeding two years.
This one race will determine who controls the Nevada state Senate for the next four years, because every single swing seat up for election in 2018 (SD8, SD9, and SD20), is already held by the Republicans.
Additionally, there is the Trump factor. This is particularly important in the U.S. Senate race where the Republican nominee, Joe Heck, and endorsed and then unendorsed Donald Trump. How many hardcore Trump supporters will refuse to vote for Heck, or even vote for the Democratic nominee Cortez Masto. Parallels between 2012 and 2016 would be good news for Heck since Nevada was the only state in the Union to elect a Republican to the U.S. Senate while voting for Obama. The differences will make the difference: While Heck has a better campaign than Cortez Masto with a great ground game, Cortez Masto is not nearly as bad of a candidate as Shelley Berkeley was in 2012; Romney voters were not likely to vote for Berkeley over Sen. Heller.
Here are the percentages and comparison with 2012:
|Early Vote + Absentee||33.0%||48.7%||18.3%|
|Total Early 2012||36.1%||44.5%||19.4%|
|Total Early + Absentee 2012||37.0%||43.8%||17.7%|
|Early Vote + Absentee||29.8%||51.7%||18.4%|
|Early Vote 2012||29.0%||55.2%||15.9%|
|Total Early 2012||32.2%||48.2%||19.5%|
|Total Early + Absentee 2012||33.1%||47.6%||19.3%|
|Early Vote + Absentee||37.4%||45.1%||17.4%|
|Total Early Vote 2012||40.5%||40.0%||19.5%|
|Total Early + Absentee 2012||40.5%||39.9%||19.6%|
3rd Congressional District
|Actual Election Results||50.4%||42.9%||6.8%|
4th Congressional District (excepting part of Lyon County)**
|Actual Election Results||42.1%||50.1%||7.8%|
6th state Senate District
|Actual Election Results||50.8%||49.2%||N/A|
It is looking like 2016 will be in between 2008 and 2012 in outcome. the 4th Congressional District is likely lost, and the 3rd Congressional District will come down to how 3rd party and non-affiliated voters go. The 6th state Senate District (and thus the state Senate) may be lost for the GOP. The Trump factor might sink the Republican’s hope of picking up a U.S. Senate seat they desperately need to offset losses elsewhere.
* Early Vote does not include results from the following rural counties: Carson City, Churchhill, Elko, Esmeralda, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, and Storey
** Lyon County is split between the 1st and 4th Congressional Districts, and early vote broken down by CD was not immediately available; in 2012, Lyon county gave 3012 votes to the Republican, 1002 to the Democrat, and 280 votes to two 3rd Party candidates.
*** Early Vote does not include results from the following rural counties within the 4th Congressional District: Esmeralda, Lyon, Mineral, and White Pine.