In many states, early voting can be indicative of performance in a general election. In Nevada, however, its a bit more complicated. The short answer as to why is that registration numbers usually tighten up through a statewide primary, and then the Democrats usually end up expanding their registration lead through the Summer and Fall, in large part due to the Culinary Union and the Reid machine. The one big exception to this was in 2014 where the Democrat’s ended up collapsing in the November election in a way not seen in nearly a century. So, with the Democrats nationally doing poorly, the elections of November 2021 showing a double digit shift from Biden’s 2020 vote, and most importantly the Reid machine suffering not only from the Democratic Socialists of America taking control of much of the Democratic party in Nevada but also from the death of Harry Reid himself, what might we gleam from early voting numbers in Nevada so far?
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 and continues to do so. 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 usually in the past always gone with the statewide winner in every statewide contest in Nevada this century. However, Washoe, which has a slight Republican plurality or near parity, has been shifting, despite the registration numbers, more reliably to the Democrats.
2022 Numbers So-Far
Washoe early voter lead in the primary election after the first week for the Republican party has gone from 17%, 16% and 12% in 2012, 2014 and 2016, respectively, to less than one percent in 2018 and now at a deficit of over one percent. Numbers for 2020 were not readily available, but was about a 2% deficit for the Republicans overall that year.
With the rural counties being only marginally able to counter Washoe, despite their high turnout so far equal to about Washoe’s numbers, their being already high Republican propensity can only be improved upon so much. So, what about Clark County?
In Clark County, after the 1st week, the Republican party has an early voter deficit of only circa 4%. This compared favorably to 2016 and 2018 where the Democrats early voter lead was 10% and 16% respectively after the 1st week, and 16% overall in 2020.
In 2014, the GOP actually had an early voter lead in Clark County of about 3%. So, while not as good as the 2014 primary where Democratic interest was so low that “None of these Candidates” placed first in the Democratic Gubernatorial primary, it is a good sign compared to 2016, 2018, and 2020 (where the Democrats in the county had a double-digit lead), though comparable to the lead the GOP had in Clark County in 2012. So, it looks like Clark County is picking up some of the slack for Washoe, at least when it comes to GOP turn out.
Statewide, the GOP has a lead of over 4%. This is better than the nearly 3% lead the GOP had in 2016, though not as good as the nearly 6% lead they had in 2012 or the whopping 13% lead they had in 2014. Nonetheless, is far better than the 5% lead the Democrats has at this point in early voting in 2018, or the 3% lead they had overall in 2020.
The biggest difference between this early election and elections before 2020 is the change in voting method. In previous elections prior to Corona-chan (Covid), the vast majority of voting was done early voting in person, with a smaller amount coming in via absentee ballots, in about a 4:1 ratio. The remainder, of course, was in person election day votes. The in person early day votes were where the Democrats were strongest, and the absentees where the Republicans did well, with the Republicans also doing better with in person election day voting than in person early voting.
In 2020, however, almost all voting (circa 98%) was done by mail, so comparisons are difficult to make. For comparison, in the general election, the percentage of mail voting in the early vote fell to 54% with election day voting bringing in more in person voting than voting by mail. In the 2020 general, in person voting favored Republicans with mail voting favoring the Democrats even more so. So far in 2022, after the first week of early voting, the ratio of mail ballots to in person early voting fell to 2:1. How this ratio will change, if at all, for the rest of early voting in the primary remains to be seen. If the mail vote was sent in mostly early and counted already, then early voting will shift to the Republicans and might even show overall leads for the GOP in both Clark and Washoe Counties. The trends here will matter.
One of the biggest differences between the 2022 early vote and the early votes of the previous decade is that for races below statewide, the districts have changed massively. The early vote as a predictor for the general is even more tenuous than the early vote is for the general. Nonetheless, after the completion of early voting, your humble author will take a gander at both the four competitive general election state Senate races in Clark County and the three competitive Congressional races (two of which, the 1st and 3rd, are entirely within Clark County and the other, the 4th, almost entirely so), with a quick comparison of overall turnout vs. registration vs. 2020 Presidential election results.
2022, statewide, looks comparable to 2012 but not as good as 2014, though better than in 2016, 2018, or 2022. Washoe is becoming more reliably blue, while Clark County is becoming more competitive to make up for it, which is important when it comes to the plethora of Assembly races, all three potentially competitive Congressional races, and all potentially competitive state Senate races.
N.B. These results were only released last Monday, despite the 1st week of voting finishing up last Friday. The 2nd week of early in person voting and mail voting will be release similarly late next Monday. Your humble author will get an Early Vote post out that night before election day this upcoming Tuesday.