Early voting has always been the bulk of the vote in Nevada, but unlike previous years, this primary has ballots automatically mailed out to everyone, with the option of voting early in person, while before Corona-chan (COVID) absentee ballots had to be requested. So, how does the 2nd week of early voting this primary compare to previous years?
Nevada est omnis divisa in partes tres
To reiterate from the previous post from the 1st week of early voting:
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 for the 2nd Week
Washoe early voter lead has gone from 20%, 11% and even in 2014, 2016, and 2018 respectively (as well as a near even slight Democratic lead overall in 2020), to a slight near even GOP lead of less than 1% in the 2nd week of the 2022 primary. Washoe continues to underperform compared to previous year and this is consistent with Washoe becoming more friendly to Democrats despite a nominal GOP voter registration edge.
In contrast, the 2nd week for Republicans in Clark County is better, with a deficit of nine thousand votes or about 6% lead for the Democrats. The Democrats’ lead in 2016 and 2018 in the 2nd week was 10% and 16% respectively, while in 2014 the Republicans actually had a 7% lead in a primary with disastrous turn-out for the Democrats where “None of these candidates” won the plurality of votes for the Democratic nomination for Governor.
Statewide, the GOP had a slight lead statewide of just under 1%. The total GOP turnout lead is about six thousand votes. The ratio of mail ballots returned to in person voting did increase slightly, as would be expected with ballots arriving shortly before the end of voting. Overall, the GOP is doing better than it did at this point than they did in 2018 or 2020, and perhaps comparable to 2016.
As noted previously, the results need to be taken with a grain of salt due to the myriad difference between this primary and previous primaries, as well as the differences in registration changes between primaries and general elections more broadly. Unlike in the 2012-2020 cycle, the drawn districts are less competitive, but more vulnerable for the Democrats in a pro-GOP wave election. Statewide, though, 2016 is probably a better baseline than 2018 or 2020.
Congressional and Swing State Senate Races in Clark County
Unfortunately, the data from Clark County only includes in person voting, and not absentee totals, meaning that the early voter data is only about 36% of the total for Clark County, and is overwhelmingly Republican. Of note, in the past the absentee ballots for each of the two weeks reports were separate, and the EASE ballots (e.g. military, overseas, &c.) do show lower numbers in the 2nd week than in the 1st for some counties, so absentees will be assumed to be the same.
Nonetheless, the in person early vote lead for the GOP was about 18%. This is similar to the 1st and 3rd Congressional district, with about 18% and 20% respectively. The Clark County portion of the 4th Congressional district is only a 10% in person GOP voter lead, though the rural portions, which while having many fewer voters is overwhelmingly Republican, probably bumps up the overall lead for the GOP in the 4th district to comparable numbers.
In the three swing state Senate districts (8th, 9th, and 20th) the leads are 25%, 18% and 20%, respectively. While this may seem good for the GOP, the overall in person early voter advantage in Clark County for the Democrats is nearly 6% overall, which is a 24% shift to the Democrats. Only in one state Senate race would this indicate more Democratic than Republican voters, so far.
To compare with the 2020 general, which saw mail ballots with a 28% voter edge for the Democrats and a 7% in person early voter edge for Republicans, with an overall (including election day vote) voter lead for democrats of circa 10%. The in person early voting was about four times that of the election day vote in Clark County, which was comparable to the statewide ratio. The ratio of mail ballots to in person early voting was 5:4, which compares to this primary of only 3:1. Since the laws and presence of lockdowns/Covid has changed it is hard to assume that the trends will be similar, but if election day voting is heavily Republican and higher than it was in the 2022 election, all those districts could become competitive, especially if the political climate worsens for the Democrats and/or the Democratic machine in Nevada does significantly worse now that Harry Reid has died.
The rightward shift in Clark County seems to be offsetting a leftward drift in Washoe County, which helps bring three of Nevada’s four Congressional districts into play for Republicans in a good GOP-wave year, as well as enough state Senate districts into play to potentially allow the GOP to pick up the state Senate (and make gains in the state Assembly).
The important lesson to learn from the primary is not the partisan turn-out, but the turnout patterns for mail voting, in person early voting, and election day voting.