Politics & Policy

Crunching the Early Vote Numbers in Nevada

The Democrats had another good turnout day in Clark County on Friday. They now have a 25,000 raw vote lead, which is nearly a nine-point lead relative to total registration and about four points under their registration advantage of 13 percent. Republicans still hold the overall turnout lead relative to registration in Clark and Washoe counties combined, but that edge is just under 4 percent. Democrats have a 22,000 urban vote lead when Washoe County is factored in. 

Political journalist Jon Ralston this morning compared the numbers to years past and explained why Washoe County could be the key in the Senate race:

To put this in perspective, in the last competitive race Sen. Harry Reid had — against John Ensign in 1998 (he won by 400 votes) — Reid won Clark County by less than 7 percentage points. And Reid lost Washoe County 12 years ago – although by a small margin – and that northern, urban county could be key:

Is Sharron Angle holding her home base or is she hemorrhaging Republicans, as some polls have shown? If Reid wins Washoe County, he could blunt large losses in rural Nevada, which will make up 15 to 20 percent of the overall tally. Election Day will be pivotal in Washoe, which usually turns out greater than Clark – the northerners lag behind in early voting but turn out in greater percentage numbers on Election Day.

It’s harder to tell this year because the early voting totals are so high, but Washoe turnout Tuesday is going to be pivotal.

There are many reasons for the questions about how Angle will fare in Washoe County. Among them are the endorsement of Harry Reid by state senate minority leader, Bill Raggio, and popular mayor of Reno, Bob Cashell, both Republicans. Some of Cashell’s more negative comments about Angle were even featured in a Reid television ad that has been on the airwaves in northern Nevada since mid-October.

Plenty of Washoe County voters have first-hand familiarity with Angle, though, so the impact of negative third-party opinions about her remains to be seen. Angle has been active in politics since she moved back to Reno in the late 1990s. She has run for office in every election cycle since then, beginning with challenging an incumbent for a seat on the Washoe County School Board and going on to run for state Assembly in which she eventually served four terms.

After that, she had close but unsuccessful primary bids against Republican Congressman Dean Heller in 2006 and then for a state Senate seat against Raggio in 2008 (which in part explains his vehement dislike of her). Her near-misses in those races were evidence that Angle had developed a strong conservative political base, one which helped vault her past the primary to take on Reid. Whether the more politically diverse Republican base, including moderates, will support Angle in Washoe County and across the state is the big question that will be answered on Tuesday.

Also in play in a very big way are the votes of nonpartisans and “other” parties. There are 175,000 nonpartisan, 49,000 Independent American Party and 14,000 third party active voters statewide. So far in Clark County, about 46,000 voters who belong to neither of the major parties have cast ballots.

For example, if Angle wins big, earning 65 percent of the approximate Clark County nonpartisan votes — not likely but possible if on-the-fencers and undecideds swing her way and in light of a recent poll showing her winning with independents by 17 points — that shaves more than 10,000 votes off the Democrats’ 25,000 raw vote lead in Clark County and would leave Angle down by just 12,000 urban votes going into election day. That number is by no means insurmountable if she turns out the rurals, doesn’t bleed too much in Washoe and stays steady in Clark.

(Note: There are 118,000 nonpartisan voters and 39,000 “other” third-party voters in Clark, so nonpartisan voters make up 75 percent of the total “other” registration. For purposes of the above modeling, equivalent turnout by all voter subsets was assumed and factored against the 46,000 “other” ballots so far cast in Clark County. The equation is: 75 percent of 46,000 votes is 34,500, and 65 percent of that is 22,425 votes, which leaves a remainder of 12,075 votes. The difference is 10,350.)

Another thought: If Angle wins 55-38 percent with Clark County nonpartisans, as the latest Mason-Dixon poll showed, then by the same math above, the Democrats’ urban vote lead would be shaved by just under 8,000 votes, giving the Democrats a 14,000 urban vote lead going into Tuesday. Also not insurmountable.

Here are the total turnout ratios (Washoe and Clark) as of the close of early voting Friday:

  • Democrats: 46.3 percent (actual registration slightly less)

  • Republicans: 37.6 percent (registration is 33 percent)

  • Other: 16.1 percent (registration is around 20 percent)

And the total Washoe plus Clark early vote including mail-in ballots in Clark:

  • Democrats: 161,881 (38.4 percent)

  • Republicans: 139,717 (42.2 percent)

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