Two weeks after Nevada Democrats voted in the first ever mostly vote-by-mail primary, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas), Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Will McCurdy, and other party leaders held a press call to show party unity for the general election this fall. Now that Joe Biden has clinched the party’s presidential nomination and the rest of the party’s ticket has been determine, Nevada Democrats put their best feet forward in shifting into general election mode.
“We saw an increase in primary turnout that indicated that our Democratic voters are very motivated this year.”
– State Senator Joyce Woodhouse
As of last Friday, just over 491,000 Nevadans cast ballots in this year’s primary. 43% of the ballots cast were Democratic, and 40% were Republican. As I noted during our last primary update, Democrats’ nearly 17,000 vote turnout lead in the 2020 primary marks improvement from Democrats’ mere 3,000 vote turnout in the 2018 primary, and from Republicans’ turnout lead in the 2016 (down-ballot) primary.
Democratic leaders hailed this turnout as a positive sign going forward. According to retiring State Senator Joyce Woodhouse (D-Henderson), “We saw an increase in primary turnout that indicated that our Democratic voters are very motivated this year.”
And as Assembly Member and Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Will McCurdy (D-Las Vegas) summed it up, “I can definitely feel the momentum. […] Democrats are ready to usher in a new future.”
“We’re going to bring this party back together. […] We have such qualified candidates who inspire our voters to come together.”
– Rep. Dina Titus
Since Nevada Democrats’ Presidential Caucus in February, Democrats have been heartened by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vermont) mostly amicable end to his presidential campaign and former Vice President Joe Biden catapulting the party into a surprisingly strong position in the general election against incumbent President Donald Trump. Yet even though the caucus now feels like ancient history, Nevada Democrats must still deal with some more recent down-ballot fallout, particularly in races like the incredibly contentious SD 7 primary.
But during today’s call, Democratic leaders stressed that any lingering divisions can and will be overcome. According to Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas), “The answer is absolutely yes, especially here in Nevada. We’re going to bring this party back together.” She then added, “We have such qualified candidates who inspire our voters to come together.”
And as McCurdy put it, “[Trump] is the exact opposite of what we need and what we deserve in the White House. We know Donald Trump is bad. We know he’s dangerous.” He continued, “It’s not enough to know that Trump is bad. We need candidates who will inspire us and give us hope, so I’m glad that we have our candidates.”
“Democrats are very good at knocking doors and making calls. […] Now, we have to do all that virtually.”
– Rep. Dina Titus
So how confident are Democratic leaders about a general election that’s increasingly being defined by fear, loathing, and so many more terrible themes? According to Woodhouse, “We are very strongly positioned to have a great election this fall to hold and expand our majority. We are seeing an increase in Democratic voter registration in all of our targeted districts.”
More specifically, Democrats have increased their voter registration advantages further in battleground seats SD 5 (+7%), SD 6 (+8.3%), and SD 15 (+1.1%) since our first 2020 election forecast in March, and they’ve narrowed Republicans’ advantage (-3%) in SD 18. Zooming out from there, Democrats have inched further ahead to a 9.5% registration advantage in NV-04 and a 3.2% advantage in NV-03. And statewide, Democrats now have a 5.74% registration advantage (or 93,550 raw votes).
In addition to the encouraging voter registration trendlines, party leaders also touted their candidates’ fundraising prowess. And when asked about Republicans’ suite of digital campaign tools, Titus fired back, “They’re in shambles, quite frankly.” After pointing out the Republican Party’s internal conflict behind the drama surrounding Las Vegas City Council Member Michele Fiore, Titus quipped, “Democrats are very good at knocking doors and making calls. […] Now, we have to do all that virtually.”
“We owe it to our voters to make sure they can vote without long lines and long waits.”
– Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson
While overall voter turnout spiked and Democratic turnout proved quite strong considering most of the heavy primary action was on the Republican side, we nonetheless saw problems on Election Day with long lines at in-person voting sites. What, if anything, will be done to remedy these problems?
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) didn’t hold back in describing what went wrong: “In Clark County, we had folks wait seven hours. That is simply unacceptable.” He then declared, “We can’t have only three voting sites in Clark County. We can have folks vote by mail. We can have more [in-person] voting sites open so that people are not waiting in line for seven hours. We owe it to our voters to make sure they can vote without long lines and long waits.”
While Frierson didn’t endorse a specific voting rights plan of action for the Legislature’s special session that will apparently kick off next month, it sounds like that will be on their agenda. Titus then chimed in, thanked Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R) for resisting fellow Republicans’ attempt to sabotage the vote-by-mail primary, and called on the Republican-run U.S. Senate to take up the HEROES Act that includes funding to help states expand voting by mail.
Getting back to Democrats’ objective of winning the election, Titus said, “We can’t take anything for granted. We’ve got to get to work.” She then reminded everyone of how much her constituents matter in deciding Nevada’s elections: “District 1 is the key to victory statewide. District 1 is where the Democrats are. As long as we turn them out, we will win.”