2018 has proven to be quite the epic midterm election year, and we still have just over one more week left until it’s all over. We’ve now had over a week of early voting here in Nevada, and some trendlines are finally emerging. So what’s really happening at the ballot boxes, and who’s benefiting from it?
Nine days in, who’s worrying about losing?
Last weekend was a big one for early voting. Not only did Clark County mostly buck the trend of slowing down during the second weekend, but Democrats hit the jackpot in turnout. After scoring two days in a row of a 16% turnout advantage over Republicans, Democrats have built up a 25,000 vote lead (or about 10%) in Nevada’s most populous county. As we discussed last Friday, this matters in terms of Democrats building enough of a “Clark County firewall” to withstand big losses in the rural counties. They probably need to finish early voting with at least a 35,000 vote lead in Clark County to calm nerves (and 40,000+ to feel more confident), and last weekend’s haul makes this strong finish much more likely.
Also as a result of the big Clark County numbers, Nevada Democrats have powered their way back to a roughly 3% statewide turnout lead (or just over 11,000 votes). This means that Democrats continue to run well ahead of their 2014 catastrophe. And more importantly, this means that Democrats are still running ahead of their 2010 performance, when that year’s evenly split early voting turnout was enough to save Senator Harry Reid (D) and several other statewide Democrats, but not enough to save Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas, who barely lost reelection in NV-03 in 2010, then came back to win in the newly redrawn NV-01 in 2012) and a couple other Democrats down-ballot.
Thus far, Clark County has been mostly predictable in that Republicans are hanging on in their strongholds and in most of their marginal seats while Democrats are running up the score in their strongholds and their marginal seats. But on the other end of the state, the first week’s results tell a more fascinating story and provide some clues to where this election may be heading.
Over the weekend, a very valuable source sent me a thorough breakdown of the first week of early voting in the critical battleground of Washoe County. Overall the numbers look great for Democrats, though there’s one clear sore spot that might at least cost them a supermajority in the Nevada Legislature.
In the first week of early voting, Democrats scored big numbers out of the three Reno based Assembly Districts they hold: AD 24 (which includes Downtown Reno and the University of Nevada, Democrats had a 33.5% turnout lead here), AD 27 (which includes much of West Reno and the northern suburbs, Democrats had a 16.9% turnout lead here), and AD 30 (which includes the airport and much of Sparks, Democrats had an 11.5% turnout lead here). In addition Democrats are overperforming in AD 25 (as Republicans only had a 4.8% turnout lead here), a normally Republican-heavy area that includes many affluent Southwest Reno neighborhoods where Donald Trump only won by 4.92%. (In contrast, Mitt Romney carried AD 25 by 6.24% in 2012.)
However, there is one bright spot for Republicans up north: In the first week, they did jump to a lead in AD 31, which includes the rest of Sparks and outlying suburban areas. Not only does this suggest Assembly Member Skip Daly (D-Sparks) is in jeopardy of losing his rematch against Jill Dickman (R-Sparks), but U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) and Adam Laxalt (R) may at least be mitigating some of the underperformance in other parts of the Reno-Sparks region (see above) that are more heavily populated by voters of color and college educated voters.
Looking ahead: Why does Vegas fluctuate?
While Washoe County has mostly been consistent in Democrats overperforming registration with each day of early voting turnout, Clark County has been vacillating between decent days for Republicans and fantastic days for Democrats. What’s the deal with that?
Here’s the scoop: Down here in Vegasland, we have permanent and temporary early voting sites. At this time a week ago, Clark County had temporary early voting sites in three Republican strongholds: Sun City Summerlin, Sun City Anthem, and Mesquite. The latter is more rural, and all three locales are heavily populated by wealthier white retirees who tend to vote consistently Republican. In contrast last weekend, Clark County had temporary early voting sites in West Las Vegas, Spring Mountain Chinatown, the Maryland Parkway corridor, and the famous East Las Vegas Cardenas supermarket: All are considered Democratic strongholds.
Today the temporary early voting sites have mostly moved back to more Republican-friendly turf: Anthem-Solera in Henderson, Summerlin again (this time, the Sahara West library), and Boulder City, though they may be partially offset by the early voting sites at CSN North Las Vegas and a week-long site that just opened in East Las Vegas. But starting Wednesday, the temporary sites move one last time, and they will mostly be moving onto more Democratic-friendly turf, such as the UNLV campus and CSN West Charleston.
I hope this helps in clearing away any confusion over how our early voting numbers have been fluctuating. Hang tight, as we have four-and-a-half more days of this. And if you still haven’t voted yet, check the list to see where you can vote this week, as early voting ends Friday!