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This Is It: Our Final Early Voting Report and 2018 Election Forecast

Last night early voting didn’t end with a bang, but with a full atomic blast. Some 13,000 Nevadans cast ballots in Washoe County just yesterday. And in Clark County, over 48,000 Nevadans had cast ballots as voting centers went into overtime to process the long lines.

With statewide early voting turnout this year already surpassing overall turnout four years ago, it’s increasingly looking like a “blue wave” is heading our way. Grab your surfboards, and enjoy the ride!

Say it with me one more time: Washoe, Washoe, Washoe!
Photo by Andrew Davey

While so much of the focus has been on the big kahuna down south (Clark County), something remarkable has been happening in Northern Nevada. In a county where Republicans have about a 2% voter registration edge, Democrats have been outvoting Republicans. Though Republicans occasionally narrowed the gap, they just couldn’t overcome it. With all the early votes tallied, Democrats now have a 1.45% turnout lead, or 1,761 votes out of 118,437 ballots cast thus far. (There are another 4,542 mail-in ballots that haven’t yet been returned, and Republicans have a 443 ballot advantage there.)

Once again, our very valuable source in Reno delivered with a very detailed breakdown of the Washoe early vote tally. Here’s what happened: Democrats finished strong in three of the four Assembly Districts they hold, as they ended with a 33.68% (or 4,342 raw vote) turnout lead in AD 24 (the University of Nevada and Downtown Reno), a 16.11% (or 2,419 vote) turnout lead in AD 27 (Northwest Reno and Sun Valley), and a 13.18% (or 1,729 vote) turnout lead in AD 30 (Reno-Tahoe Airport and Downtown Sparks.

In the fourth district Democrats hold, AD 31 (Sparks and outer suburbs), Republicans finished with a 3.41% (or 628 vote) turnout lead, suggesting big trouble for Assembly Member Skip Daly (D-Sparks). Meanwhile in the two Reno suburban Assembly Districts held by Republicans, they only got a mere 5.18% (or 1,182 raw vote) turnout lead in AD 25 (Southwest Reno) and an 11.87% (or 2,903 vote) turnout lead in AD 26 (Damonte Ranch to Incline Village [Tahoe]).

Ultimately, the trend we saw develop last week largely held in the final days. While Republicans fared well in areas dominated by the kind of non-college white voters who swung hard to President Donald Trump in 2016, they continued to struggle in neighborhoods with more college-educated voters who normally voted Republican but were willing to choose Hillary Clinton over Trump. Meanwhile, Democrats mostly ran up the score in the blue base turf where they needed more younger voters and voters of color to turn out.

Viva Las Vegas
Photo by Andrew Davey

Earlier this morning, the Clark County Election Department finally released the final early voting tally down here. In total 382,650 have voted early (both in-person and by mail), with Democrats holding a whopping 47,204 vote (or 11.13%) turnout lead over Republicans.

Thanks to those hefty Vegas numbers, Democrats have rocketed to a 3.56% voter turnout lead statewide, or 22,382 votes out of a grand total of 628,771 ballots cast (according to the Secretary of State’s 7:00 AM report). To put this in historical context, Republicans finished early voting in 2014 with about a 7% turnout lead. And in 2010, Democrats and Republicans had a nearly dead even split in statewide turnout.

With Democrats getting this kind of lead in Clark County and pulling into the lead in Washoe County, Republicans’ only remaining hope lies in the rurals. Yet so far 35.42% of active registered voters have cast ballots statewide, and that number includes 34.99% of registered voters here in Clark County and 38.91% of registered voters in Washoe County. So while the rurals are punching a little above their weight, there’s still no evidence pointing to a massive wave of rural Republicans to wash out Democrats’ advantage in the two urban counties.

And now, my final election forecast!
Photo by Andrew Davey

Here comes the fun part: My final election forecast of 2018. Now that we know the full early voting picture, I feel more confident in calling the statewide contests:

NV-Sen – Leans Democratic, projected Rosen win of 2-5%
NV-Gov – Leans Democratic, projected Sisolak win of 2-5%

At last night’s rally with Jimmy Kimmel, Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), and a host of other A-list stars, both Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) and Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak (D) voiced confidence with a wee bit of caution and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Now that we see the full early voting landscape, we know why.

Even if Senator Dean Heller (R) and Adam Laxalt (R) are winning among Nonpartisans by the kinds of modest margins that the recent CNN-SSRS and New York Times-Siena polls suggested they are, it’s probably not enough to overcome Democrats’ turnout lead. Unless they’re doing even better than these polls suggest (and keep in mind that some internal polls show Rosen with a slight lead among Nonpartisans), they need the kind of last-minute surge of Republican voters on Tuesday that just isn’t looking likely any more.

NV-03 – Leans Democratic, projected Lee win of 3-7%
NV-04 – Likely Democratic, projected Horsford win of 5-8%

While some Democrats have been a little jittery over their smaller turnout lead in NV-03, keep in mind that Democrats also have a smaller registration advantage there. And while Trump and his allies have proceeded with a last minute “dark money” bomb to prop up Danny Tarkanian (R) after the NRCC triaged him, Tarkanian has yet to see a significant “Trump Bump”. Instead signs point to Susie Lee (D) winning over a larger share of Nonpartisans and Republican crossover voters than Rosen, suggesting she has more of a cushion to overcome the larger Republican numbers.

Over in NV-04, Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) has the benefit of a far more robust Democratic turnout lead. While Cresent Hardy (R-Bunkerville) has a history of running up the score in rural territory, it probably isn’t anywhere near enough to erase Horsford’s advantage in the urban and suburban Clark County parts of the district.

NV-Leg – Democrats hold Senate with 13-14 seats, Democrats hold Assembly with 26-28 seats

As I mentioned above, Assembly Member Skip Daly is in deep jeopardy in AD 31. But down south, Republicans have been lagging in AD 4 in Northwest Las Vegas and AD 37 in Las Vegas-Summerlin. In addition, some Democrats have been bullish about crossover appeal in AD 22 in Henderson. While Republicans have a slight advantage in AD’s 22 and 31, AD’s 4 and 37 look like pure Tossups. Wherever these four seats ultimately fall, Democrats are guaranteed to maintain a large majority in the Assembly.

Meanwhile in the Senate, Republicans had kept turnout close enough in the Summerlin based SD 8 to have a shot at winning it back after Patricia Farley (NP-Summerlin South) left the Republican caucus in 2016, until Democrats took the lead in the final hours of early voting. Meanwhile, Republican turnout has fallen far behind Democrats’ in the Southwest Vegas based SD 9 and slipped behind Democrats in the Henderson based SD 20. Democrats look poised to add to their Senate majority next Tuesday, but it remains to be seen if they can hit the magic ⅔ supermajority mark in either chamber of the Legislature.

The other statewide constitutional offices, and final pre-election odds and ends
Photo by Andrew Davey

Right now, I’d say Democrats are in a prime position to win at least four of the six statewide constitutional offices. In addition to Sisolak in the Gubernatorial race, Kate Marshall (running for Lt. Governor), Aaron Ford (running for Attorney General), and Zach Conine (running for Treasurer) appear favored in their respective races. If any Republicans hang on, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R) and Controller Ron Knecht (R) have the best odds of surviving the “blue wave” due to their Democratic opponents struggling to build enough name recognition statewide (Nelson Araujo isn’t well known outside Clark County, and Catherine Byrne isn’t well known in Clark County.)

Otherwise, it’s looking more likely that a “blue wave” is indeed hitting Nevada. Up until now Republicans have voiced confidence in “Trump Bump”, “Kava-mentum”, “MAGA-mentum”, and Donald Trump somehow being magic. But now, we know that turnout won’t stay near its 2014 historic lows (in fact, we’ve already surpassed total 2014 turnout!). With turnout being so high overall, and with turnout including more of the younger and diverse voters who Republicans were hoping would stay home, it increasingly appears that Heller’s and Laxalt’s big bit on Trumpism is going to be a big bust next Tuesday.

But no worries, as Trump has already gotten a head start at blaming other Republicans for their impending loss. Enjoy that blame game, Dean and Adam.

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