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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

2020 ElectionNevada LegislatureNews and information

Our Final 2020 Early Voting Update and Election Forecast

Now that the vast majority of the early voting numbers are in, we have a much better sense of what’s happening here in Nevada. Surprise (but not really): The early voting numbers seem to agree with the higher-quality polls showing President Donald Trump losing to 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Meanwhile down-ballot, we’ve seen some interesting shifts in the past week, but ultimately it looks like the congressional and legislative races are settling into more or less the same place they landed in 2018. Or in other words: I still see blue people.

Here’s why “I’ve seen enough” to notice another “blue wave” building.
Editor’s Note: I updated this section at 1:08 PM to add in the new statewide early voting data.
Joe Biden, early voting, 2020 Election
Photo by Andrew Davey

In the increasingly immortal words of Cook Political Report analyst and NBC News contributor Dave Wasserman, “I’ve seen enough.” As of this morning, Democrats’ total early voting lead surpassed 89,000 in Clark County, settled just above 1,500 in Washoe County, and clocks in above 46,000 statewide now that the Secretary of State’s most recent report includes updated numbers from Clark County and Rural Nevada. Percentage wise Democrats statewide turnout lead is 4.14%, which fits right in-between Democrats’ 5.77% 2016 early voting turnout lead and their 3.33% 2018 early voting turnout lead.

Though we won’t know for at least another 36 hours exactly what Nonpartisans are doing, it’s been apparent since 2018 that they’re becoming a friendlier audience for Democrats thanks to so many of Nevada’s newer voters, who tend to be younger and more diverse than we saw in the past, registering as Nonpartisan. And as we noted in past early voting updates, this year’s higher-quality polls have mostly shown either a tie among self-identified independents (as The New York Times and Siena showed in their latest Nevada poll) or slightly more self-identified independents picking Biden over Trump (as UNLV and BUSR show). 

Let’s also factor in Dr. John Samuelsen’s analysis of early voting in Clark County: In the last week, more young voters have been turning in their ballots. While I’m accustomed to younger voters doing early voting later due to more of the temporary early voting sites going to major retirement communities early in the early voting period, Samuelsen has honed in on vote-by-mail (VBM) and noticed a similar trend playing out this cycle despite the major changes in how we vote. And despite some pundit chatter suggesting otherwise, the higher-quality polls have generally shown younger voters breaking pretty strongly for Biden.

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

Once again, our very valuable source in Reno delivered the goods with a detailed breakdown of Washoe County’s early voting returns up through Saturday. The good news for Republicans: Democratic turnout is a little on the weak side in their major base areas, and they managed to close their countywide turnout deficit to a mere 0.76% once in-person early voting came to a close. The good news for Democrats: They still managed to finish the traditional early voting period with this 0.76% countywide lead, and there’s evidence that Republicans frontloaded so many of their high-propensity voters during in-person early voting that there aren’t too many more of them left to help Republicans run up the score when voting centers open tomorrow.

In the historically Republican but increasingly marginal AD 25 in Southwest Reno, Republicans secured a 4.65% turnout lead, which is slightly under the 5.18% turnout lead they secured at the end of early voting in 2018. And in the more solidly Republican AD 26 in the southernmost reaches of Reno, Republicans only got to a 9.15% turnout lead, which is a little under the 11.87% turnout lead they got at the end of early voting in 2018. 

Photo by Andrew Davey

While Democrats built up big leads in most of the seats they hold, their leads look a little softer this year. In AD 24 (Downtown Reno and the University of Nevada) Democrats got to a 30.96% turnout lead, which is a little under the 33.68% turnout lead they got when early voting ended in 2018. Same goes for AD’s 27 (Northwest Reno: +13.35% this year, vs. +16.11% in 2018) and 30 (parts of Reno and Sparks: +11.59% this year, vs. +13.18% in 2018). 

In the perpetually swingy AD 31 where Assembly Member Skip Daly (D-Sparks) is up against former Assembly Member Jill Dickman (R-Sparks) for the fourth election in a row, Republicans hold a 3.44% turnout lead this year, which is actually quite similar to the GOP’s 3.41% turnout lead at the close of early voting in 2018. And in the highly competitive SD 15 (which is simply AD’s 25 and 27 combined), where State Senator Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) is up against Wendy Jauregui-Jackins (D), Democrats hold a 2.79% turnout lead.

Now with that out of the way, here’s my final election forecast for 2020. In case you were wondering, I still see blue people.
NV-Pres: Likely Democratic, projected Biden win of 6%-9%
Joe Biden, 2020 Election, early voting
Photo by Andrew Davey

When even notoriously bad actors like Trafalgar and notoriously hinky outfits like Emerson show 2% leads for Biden here in Nevada, we know that Trump’s goose is cooked. No matter how often Donald Trump, Jr., and the rest of the gang pop in to declare otherwise, it’s over. Nevada is still a blue state, and the Trumps have no “special appeal” here, at least in regards to our overall electorate. But when it comes to the 2024 caucus (or will we finally have a primary??!!), I guess Don Jr. and Ivanka have already begun to duke it out over who will take over the Trump dynasty.

Yes, we know Joe Biden didn’t draw the biggest crowds pre-caucus. And yes, we know Biden struggled at times to win over skeptical voters of color. Yet yes, we’ve seen Biden and running mate Kamala Harris put more effort this fall to shore up the Democratic base. And yes, unless all the higher-quality polls are completely wrong about independents being no worse than a wash for Biden and more Republicans crossing over to vote for Biden than Democrats crossing over to vote for Trump, the presidential race is effectively #GameOver here.

But why, oh why, is it over? Let’s see: COVID-19 remains anything but contained. Communities of color are still under attack. Human rights remain under attack at the border and alarmingly close to home. And regardless what Trump insists, that “V-shaped recovery” is leaving a whole lot of Americans behind. For all the talk of Trump “defying gravity”, gravity has finally caught up with him, especially in a state like ours where “white nationalism” and pompous bluster can only take one so far.

NV-03: Leans Democratic, projected Lee win of 3%-7%

Just like in 2018, Republicans are doing some last-minute carpet-bombing of ads all over the internet and on TV in hopes that voters here will “repeal and replace” Rep. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) with Dan Rodimer. Yet just like Danny Tarkanian and Adam Laxalt in 2018, Rodimer seems to be far more interested in currying favor with out-of-state Republican mega-donors than convincing more Nevada voters to mark their ballots for him.

In case anyone was wondering, I’m originally from Orange County. I know where that fundraiser was. It was in Rep. Harley Rouda’s (D-California) district, and Rodimer did a joint fundraiser with Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel (R), who’s running against Rouda in CA-48. Why the hell did Rodimer travel out of state to a maskless indoor gathering during an active pandemic, and why would he do it with someone who caved into pressure from anti-science demagogues and made it harder for Orange County to get a handle on its COVID-19 outbreak?

We probably already know why, and it may very well help Rodimer consolidate pro-Trump Republicans more forcefully than Tarkanian did in 2016 and 2018. However I still doubt that will be enough, as Trump only barely carried NV-03 in 2016 and probably won’t win this district again this year. This probably won’t be the last we see of Dan Rodimer (I hear we have a Senate seat coming up in 2022), but we probably won’t see him in Congress any time soon.

NV-04: Likely Democratic, projected Horsford win of 7%-11%
Steven Horsford, U.S. Postal Service
Photo by Andrew Davey

Unlike 2018, when national Republicans tried a last-ditch and last-minute carpet-bomb of field and ads to return former Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Bunkerville) to Congress, they gave up on former Assembly Member Jim Marchant (R-Las Vegas) shortly after he won the NV-04 Republican Primary in June. When we look at his illustrious track record from his one term in the Nevada Legislature, he doesn’t inspire much confidence when it comes to winning enough crossover votes that any Republican would need to come close in a district like NV-04 in a high-turnout presidential year.

For a hot second, the revelation of Rep. Steven Horsford’s (D-North Las Vegas) extramarital relationship with another person appeared to throw his campaign into turmoil. However that turned out to be an illusion, as the story faded away as no evidence materialized of Horsford breaking any laws or crossing any ethical boundaries (at least, when it comes to his public service). This race has been incredibly steady since June, and that’s been to Horsford’s advantage.

NV-Leg: Projected Senate Democratic majority of 13-14 seats, and projected Assembly Democratic majority of 27-30 seats
Nevada Legislature
Photo by Andrew Davey

For everyone who kept scrolling through this story and eagerly awaited my final projection for the Nevada Legislature, here is your reward. At first this doesn’t seem all that sexy, as I doubt we’ll see any huge shifts. And considering Democrats need ⅔+ supermajorities in both houses to enact any kind of meaningful tax reform, the prospect of another round of gridlock over another small tax bill doesn’t sound appetizing to progressives who’ve been hoping for some kind of shake-up in Carson City. But considering Democrats fell deep into the minority in 2014, then clawed their way back to the majority in 2016, then padded their majority in 2018, there’s not much left on the table for them to run up the score further in 2020.

While supermajorities are still on the table, I suspect it’s a little further from reach in the Senate due to Republicans having a historic advantage in SD 18 in Northwest Las Vegas and just enough voters continuing to split their tickets in SD 15 in the Reno suburbs. If Biden’s winning Nevada by the higher end of this forecast, or better yet exceeds my projection, then Senators Heidi Seevers Gansert and Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) are in grave danger. But as long as Biden’s performance hews more closely to U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen’s (D) and Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) respective victories in 2018, Gansert and Hammond will probably hang on. And on the flip side, Democrats almost certainly built big enough early voting leads to ensure that Senator Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas, SD 6) remains Majority Leader and Kristee Watson (D) keeps SD 5 in Democratic hands.

As for the Assembly, Republicans still have a chance at ending Democrats’ supermajority, but that chance is dwindling as Assembly Member Lesley Cohen (D-Henderson) looks set to win again in AD 29 and Assembly Member Shea Backus (D-Las Vegas) appears to be pulling away a bit in AD 37. Right now the closest races appear to be Assembly Member Connie Munk’s (D-Las Vegas) in AD 4, the open Republican-held seat in AD 2, and Skip Daly in AD 31 (see above). I’ve looked like a fool for betting against Daly before, so let’s just say that as long as he defeats Dickman yet again, Democrats just need to win at least one more Tossup seat to keep their supermajority. So far it looks like they will, but all three of those seats continue to teeter on a knife’s edge.

Finally, one more round of PSA’s
early voting, 2020 Election
Photo by Andrew Davey

So that’s that, at least for now. I’ll be back later this week to assess whether my predictions here and whether my warning from last Thursday hold up.

If you haven’t voted yet, check below for some valuable 411. If you have already voted and want to check your ballot’s status, check Ballottrax. And if you’re worried about your own vote or a loved one’s vote being challenged and/or suppressed, check with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, NYU’s Brennan Center, and the ACLU for available resources.

For more information on how to vote this year, check out the Nevada Secretary of State’s comprehensive site explaining our various options. If you’re already registered to vote at your current address and you voted in 2018, you were probably mailed a ballot thanks to AB 4 becoming state law in August. You still have time to either turn in your ballot at a secure drop-off site or vote in person. If you still need to register for the first time or update your registration, you can register at a local voting site tomorrow. And for more information on how to vote this fall, NBC News and The Washington Post have great resource guides to keep on deck.

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