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Victor Joecks: 4 observations from Nevada early voting data

If you don’t believe the polls, believe the early voting data. Nevada’s biggest races are going to be close. Here are four observations.

1. Neither side has pulled away. When they win, Nevada Democrats usually establish a large lead in the number of early voters. This can allow them to effectively bank enough votes to win before the polls close. Republicans historically make up ground on Election Day.

In 2016, 27,000 more Democrats than Republicans had cast ballots by the end of the first week of early voting. Coincidentally, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto won their statewide races by around 27,000 votes each.

After five days of early voting, just 3,243 more Democrats than Republicans have voted. That’s a huge win for Republicans and worrisome for Democrats. Caveat: A Democrat or Republican voter can always select the other party’s candidates.

So while the data are predictive, they’re not perfect. Independent voters, which at least one Republican insider thinks are more Democrat-leaning than usual this year, will also play a large role.

2. Exceptional Republican turnout in Clark County. Clark County is a Democrat stronghold, with 137,000 more Democrats registered than Republicans. It’s those Republicans, however, who are keeping this election close.

Turnout always drops in nonpresidential elections. In Clark County, Democrats have turned out 73 percent of the Democratic voters who had voted at this point in 2016.

Republicans have turned out 88 percent of their 2016 voters — an incredible feat. The Republican National Committee has invested heavily in its Nevada voter turnout operation. So far, it’s paying dividends.

In Clark County, Democrats have a 42-29 percent advantage in voter registration. But in-person voter turnout has been in favor of Democrats by just 45-36 percent. Those numbers are worrisome for Democrats running statewide.

3. Trump’s Elko rally hasn’t boosted Elko turnout. President Donald Trump drew a crowd of 8,500 last Saturday in Elko. The entire county has a population of 53,000. It was an impressive audience, but turnout in Elko has lagged. Outside of Clark and Washoe counties, Republican turnout is 84 percent of what it was at this time in 2016. That number understates Republican strength in rural Nevada, because Republicans have racked up a huge advantage in absentee ballots from Nye and Douglas counties.

In Elko, however, Republican turnout has been just 81 percent of 2016, and voters have returned fewer absentee ballots as well.

4. Washoe is a toss-up. Democrats started out strong in Washoe County, building a 1,483-voter lead by Monday.

Republicans have a 2-point voter registration advantage there, and it’s considered Nevada’s most important swing county. Democrats’ voter lead is now 1,318. At this point in 2016, Democrats led by 1,742. It’s the one place in Nevada where Democrats are turning out more of their 2016 voters than Republicans — 81 percent to 78 percent.

Bottom line: If you want a wave, go to the ocean. Nevada’s statewide races are going to be close.

Victor Joecks is a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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