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Do Early Voting Trends Suggest High Turnout Primary?

Tuesday is Election Day in Nevada -- at least for the state's primaries.

Data from early voting -- which ends Friday -- have been released; can we read into that any to see who has an edge heading into November?

According to the Clark County Election website, 76,405 people have early voted so far out of the more than 900,000 eligible voters in Clark County.

Statewide, the total is 115,702.

But longtime political reporter Jon Ralston said you really can't extrapolate those turnout numbers for what will happen come November's general.

He believes there is a stronger reason for Democrats to get out to vote in this primary because of the battle between Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani in the race for governor.

Usually, in primaries, the voters are at the most extreme sides of the electorate. This time, Ralston believes there are more people who don't traditionally vote in primaries going to the polls.

"The question is […] what does that mean for the governor's race?" Ralston said. "Conventional wisdom is […] that would help Steve Sisolak because the more newer voters, probably more moderate voters -- not just base voters -- are going to be more likely to vote for him because he is the more moderate candidate."

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However, Ralston thinks Giunchigliani's team believes new voters are not more moderate, but actually younger and more likely to be female, which they believe could help her.

Ralston says female turnout in Clark County is significantly higher than male turnout, which could help Giunchigliani.

"It is hard to predict in a primary with such low turnout," Ralston said. "I have to believe that Sisolak has an advantage, but I would not be surprised by any result in this primary."

Ralston said a lot of money has been spent in this primary, with much from outside the state, or from so-called dark money sources. Those are nonprofits that do not have to disclose their donors.

Besides the outside money, Sisolak outraised Giunchigliani by a lot, Ralston said, but she has remained competitive in the all-important television ads.

Ralston said usually in primary elections TV ads don't matter as much as the door-to-door contact and mailers do. However, since a different group of primary voters is involved this year, TV ads might make a bigger impact.

He did want to straighten out some of what he termed "hogwash" that is being bandied about in TV ads.

"Steve Sisolak [is] saying Chris Giunchigliani helped pass a bill that made it easier for lobbyists to wine and dine -- that has nothing to do with what that bill did," he said. "On the other hand, Chris Giunchigliani keeps showing Red Rock as if Steve Sisolak wanted to build houses inside Red Rock, which he never voted to do."

But because this race remains close, every vote is going to count.

However, the race for governor will, of course, be an even bigger deal come November. Ralston expects even more money -- both regular campaign money and so-called dark money --  to be spent between June and November.

"Wait until the general election," he said. "Wait until the Senate and gubernatorial races in the general, you are going to see more […] dark money spent in this state then has ever been spent before"

Early voting ends Friday. Primary election day is Tuesday.


Jon Ralston, the Nevada Independent

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