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Nearly 100K Voted -- IS It Too Late To Win Nevada?

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(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

In this Sept. 12, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev.

The election is now just three weeks away.

But it's already begun in earnest.

Across the state, more people have cast their mail-in ballots than they did in the 2018 mid-term elections. Saturday, early voting begins.

And if the long lines seen at early voting in other states is a predictor, expect tens of thousands more to vote in Nevada before November 3.

And to date, mail-in ballots from Democrats and independents far outnumber Republicans.

"Well the Democrats are swamping the Republicans in the early going by 30 points or so," said Jon Ralson, longtime political journalist and publisher of the Nevada Independent.

Ralston notes that it is still a relatively small number of votes that have been cast, only around 5 percent or so of active voters. In addition, some of the ballots are going to be rejected or returned because of signature problems. 

"The main question is how does this affect overall turnout and especially early voting, which starts tomorrow, where the Democrats usually do very, very well," Ralston said, "If all of these Republicans are listening to the president and his local operatives that mail balloting could be susceptible to fraud and they're waiting to vote in-person that could mean very, very long lines."

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He said it could also mean more Republicans voting in-person early than have in the past. Ralston believes overall more people will cast a ballot early this year.

"People, I think, more than ever because of all the uncertainty and because of what the president and others have falsely claimed about the propensity for fraud, they just want to get their ballots in to make sure that they're counted," he said. 

Former Republican State Senator Warren Hardy believes the biggest factor for Republicans is that the president's supporters will take his advice and vote in person, rather than use the mail-in ballots.

"The number for me that is going to be much more interesting is what early voting turnout looks like in terms of partisanship," Hardy said, "I am a little surprised at the number, significantly more Democrats have done their mail-in at this point."

He did point out that mail-in ballots versus in-person voting have become politicized in the country with the Democrats telling people it is safe and distrust of practice on the Republican side.

Hardy's distrust of mail-in balloting was alleviated by the safeguards that are in place, but he said that Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske's actions during the election are going to be important.

Sondra Cosgrove is the president of the non-partisan League of Women Voters. She said how elections are executed is seen as a partisan in recent years even though it should be a non-partisan issue.

Despite the divide on the elections, Nevada has an excellent reputation when it comes to how it conducts elections.

"Nevada isn't on the top of very many 'good' lists. We're at the top of the good lists when it comes to running elections," she said, "From Barbara Cegavske to Wayne Thorley [deputy Secretary of State for elections] to Joe Gloria [Clark County Registrar of Voters] they're the best in the nation."

She said people are hearing about problems with voting and ballots in other states, but what many people don't realize is that individual states oversee elections. 

"We're actually a nice bubble of sanity right now because we have such good election officials and whether they're Democrat or Republican, they're Nevadans," she said.

Ralston pointed out that assuming there will be fraud because of mail-in balloting ignores the fact that there are dozens of safeguards built into the system to stop fraud.

Cosgrove's biggest concern about the mail-in ballot is that people won't vote because they'll see the long list of judicial candidates and not know where to start. 

For those overwhelmed with the judges on the ballot, she advises them to check out the voter information the League of Women Voters Nevada has on its website.

While there are a lot of judges on the ballot in Nevada, the appointment of a new justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has occupied a lot of space in the world of politics.

Senators held a confirmation hearing this week for Amy Coney Barrett. President Trump nominated her to fill the seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September.

Her nomination stirred up controversy because it is so close to Election Day. In 2016, Republicans refused to let Merrick Garland get a confirmation hearing because it was 11 months to Election Day.

For Cosgrove, the issue is rooted in the Constitution itself.

“The real problem is the U.S. Constitution basically allows the majority to do whatever it wants,” she said.

She said both sides need to give up being able to change congressional rules whenever they like and set up rules governing nominations that are set and codified. 

Hardy doesn't believe the nomination and the hearings this week will change too many minds for the presidential election because the hearings were not as rancorous as some in the past. 

There are a lot of issues on the ballot this fall but the race everyone is watching closely is the one for president.

“I’ve never seen anything like this election where neither candidate for president seemingly is doing anything to court the center. They both seem to be doubling down on their base,” Hardy said.

He said it hard to say exactly what that will mean but it will likely impact down-ticket races.

While most polls put former Vice President Biden ahead of the president in Nevada, he is still sending his surrogates to the state, and he is planning a rally in Carson City, indicating that his campaign believes the Silver State is still up for grabs.

"I think this election potentially would have been a lot closer had COVID not hit and the economy crumble again," Hardy said, "I'm not going to discount what the Trump campaign is seeing. Obviously, they pulled off one of the greatest upsets in electoral history in 2016. They're seeing something here in Nevada that puts it in play."

Ralston told KNPR's State of Nevada that the president is an underdog in the state. 

"It's clear that the Trump campaign still thinks he has a chance to win here, and sure, he could win here," Ralston said.

Ralston noted that the president lost Nevada to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by two-and-a-half points but nothing has changed in the state this year to indicate it will go for him.

"I still think that Biden is the favorite here, although not a lock," he said.

RESOURCES:

League of Women Voters Nevada

Clark County Election Department 

Secretary of State Election Information

Guests

Jon Ralston, publisher, Nevada Independent; Sondra Cosgrove, president, League of Women Voters of Nevada; Warren Hardy, lobbyist, former GOP state senator

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