Does the early vote in Nevada really spell Trump's doom in that state?

We have conflicting evidence: polling suggests Trump wins, early vote seems to suggest the opposite, or does it?

Everyone is parroting Jon Ralston


All of Ralston's analysis is based on traditional partisan assumptions. It's not clear that such assumptions will prove useful.

Ralston has acknowledged that Trump could still win, sort of

He noted that Trump would need 90% of his base, something he is achieving or coming close to as NeverTrumpers fade away. He also notes that Clinton would need to pull between 80 to 85% of her base. Alternatively, her base turnout could diminish by five to ten percent as compared to Republican turnout and it would have the same affect. Last, Trump would need to win Independents, presumably just get a little more than Clinton among Independents.

Trump International Hotel Las Vegas (21278515756)

Trump International Hotel - Las Vegas

If he does all three of these things, he could win by Ralston's estimation. I do not think it is impossible for these things to happen or even unlikely. Trump very well may be holding a substantial portion of those 200,000 new registered voters in his back pocket. Ralston doesn't know if he has that or not. The public polling could also be right, which suggests Trump is winning Independents. It's just not as clear as Ralston makes it.  


If you Google "Nevada early vote" and click the News tab, every result reports an early vote that Trump will need a "miracle" to overcome. Reliable left-wing website Vox quotes liberal Nevada politics expert, "Trump is dead" in Nevada. The reality is that all of the news sites primarily rely on Jon Ralston's analysis of the early vote, so if Jon's right, they are right. But the reverse is also true.

One can fairly label Jon Ralston more accommodating to the liberal side of things and he clearly wants Hillary Clinton to win. This fact in and of itself means nothing so long as his bias does not shape his analysis. Unfortunately, his "Trump is dead" comment, which he knew Vox, WaPo, CNN and a variety of other major sites would pick up and play off of suggests that more than hard-nosed analysis is at play.

I point out Ralston's apparent bias only because nearly every article dealing with the Nevada early vote relies on Ralston's hyperbolic characterization of the Clark County early vote from Friday. He failed to mention a few relevant facts, which I will mention here.

So what do the numbers say?

First, a note on the numbers. Any reference to percentages will correlate to a 100% scale where 100% is equal to all voters who turnout to vote in Nevada. About one million people voted in Nevada in 2012 and there are 200,000 new registered voters this time. Because there has been a large increase in registered voters, comparing raw numbers from 2016 with those of 2012 is not very helpful. We need to compare percentages.

Clark County, where Las Vegas sits, saw 57,000 votes cast on Friday, the single largest early voting day to occur in Nevada's early voting history in terms of raw numbers. But if viewed as a percentage of the total votes cast, it's probably about the same as the final day of voting in 2012. Even viewing it as the same as the last day of 2012 is misleading. While that 2016 large turnout on one day sounds impressive, it came after a period where early vote was way down in Clark County.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, through the first eleven days of the fourteen day early vote period, the total early vote statewide trailed 2012 by 3%. But in Clark County the early vote was down more sharply than that, down by 5% as compared to 2012.

Considering that statewide the early vote was down 3%, but it was down by 5% in Las Vegas, it looks like Las Vegas may have been the only place in the state where the early vote was down. Because much of that decrease came in Clark, it may be reasonable to assume that the Democrats cannibalized much of their election day turnout throughout the rest of the state to mount up that 73,000 vote "firewall."

If that happened, Republicans would have a much better shot at making up the difference on election day. If the big millennial and African-American turnout that Obama had out of Clark in 2012 collapsed in 2016, it would be sufficient to make this happen.

Back to analyzing that big last day of voters in Clark County. Yes, they had a big turnout on the last day, but that came after a period where turnout was bad. Overall it looks like the early vote fell short for Democrats by about three percent total when compared to 2012.

So all things being equal outside of the Clark County early vote, Hillary would win by 3.7%. But we know that all things are not equal. African-Americans and millennials will not turn out at the same level. With traditional Democratic turnout down and 200,000 new voters in Nevada, most of which are white, Trump could definitely still win it. And by the way, there are still the polls saying he will win.

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