The conventional wisdom on the 2016 elections is that even though Donald Trump is leading in the polls in Nevada, the Democrats have voted in such high numbers in Clark county that they have built an insurmountable lead over Donald Trump. In other words, the early votes have beat the polls. This conventional wisdom comes primarily from Jon Ralston, widely considered the Nevada political guru.
So, I decided to take a look at the actual early vote totals from the Nevada Secretary of State. It turns out the conventional wisdom may not be true. Here are the raw numbers.
In 2016, in Clark county, it is true that the Democrats have a lead of 72,672 early votes (early in person voting, absentee and mail-in voting) over the Republicans. However, its worth keeping in mind that in 2012 in Clark county, the Democrats had a 70,708 early vote lead also. If you look across the state, in 2016, the Democrats have a early vote lead of 45,618. In terms of percentage of votes, for 2016 across Nevada its 42.1% Democrats, 36.18% Republicans and 21.72% others. In 2012, however, the Democrats had a early vote lead of 48,227. In percentage terms, that translated into 43.8% Democrats, 36.96% Republicans and 19.24% others. So, the Democratic percentage of early votes in 2016 is less than it was in 2012. So, where is the surge?
Here is another interesting number to keep in mind. In 2012, the number of active registered voters in Nevada was 1,258,409. In 2016, the number of active registered voters are 1,464,819. That is an increase in registrations of 16.4%. If we look at the total number of early votes from 2012 and also 2016, we see that there were a total of 65,008 new early votes in 2016 (770,059 early votes in 2016 versus 705,051 early votes in 2012). In other words, a 9.22% increase in early votes against a registration increase of 16.4%. That is a significant enthusiasm gap. Let’s break that number down by party affiliation. In 2016, the percentage increase in the early votes from 2012 is 4.99% increase in Democrats, 6.91% increase in Republicans and 23.3% increase in others. The enthusiasm is marginally on the side of the Republicans in early voting, not with the Democrats.
What does all this tell us? Well, it tells us that the Democrats are not going into election day in Nevada with what has been widely reported as an insurmountable lead in early votes. Now, remember that Obama won Nevada in 2012 with a 3% margin. So, its still possible Hillary Clinton will carry the state. However, judging by numbers across the entire state, it is not clear to me that there is a reasonable basis for saying that the polls are wrong. Once again the echo chamber of the press has taken one report and magnified it without looking at the actual numbers.
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