Voting is underway in Nevada. Here's what to know about voting and ballot access in 2022
NEVADA — Ballots are being cast at early voting sites and mail-in ballots have arrived in Nevada mailboxes as voters in the battleground state prepare to wield an outsized influence on the direction of the country.
With the balance of power in the U.S. Senate at stake this November, political analysts are keeping a close eye on the Nevada race between incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.
But that’s not the only race receiving heavy scrutiny. Democrats have held both houses of the state Legislature and nearly every statewide office in Nevada for the past two years, and the incumbents are facing stiff challenges in the race for governor, treasurer and secretary of state.
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Here are some key points and races taking place in Nevada.
The latest on voting rights, ballot access in Nevada
Nevada’s Legislature has passed bills to expand ballot access over the past few decades, approving early-voting periods in 1993, implementing same-day voter registration in 2019 and temporarily approving universal mail-in balloting in 2020 — a process made permanent in the 2021 legislative session, despite opposition from Republican legislators.
All registered voters automatically receive mail-in ballots for primary and general elections unless they opt out of the program.
Nevada’s early-voting window this fall takes place from Oct. 22 through Nov. 4, prior to Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Nevada residents may register to vote at polling locations or online at registertovote.nv.gov on any date up to and including Nov. 8.
A form of government-issued photo identification — including driver’s licenses, DMV-issued identification cards and military identification cards — must be presented at the time of registration. Those unable to present identification may be given a provisional ballot.
Voter ID is not necessary for previously registered voters unless the voter’s signature does not match the signature on file with the original voter application.
Prospective voters must have resided in Nevada for 30 days prior to the election.
Those currently incarcerated for felony convictions are ineligible to vote in Nevada.
What will happen on Election Day
On Nov. 8, those who did not cast mail-in or early-voting ballots will head to polling locations throughout the state. Nevada state law prohibits electioneering — the soliciting of votes for or against any candidate, measure or political party; displaying of campaign materials; or handing out paraphernalia — within 100 feet of the entrance to polling areas.
In addition to the U.S. Senate race, all of Nevada's statewide constitutional offices are up for election — governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general and controller.
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Control of the state Legislature, currently in the hands of Democrats, is up for grabs this fall; 37 of the 42 seats in the Nevada Assembly and nine of the 21 seats in the Nevada Senate are up for election.
Also on the Nevada general election ballot: Question 1, a state version of the Equal Rights Amendment; Question 2, which would increase the state's hourly minimum wage to $12; and Question 3, which would implement open primaries and ranked-choice voting in a state where third-party voters and nonpartisans outnumber either Republicans or Democrats.
Why it matters
The race between Cortez Masto and Laxalt is one of a handful of contests nationwide viewed as potentially deciding control of the Senate.
With Senate Republicans proposing nationwide abortion bans, messaging for Cortez Masto and her supporters has focused on protecting abortion access, a key issue in a state with nearly 2-to-1 support for abortion rights.
Meanwhile, messaging from Laxalt and his supporters has revolved around tying Cortez Masto to Democratic spending in Washington, and to soaring inflation and the economy — significant issues in the hard-hit Mountain West region.
Various polls since last September have shown both candidates in the lead, but only one so far has either candidate topping the 50% mark — a recent University of Nevada, Reno Nevada Election Survey Project showing Cortez Masto at 52% support.
Nearly all other statewide races have been equally competitive and highly contentious:
► The race for governor pits incumbent Democrat Steve Sisolak against Republican challenger and Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo, with the COVID-19 response, access to abortion rights and President Joe Biden's performance as key issues.
► Election denialism is on the ballot for the secretary of state contest between Republican Jim Marchant and Democrat Cisco Aguilar. Marchant, the Republican candidate to replace fellow Republican Barbara Cegavske, claims without evidence that Nevada hasn't run a legitimate, fair election since 2006. Aguilar says he wants to push to make harassment of election workers a felony. Aguilar holds a slim 29%-to-27% lead in the latest poll, well within the margin of error; the winner will oversee the election process in Nevada.
► Incumbent Democrat Zach Conine is facing Republican challenger Michele Fiore for the state treasurer's office, with Conine pointing to his record so far as treasurer, and Fiore citing national economic woes as a reason for change. In September, Fiore accused Conine of secretly running a "questionable business" out of the treasurer's office — the Nevada Capital Investment Corp., which the state treasurer is required by law to run. Fiore holds a slim lead in the latest poll, 26% to 23%.
► Democratic incumbent Aaron Ford and Republican challenger Sigal Chattah are in a pitched battle for attorney general. Ford's campaign theme: "Our job is justice." Chattah's: "Make crime illegal again." The race was made all the more contentious when a leaked text message from Chattah said that Ford, who is Black, should be "hanging by a (expletive) crane." Ford holds the lead in the latest poll, 37% to 25%.
Clark County, home to nearly three-quarters of Nevada's population, is consistently Democratic-leaning, thanks in part to Las Vegas' casino industry unions. Meanwhile, the state's 15 sparsely populated rural counties are reliably Republican.
The place to watch on election night is the swing county of Washoe, home of the Reno-Sparks metro area and regularly recognized as the electoral linchpin of the state. The second-most-populous county in Nevada is experiencing a mixed bag of economic indicators — Washoe has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, but also some of the highest gas prices.
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The county to watch after election night? That's Nye County. Earlier this year, county officials chose to hand-count all ballots to verify election results in November. Nye County gained approval in October to begin hand-counting mail-in ballots; observers from the American Civil Liberties Union said it took two groups of five vote-counters three hours each to agree on a tally for 50 ballots.
Nye County is home to about 33,000 registered voters, or a little less than 2% of the state's total voter base. If the U.S. Senate race and/or any of the statewide races have a razor-thin vote margin, it could take several days for Nevadans to know the final outcomes.
What they're saying
"Adam Laxalt is crushing Cortez Masto in the 14 rural counties, plus Carson City," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. "However, she is winning Nevada's largest county, Clark, by enough to offset her rural setbacks in central Nevada."
“The economy is going to be the big driver,” said Fred Lokken, political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno. “Neither party owns the economic issue and both of them contribute to the fracturing of the economy.”
"Whether you call Nevada blue, red or purple is something of a semantic question," writes Nate Silver, founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight. "But it certainly hasn’t been a reliable state for Democrats."
"If Republicans want to claim that a realignment is underway, they are going to need to demonstrate it in the high-stakes environments of Nevada and Arizona, where all sides are competing for Latino voters," say researchers at Equis Research.
Want to know more? Here's what you missed
With President Biden's poll numbers still underwater nationally, Barack Obama has made appearances in Nevada to shore up the hopes of Democrat incumbents, including Sisolak and Cortez Masto.
Amid one of the most bruising and partisan midterm elections in Nevada history, are Nevadans ready to adopt a new, more complex voting system that would weaken the role of political parties? Ballot Question 3 would eliminate partisan primaries in favor of ranked-choice primaries open to all voters, with the top five primary finishers moving on to a ranked-choice general election.
Brett McGinness is the engagement editor for the Reno Gazette Journal. He's also the writer of The Reno Memo — a free newsletter about news in the Biggest Little City. Subscribe to the newsletter right here. Consider supporting the Reno Gazette Journal, too.
This article originally appeared on Reno Gazette Journal: Nevada Election 2022: What to know about voting and ballot access