Nevada’s potentially pivotal six Electoral College votes remained in limbo on Wednesday night, when elections officials in the state’s two largest counties said they would not add to preliminary presidential voting results until Thursday.
Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria told reporters his office was “working feverishly” to process late-arriving mail ballots that could turn the presidential race decisively toward Democrat Joe Biden, who maintained a lead of fewer than 8,000 votes Wednesday. Several media outlets on Wednesday projected Biden was just six electoral votes shy of ending President Donald Trump’s time in the White House.
But Gloria, who oversees elections for around 70% of Nevada voters, said he would not disclose how many southern Nevada ballots were left to count until 10 a.m. Thursday, and would not be releasing new results until then.
He said the county had already counted 337,000 ballots, including all of those handed in during early voting and cast in-person on Election Day.
Gloria said he’d soon be ready to release results from an untold number of other ballots that were either received by mail or left in a dropbox on Tuesday.
“What we have left now is to process provisional ballots, ballots sent to overseas voters, electronic ballots for disabled voters and also some special ballots for new residents,” he added during a press conference with reporters in Las Vegas. “Every day after (Wednesday) we should have reports at 10 a.m. giving you updates on all of those numbers, along with the ballots we’ve counted and the number of ballots we anticipate are left to count.”
Local election officials have seven days to continue receiving mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday.
Results expected Thursday in swing Washoe County
Officials in Washoe County, the Silver State’s second-largest population hub, were supposed to update early results at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Hours later, they announced they had nothing to announce.
“We know that everyone wants results as quickly as possible, but it’s more important to be meticulous in verifying ballots and running a clean tabulation,” Deanna Spikula, the county’s registrar of voters, said in a statement. “We will update our results dashboard as regularly as possible and coordinate with the Secretary of State’s office to ensure clarity and transparency.”
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Spikula later chalked up the reporting delay to a miscommunication, telling Northern Nevada reporters that her office did not, in fact, have new results to report because it was still processing an estimated 9,000 mail-in and drop-off ballots received on Election Day.
She said it takes “a lot longer” to scan, sort, open, and verify signatures before those votes can be counted. Her office expects to wrap up that process, and update results, at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The Nevada Secretary of State’s office confirmed Wednesday afternoon that it did not plan to update results until 9 a.m. Thursday, explaining that “the counties need (Wednesday) to count ballots.” Spokeswoman Jennifer Russell said results currently posted to the state’s elections website do not include any mail-in or drop-off ballots collected Tuesday.
Trump needs boosted rural turnout to have a shot at winning Nevada
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding Nevada’s last batches of ballots is sure to grate on pundits and political analysts clamoring for a clearer picture of the state’s presidential race.
For now, that contest looks to be very much up for grabs, though it could soon turn into a rout.
That’s thanks in large part to the fact that nobody is quite sure how many votes are still floating around the Silver State, where every voter received a mail-in ballot that officials will continue to receive and count over the next week.
An analysis of voter turnout over the two previous presidential elections done by the Reno Gazette-Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, suggests there could be as many as 88,000 votes still to be counted in Nevada’s 15 rural counties, assuming Republicans there turned out in roughly the same numbers seen in the past. Nevada’s rural counties lean heavily in favor of Trump.
The good news for Biden is there’s likely at least that many ballots awaiting a count in Nevada’s two urban counties, where the former vice president has already amassed a roughly 93,000-person lead in voter turnout.
If the Democrat can keep hold of the same share of Nevadans who supported his party’s nominee in 2012 and 2016 — without sustaining significant losses among the state’s fast-growing bloc of nonpartisan voters — he could be headed for a comfortable win.
If not, the campaigns could be headed for a hotly contested recount and potentially even a lengthy court fight.
Court fights already brewing
Meanwhile, Trump intends to keep up his campaign’s existing, multi-front crusade against Nevada’s COVID-caused switch to a mostly mail-in election format.
His campaign gained no quick decision Tuesday in a Nevada Supreme Court appeal aimed at stopping the count of mail-in ballots in deep-blue Southern Nevada.
Justices did not stop Election Night counting, calling instead for written filings to be completed next Monday on an issue that could affect reporting the vote in Clark County and Nevada, a presidential battleground with six electoral votes at stake.
A hearing date was not immediately set.
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The Trump campaign and GOP say they want campaign-enlisted count-watchers to be allowed wider range to see operations at the busy Clark County elections office in suburban Las Vegas.
It’s not necessarily unusual for a candidate to start laying the groundwork for a legal fight in races that are too close to call.
But Trump has been louder about it than most candidates, prompting breathless predictions of a palace coup despite the fact that state and federal judges have wasted little time dismissing the suits to keep the vote count going.