Nevada was one of six swing states with close tallies that voters had been watching in suspense as mail-in, same-day registration, and provisional votes continued to be counted after the polls closed on Tuesday. Decision Desk HQ and other election results firms projected Biden's win in the state Saturday morning.
The final two major counties tallying votes in the state, Clark and Washoe, include the metropolitan areas of Las Vegas and Reno. Both counties voted for Democrats in the past two presidential elections, but by slim margins.
On Saturday morning, Clark County announced an additional 14,696 votes counted. By the end of the day, it had added 8,523 votes for Joe Biden and 5,467 for Trump — increasing Biden’s lead to 1.99%, or 25,520 votes statewide, with the remaining votes from Nevada’s largest county likely to continue breaking in Biden’s favor. Some rural counties, which favor Trump, were also still counting votes, but their cumulative total would not be enough to break Biden’s lead.
Democrats have won the state for the past four presidential elections — but by narrow margins. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won by 2%, or 27,202 votes. Both the Trump and Biden campaigns spent time and resources in Nevada in the final stretch of the election.
The Democratic Party had hoped the growing share of the Asian American and Latino voters in Nevada would help them pull ahead. Biden spent $200,000 recently on TV, radio, and newspaper ads aimed at Latino voters and brought on staff and surrogates who had helped Sen. Bernie Sanders sweep Nevada’s Democratic caucuses earlier this year, a win that was driven in part by Latino members of the powerful Culinary Workers Union.
Nevada is one of the states hit hardest by the economic impacts of the pandemic, which shut down its major industries and resulted in hundreds of thousands of job losses. More than 104,000 Nevadans have also tested positive for the virus since March, and the state has seen a second wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks.
Biden made the COVID-19 crisis the focal point of his campaign as the virus forced shutdowns across the country, while Trump downplayed its severity and refused to commit to a plan to contain the virus’s spread, at times undermining scientists, doctors, and even his own CDC.
By Wednesday, all in-person early votes, in-person Election Day votes, and most of the mail-in ballots received before Election Day were counted, according to Nevada’s secretary of state.
But the lengthy process of counting the votes in Nevada came down to two kinds of votes: mail-in ballots received on or after Election Day, and ballots from voters who used Nevada’s same-day registration law to register and vote at the polling place on Election Day.
As of Saturday, Clark County was the last remaining major county with significant numbers of votes left. Election workers are still counting 39,853 mail-in ballots — which are likely to favor Biden — and another roughly 60,000 provisional ballots, which will be counted last and are likely to be roughly split between the two candidates.
Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria said at a press conference on Friday morning that he expects to complete the majority of mail-in counting by Sunday.
"Our priority here is to be accurate in every way. We’re not interested in moving as fast as we can,” Gloria said. “We’re confident the work is being done accurately, and that is our main goal."
The state of Nevada mailed every registered voter a ballot this year and will continue to count ballots postmarked on or before Election Day if they arrive before 5 p.m. on Nov. 10.
At a press conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, Trump campaign officials accused the state, without evidence, of counting illegitimate ballots. On Thursday night, Republicans in Nevada filed a lawsuit challenging computer software used to verify voters’ signatures and claiming the media wasn't allowed to observe counting. The lawsuit, notably, does not ask for any ballots to be invalidated, but at most for some to be reverified manually.