More than 1.3 million people in Nevada voted in the 2020 general election. That's roughly 200,000 more ballots cast this year than in 2016. While results from across the state have continued to trickle in over the weekend, it appears most races are nearing their conclusion. KUNR's Michelle Billman spoke with political editor, Paul Boger who's been following all of the twists and turns to get the latest.
BILLMAN: So, President-Elect Joe Biden was declared the winner in Nevada by the Associated Press on Saturday. Can you take us through what we know about the presidential election results in Nevada at this point?
BOGER: Yeah, so nearly a week after voting ended in the presidential election, it looks like Joe Biden will receive just north of 50% of the vote here in the Silver State. So, there [were] roughly 1.3 million ballots cast in the entire 2020 general election, a vast majority of those by mail. Just like we've seen it bear out in previous presidential elections, a vast majority of Biden's support came from Democratic-heavy Clark County. There, he leads by about 100,000 votes. In Washoe County though, it's a little closer, but again, he leads by about 11,000 votes here. Of course, in the much more conservative, much more Republican-leaning rural counties though, of course, we saw the president do much better, in some cases earning two or three votes to one for Biden. So it looks like at the end of this, Biden may edge out Trump [by] a little bit more than what Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by. She won the Silver State in 2016 by about two and a half points. Biden looks like he'll carry it by about two and a half points, maybe a little bit more if we get a couple more votes in, but at this point, I think we've seen all the votes we're going to see.
BILLMAN: The process of counting ballots in Nevada and a handful of other states felt like it dragged on quite a bit last week, but how did the wait for results compare to previous elections, and what was expected this year as we were heading into the election?
BOGER: It's not really fair to compare the counting times in 2020 to the counting times in previous elections. I say that because in many ways this is the process the state has used for several elections now. If mail-in ballots [came] in after election [day], they were still counted. We just didn't have this sheer number of them. Of the 1.3 million ballots cast in this election, nearly 650,000 of them were returned by mail. So, that is just a huge number of mail-in ballots that election officials, both in Clark County and in Washoe County, and across the state, have had to contend with. Of course, in Clark County they've [had] more [ballots] trickle in past Election Day that they struggled to count, but they have made progress. Like I said earlier, I think we've seen a vast majority of the ballots that we're going to see in this election.
BILLMAN: All right. Looking now at the state races, what do we know at this point at the congressional level? Were there any surprises there?
BOGER: So, at this point it looks like all of the congressional races have been called. That was something that a lot of political [experts] were looking at. They were looking at those House and Senate races and seeing if Democrats could make up any ground there. And nationwide, we definitely didn't see that happen. We saw Republicans take more ground in the House, and it looks like it could be about the same in the Senate, maybe a net [gain of] one for [the] Democrats. Here in Nevada, it looks like everything will remain the same. All of the incumbents were declared the winners over the weekend, with the exception of Mark Amodei. He was declared the winner last week in a fairly convincing fashion. I do think though, if there is any surprise, it's just how close these races were, even for Mark Amodei. Yes, he won by about 16 points, but technically that is closer than in previous elections.
Down south in Congressional Districts 3 and 4, those are those competitive races in the suburbs around Las Vegas, you saw almost exactly the same count for both Susie Lee and for Steven Horsford. They seemed to just barely edge out their opponents by a couple of points, maybe because they got a little help from those third party candidates, with the Independent American and Libertarian candidates being able to siphon off a point here and there from their Republican challengers. That's maybe what helped push them past the day in this particular case, especially for Susie Lee, who right now is sitting at below 50% of the vote.
BILLMAN: Okay. What about the state legislature? Are there still any races up in the air, or have most of them been called by now?
BOGER: You know, looking at the state legislature, there are some interesting developments. Heading into the election Democrats were really looking to pick up a few extra seats, especially in the Senate. One of the races we were talking about so much before the election was that SD 15, Senate District 15, which is really a lot of northern Northwest Reno. That race was between incumbent Republican Heidi Gansert, who's been in state politics for years, and Wendy Jauregui-Jackins. [Jauregui-Jackins] was a relative newcomer. She ran in 2018. That race was incredibly close; however, over the weekend Jauregui-Jackins did concede to Gansert. Gansert has maintained about a point and a half lead since voice voting began. So, it looks like Republicans will manage to keep Democrats from having a super majority in both chambers. Actually, it looks like Republicans were able to pick up some seats, at least in the Assembly, looking at Assembly District 31, that was Skip Daly versus Jill Dickman.
At this point, it looks like Jill Dickman will carry the day and she will have her second term as a state assemblyperson, her first [term] being in 2015. Skip Daly will likely lose that race. Down south, it looks like a few Republicans were able to defeat incumbent Democrats in the Assembly. So, Republicans have made [up] a little ground there. But is it enough to take control of the legislature? Absolutely not. One thing that is for sure, it looks like this will be another year where women will make up a majority of the legislature. So, that is a takeaway from all this, including some Republican women who were able to join that group.
BILLMAN: Paul, there was also a very close race for Ward 1 in the Reno City Council. Do we have clarity yet on that?
BOGER: Yeah, just very quickly, you want to talk about tight races? Jenny Brekhus, who's the incumbent for Reno City Council Ward 1, does continue to hold a lead over JD Drakulich, the challenger there, by about 105 votes. It's been very narrow since voting began, or since vote counting began last week. At this point looking at the race, I don't see any more ballots coming in. So, Brekhus may be able to hold that lead. But you know, it was a very good week for incumbents in general, across Washoe County, both in Reno and Sparks, and the Washoe County Commission, with the exception of that County Commission District 1 race. That does seem to be an upset there, in that Alexis Hill, the Democratic challenger, has unseated or will unseat Marsha Berkbigler, the Republican incumbent. That is a bit of a shake up there, but it's pretty much the only one that we can point to in local politics.