Why Nevada election results are taking days

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Election workers process ballots at the Clark County Election Department, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

WASHINGTON – Counting votes in Nevada’s closely watched races for Senate could spill into the weekend — just as it's done before and just as officials reminded everyone it would this time, too.

In fact, elections authorities in Clark (home to Las Vegas) and Washoe (home to Reno) counties, the state's most heavily populated, warned up front that it would take days to process all the ballots again this year.

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Here's where things stand late Friday, with control of Congress still in the balance:


—With more than 90% of the votes counted, Republican former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt was barely leading Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, by about a quarter of a percentage point, in the Senate race.

Tens of thousands of ballots remain to be counted, mainly coming from the state’s urban areas — again, just as the people in charge of counting in Las Vegas and Reno had said.

—All Nevada voters are issued mail-in ballots, but Saturday is the last day that state law allows officials to accept them.

—Voters have until the end of the day Monday to “cure” — or fix clerical problems with — their mail ballots, enabling those to be added into the final tally. There were 9,600 ballots in the “cure” stage Friday in Clark County, home to three-quarters of the state’s population.

—Nevada wasn’t called in 2020′s presidential election until the Saturday after Election Day — the same day Pennsylvania (and therefore the presidency) was called for Joe Biden.


A Senate contest between Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

Laxalt and Cortez Masto have been locked in a tight race for weeks, both hitting hard on national party talking points: Laxalt blaming inflation and illegal immigration on Democratic policies, and Cortez Masto promising to block GOP-led attempts at a nationwide abortion ban and to fight for a pathway to permanent citizenship for immigrants who came to the country as children.


—A tight governor’s race between Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak and GOP Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo went to the challenger, with The Associated Press calling it for Lombardo late Friday.

The campaign was costly and contentious, with airwaves and the internet awash in recent weeks with ads sponsored by the candidates, their parties and political action committees aiming to amplify their differences. Both candidates had predicted they would win but the race’s outcome wouldn’t be known for several days.

—After more votes were posted Friday night, the AP called three House races where Democratic incumbents had faced stiff challenges: In two swing districts stretching out of Las Vegas through suburbs into rural areas, second-term Rep. Susie Lee fended off Republican April Becker, and third-term Rep. Steven Horsford defeated Republican Samuel Peters.

As a result of redistricting, six-term Rep. Dina Titus was on the hot seat in the Democrat’s traditional stronghold encompassing the Las Vegas Strip after party strategists sacrificed some turf in exchange for gains elsewhere. She survived against Mark Robertson, a retired Army colonel who was trying to become the first Republican to win that 1st District seat since 1998.

The wins bolstered Democrats' flagging chances of clinging to control of the House, though Republicans remained close to flipping the chamber.


A few things have slowed Nevada's vote counting in recent elections.

For one, Nevada greatly expanded absentee voting in 2020, sending a ballot to every registered voter. The state passed legislation to do that in future elections as well.

That year, nearly 15% of Nevada’s vote was not reported until after election night — and it took three days for the state to report 100% of the vote.

Second, Nevada has had issues with long voter lines at poll close, although Nevadans have traditionally opted to vote early. The state won’t release vote counts until all voters who were in line at poll close have cast their vote.

Ballots postmarked by Election Day can be received until Saturday, and officials have until Thursday to finish counting and submit a report to the Nevada secretary of state's office, according to state law.

This year, voting officials in the two most populous counties, encompassing the population centers of Las Vegas and Reno, warned it would take days to process the outstanding ballots.

The state has no mandatory recount law.


Mike Catalini can be reached at https://twitter.com/mikecatalini


Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections. Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

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