Election 2024

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How will ‘none of these’ option affect expected wins for Biden, Haley in primary?

Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Election 2024

Will “none of these candidates” thwart a victory by President Joe Biden? Could the unique protest choice on the ballot topple Nikki Haley? Can Democratic turnout surpass the record of 118,000 set in the 2008 caucus?

As thousands of voters stream to their local polling stations and ballot drop boxes (find information about voting locations here) on Tuesday, those are just a few of the pending questions about the Democratic and Republican primaries.

On the Democratic side, Biden is likely to cruise to victory, after winning Saturday’s South Carolina primary with 96 percent of the vote. Still,  the “none of these candidates” option — a ballot choice that exists only in Nevada — could provide Democratic voters a way to express their apathy for Biden as the nominee.

On the Republican side, Haley, a former South Carolina governor and former United Nations ambassador, is the only major candidate left in the primary. Former President Donald Trump is instead competing in the Nevada Republican Party-run caucus on Thursday — the only contest used to determine delegates.

While Trump is likely to sweep the state’s delegates in a caucus contest against Texas pastor and businessman Ryan Binkley, Haley could still make headlines with a victory in the first contest — the primary.

But she has made zero investment in the Silver State. In a statement released Monday, Haley’s campaign manager said the campaign has “not spent a dime nor an ounce of energy on Nevada,” criticizing the Nevada GOP as “a Trump entity” that has rigged the caucus for the former president.

With top GOP officials recommending Republican voters to select “none of these candidates” in the primary — something Gov. Joe Lombardo said he’d do as he planned to caucus for Trump — the protest choice could also disrupt a Haley victory.

Though the “none of these candidates” option has played spoiler on a few occasions in lower-profile elections — including receiving the highest share of votes in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary (30 percent) and a 1976 congressional primary (47 percent) — the highest percentage it has received in a general election presidential race is 2.56 percent in 2016, when Democrat Hillary Clinton won the state by 2.42 points over Trump.

Heading into Tuesday, more than 151,000 voters have already cast their ballots in the primaries — about 94,000 Democrats and 58,000 Republicans. We’ll explore some turnout numbers below, but click here for a complete breakdown of turnout data.

Who actually shows up to vote in person? 

Very few people, it seems. In the Democratic primary, it was 14,000 people. In the Republican primary, more than 9,000 voters cast their ballots in person during the early voting period.

By comparison, the past few statewide primary elections (which include myriad races, unlike these single race presidential primaries) have garnered upward of 100,000 votes during early voting, excluding 2020, which saw in-person voting hampered by the pandemic.

The state’s change to a primary system — replacing the byzantine caucus system that typically draws fewer voters and more enthusiastic partisans — has expanded voting access in concert with other state election laws, such as early voting and universal mail voting (more on that in a moment). 

But the state of play in these races appears to be playing a significant factor. Biden faces little serious competition in the primary. His most well-known opponent, self-help author Marianne Williamson, received just 2 percent of the vote in the South Carolina primary over the weekend.

On the Republican side, the lack of Trump on the ballot — along with his urging that voters skip out on the “meaningless” primary — has appeared to dampen voting enthusiasm. 

Still, GOP turnout has already surpassed that of the 2008 and 2012 caucuses, and it appears on track to surpass the 2016 record turnout of 75,000.

The mail vote remains king 

Under a state law temporarily passed for the 2020 election and later approved permanently in 2021, all active registered voters are automatically sent a mail ballot for each election (unless they opt out). 

Nevadans have been slow to fully adopt the new voting method, especially given that the state has maintained vast options for in-person voting. In the 2022 midterms, Nevada had the lowest rate of mail voting of any universal vote-by-mail state. But in the primaries, voters have embraced mail.

As of Monday morning, about 84 percent of the ballots cast in each primary have come via mail. Still, the 128,000 ballots cast by mail only represent 11 percent of the more than 1.1 million ballots mailed to Democratic and Republican voters this year.

Election officials will continue to accept and count mail ballots received by 5 p.m. Saturday, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. So we’ll be watching how much that mail turnout number rises throughout the week.

And voters, don’t forget: If you have not yet cast your ballot and didn’t receive one in the mail, you can still vote in person Tuesday using same-day voter registration. This option is not available for the caucus, but in the primaries, it means nonpartisan voters willing to change party registration can participate in either one of the partisan primaries, while other voters can change their party registration to cast a ballot in a different primary. The polls stay open until 7 p.m., and you will be able to vote as long as you are in line by then.

Editor’s note: A version of this story appears in Indy Elections, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2024 elections. Sign up for the newsletter here.


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