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As ballots are counted in Nevada, working class voters could heavily sway House races

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Our colleague, A Martínez, is in Las Vegas. Hey there, A.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Hi, Steve. Yeah, there's still a lot we don't know about the state of the races. Paper ballots are still being counted here. And as of now, Republican Adam Laxalt has a narrow lead over Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto. Three out of four House races in Nevada appear to favor Democrats, and the outcome could be heavily swayed by working-class and Latino voters in Clark County. And that's home to the Las Vegas Strip, where thousands of workers were laid off during the pandemic, and many are still without a job. NPR's Deepa Shivaram is here with me in chilly, windy Las Vegas. Deepa, so first, get us up to speed on the latest results out of Nevada. What's still unknown?

DEEPA SHIVARAM, BYLINE: Hey, good morning. A lot is still unknown, A. Vote counting is still going on, and officials here have been saying that that was going to be the case for weeks now. This is the first midterm election where Nevada has had this volume of mail ballots. The first time was 2020. And basically, everyone got a mail ballot sent to them. Voters here could mail them in or drop them off in-person yesterday on Election Day. And counting those ballots is going to take days. Right now, candidates are saying that it might take the whole week. Governor Steve Sisolak, who is in a tight reelection race against Republican Joe Lombardo, told supporters last night to be patient.

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STEVE SISOLAK: We said it was going to be close, and it is. We ask you to please, please be patient. We need to make sure that every single vote is counted because we need every single vote.

SHIVARAM: But I want to emphasize here that this timeline on how long the vote count will take was expected. And this - these races in Nevada for Senate, for governor or secretary of state, some of these House races, like you mentioned - they're all going to be extremely close. And one thing you'll hear out of Nevada in the next few days, in addition to counting the mail ballots, is something called ballot curing. And that's when there could be an irregularity or a missing signature on someone's mail-in ballot, and the election offices here give those people a chance to fix it so their vote can be counted. And since there's so much mail-in voting this year and the races are so tight, we'll be keeping an eye out for that process as well.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, you've been speaking to voters here. What have they told you about their priorities?

SHIVARAM: You know, the interesting thing yesterday is that I heard just about everything from voters in line yesterday - health care costs, gun violence, abortion rights, of course. I even met one Republican voter who told me he voted for all Democrats this year for the first time because he's worried about a peaceful transfer of power. But above all, as we know, economy and inflation - high gas prices here are something that we've been hearing all over the country and especially here in Clark County. The pandemic absolutely wrecked Las Vegas, which really heavily relies on tourism. And that feeling is still really present as people are still recovering. I was driving around Clark County just the past couple of days, and I've seen maybe one gas station where the price of gas was less than $5 a gallon.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

SHIVARAM: And so many people I spoke with yesterday who are Republican and voting Republican said they just need things to change. And this also goes for independent voters, A, which we know, based on what we've seen, are kind of trending more red this year. They see Democrats in charge in Nevada holding on to both of these Senate seats, the governor's seat, these House races, and they just want something to change. They say something have to be - something has to be different. And Republican operatives I spoke with in the state said that they're hammering home that message, basically saying, you know, that voters are having to choose between gas or groceries because that's what they know is very top of mind here.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Nevada has become more ethnically diverse in recent years. What are you hearing about how Democrats and Republicans - how they try to court voters of color?

SHIVARAM: Yeah. Latino and Asian voters are hugely powerful in this state, and there's been a lot of recent polling that shows that Republicans are making an impression with Latino voters around the country. And that's true here as well. On the other side, organizations like the Culinary Union, a really big union here in Las Vegas in particular, have been really critical for get-out-the-vote efforts, particularly for Democrats in the past. They say that they've knocked on a million doors this year, which is a record for them. But we're still watching, with these numbers coming in and these ballots being counted, to see how Latino voters showed up in this election, and then also with Asian American and Pacific Islander voters, a very booming population here in Nevada. And there's a lot of interest in voting in that community and wanting to get engaged, but historically, not as much outreach from either party. I talked with Eric Jeng, who runs an organization called One APIA Nevada, about this on Monday.

ERIC JENG: Some political consultants call them split-ticket voters. But I'm just - for me, when I talk to them - is they're not party loyalists because the party hasn't shown which party that - deserve community's loyalty.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Deepa Shivaram in Las Vegas with me here. Thanks, Deepa, a lot.

SHIVARAM: Thanks so much.

INSKEEP: And when A said a chilly morning in Las Vegas, I did a quick fact check - 50 degrees in Las Vegas - a little bit of desert morning chill there. Yeah, chilly. It's not that chilly, but it's chilly. It's chilly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.