RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada’s bellwether status is on the line Tuesday as voters in the key Western swing state chose between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
Officials said the polls generally ran smoothly in the hours after opening at 7 a.m., though election action entered a courtroom as a judge denied a Trump campaign push to preserve poll workers’ names in a complaint over early voting at sites the campaign said were illegally kept open too late last week.
Recent polls showed Clinton slightly ahead in Nevada, thanks in part to an army of precinct-level campaign organizers backed by the state’s most influential labor union and retiring Sen. Harry Reid, one of the most powerful politicians in Silver State history.
Nevadans have a century-long reputation of picking presidential winners — 25-and-1 since 1908. Most recently, they helped elect President Obama twice after twice backing George W. Bush.
If Clinton claims Nevada’s six electoral votes on Tuesday, it will be the first time since the 1940s that the Democratic nominee has carried the state in three consecutive presidential elections. Ronald Reagan and George Bush turned the trick for the GOP in the 1980s.
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Nevada’s nearly 1.5 million active voters are registered 39 percent Democrat and 33 percent Republican. About 20 percent are registered non-partisan and often lean Republican.
But Trump’s immigration policies have drawn criticism from the state’s growing Hispanic population, and his comments about women have put GOP candidates on the defensive up and down the ticket.
Joe Heck, a third-term congressman seeking Reid’s seat, and freshman Rep. Cresent Hardy — a staunch conservative running for re-election in a southern Nevada district where voter registration is evenly split — withdrew their endorsements of Trump in early October.
Heck denounced the billionaire’s “pattern of behavior and inappropriate comments” about women, but has refused to say whether he’ll vote for the GOP nominee. He’s in a tight race with huge implications for control of the U.S. Senate against Democratic ex-Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, Reid’s hand-picked successor trying to become the Senate’s first Latina.
Trump maintained the backing of popular GOP Rep. Mark Amodei, a longtime state legislator from Carson City seeking a fourth-term in a sprawling northern Nevada district where no Democrat has been elected since its creation three decades ago. He agreed to be Trump’s state chairman in September after initially endorsing Jeb Bush, then Marco Rubio.
Both nominees won their party’s early caucuses in Nevada. Trump drew large crowds at several rallies in Las Vegas, Reno and Sparks. The powerful Culinary Union representing hotel-casino workers drove an intensive get-out-the-vote effort for Clinton and staged protests outside Trump’s non-union hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
Bill Clinton, who carried Nevada in 1992 and 1996, campaigned for his wife on both ends of the state and Obama rallied support for her in Las Vegas three weeks before the election.
The eventual winner has lost in Nevada only once in the last 26 elections since Republican William Howard Taft defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan in 1908. The lone exception was when Nevadans sided with Republican Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976.
Buoyed by Trump’s recent slip in the polls, Democrats were optimistic their nominee would claim a third consecutive Nevada victory for the first time in more than 70 years — when Franklin Roosevelt won all four of his contests beginning in 1932 and Harry Truman prevailed in 1944.
John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson claimed Nevada in 1960 and 1964, but the GOP nominee prevailed over the next 20 years. Bill Clinton scored his victories before the swing state sided twice with Bush, then swung back blue behind Obama.