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Opinion: Who didn’t vote in Nevada’s mid-term election? Most of the state, that’s who


How Nevada really voted

VEP = Voting Eligible Population
TBC = Total Ballots Counted


320,998 TBC
1,692,499 VEP
19% of VEP

361,656 TBC
1,692,499 VEP
21.4% of VEP


Rory Reid
298,170 TBC
1,692,499 VEP
17.62% of VEP

Brian Sandoval
382,350 TBC
1,692,499 VEP
22.6% of VEP

Sources: McDonald, Michael P. (2010). “2010 General Election Turnout Rates.” United States Elections Project. (November 11, 2010). Secretary of State (2010). “US Senate/Statewide Results (Top Two Candidates). Silver State 2010 (November 11, 2010).

Nevada’s population is notable for two things: first, its profound growth in the last two decades and, second, its high rate of transiency. More recently, Nevada’s population growth trend has dipped because of the economic downturn of 2008.

The consequences of the downturn have impacted Nevada severely, perhaps more negatively than any other state in the country. With an economy dependent upon gaming and construction—industries that are affected by the health of national and international economic trends—the state’s economic burden is now marked by high unemployment, the top foreclosure rate in the country and slowed growth. Experts are estimating that as a result, the state’s population will drop by about 2.6 percent this year.

Nevada’s population trends pose an interesting question about who actually participates in the electoral process. The most recent mid-term election was marked by extremely negative campaigns and seemingly endless barrage of news coverage of those campaigns. A part of the story that was not covered is the large number of Nevada residents who did not vote.

According to the State Demographer, Nevada’s population in 2010 is 2,721,481. The 2009 population estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau was 2,643,085. Of those numbers, “one-third (33%) of Latinos in Nevada are eligible to vote…. In contrast, 78% of the state’s white population is eligible to vote.”

Using these percentages, of the 2.6 million Nevada residents, 1.69 million were eligible to vote.  Of that 1.69 million, 1.12 million were active voters as listed by the Secretary of State’s office.

Of active voters, 64.46 percent showed up at polls, down from 80.09 percent in the 2008 election. Total voter turnout was 721,910. Of active voters, 398,063 people did not vote in 2010. In other words, 35.5 percent of active registered voters did not show up to the polls.

In terms of total population, the 721,910 who did vote represent about 28 percent of the state’s population. Granted, the total population includes people who are not eligible to vote, such as those below voting age, illegal residents, prisoners, felons and so on, so the 28 percent is misleading. The U.S. Elections Project at George Mason University, however, puts Nevada’s percentage of the 2010 voting-eligible population (highest office turnout rate) as an estimated 42.5 percent. (See the sidebar for calculations of how many people therefore actually voted for the popular candidates.)

Therefore, all appearances show that of eligible voters, Nevada’s non-voting public is a relatively sizable portion of the population—above 50 percent. But media coverage surrounding the election focused not on this quiet yet significant group but on campaigns and campaign controversies, fact checking, dubious polling and, ultimately, election results.

The non-voter, a large segment of Nevada’s population, was ignored. Such a significant portion of a population decidedly not participating in the democratic process should invite some obvious questions.

We’d like to know: Did you vote? Why? Why not?

Your comments are welcome below.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.