Nevada Senate race: Laxalt lead over Cortez Masto shrinks after latest vote count update

Control of Senate in the balance as Nevada counts votes in Laxalt-Cortez Masto 2022 Senate race

Nevada Republican Adam Laxalt's lead over incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., has shrunk to fewer than 9,000 votes as officials are still counting mail-in ballots in the state's largest counties. 

The latest updates from Clark and Washoe counties have put Laxalt just 8,988 votes over Cortez Masto, less than 1% of the total vote. Election officials said Wednesday that ballot counting will continue through next week, but the majority of the ballots could be counted by today.  

Officials explained that mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day but can arrive as late as Saturday to be counted. Election officials have been flooded with thousands of them since Tuesday as the margins between Cortez Masto and Laxalt remain tight. 

More than 12,000 ballots from Clark County were counted Thursday night, helping Cortez Masto gain 3,285 votes on Laxalt. The city of Las Vegas resides within the county, and Democrats have a nearly 10-point advantage over Republicans in voter registration there. The Republican challenger's lead grew by about 1,000 votes as ballots were counted from surrounding rural counties, but the gain was not enough to offset the mail-in votes for the Democratic senator.

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Ballots are processed by bipartisan election workers at the Clark County Election Department during the ongoing election process on Nov. 10, 2022, in North Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ballots are processed by bipartisan election workers at the Clark County Election Department during the ongoing election process on Nov. 10, 2022, in North Las Vegas, Nevada. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Washoe County, the state's second-most populous county, counted more than 18,000 ballots overnight Thursday and gave Cortez Masto a net gain of 4,817 votes against Laxalt. Democrats have strong support in Reno and Sparks, but the rest of the county leans Republican, making it competitive. 

Officials in Clark County, Nevada's most populous county, have said that Tuesday, Nov. 15, is the deadline to verify the mail-in ballots, while Nov. 17 is the latest date they will release the final results.

As the Nevada Senate race stands now, Laxalt currently has 450,534 votes (48.97%) to be the next senator from Nevada, while Cortez Masto holds 441,546 votes (48%) for re-election with 90.2% of the vote reported. 

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Nevada Republican Senate nominee Adam Laxalt speaks at a Republican midterm election night party at Red Rock Casino on Nov. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Nevada Republican Senate nominee Adam Laxalt speaks at a Republican midterm election night party at Red Rock Casino on Nov. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Nevada's race for governor is also tight. Republican Joe Lombardo currently holds a 28,543 vote lead over incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak (49.7% to 46.6%, respectively). There appears to be many split-ticket voters, as Lombardo has more support in the gubernatorial contest than Laxalt does in the Senate race, while Cortez Masto has earned more votes in her re-election bid for Senate than Sisolak has for governor. 

Nevada does not have an automatic recount law. If the races remain close, the eventual loser must request a recount no later than three business days after the canvas of the vote. The candidate who requests a recount must pay for the associated costs unless the recount changes the election result in their favor, in which case the requester is refunded any costs paid, according to state law.  

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U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto speaks at an election night party hosted by Nevada Democratic Victory at The Encore on Nov. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas.

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto speaks at an election night party hosted by Nevada Democratic Victory at The Encore on Nov. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

If Cortez Masto goes on to win, but Sisolak loses, the election would likely be a referendum on the governor's deeply unpopular decision to shut down Nevada's casinos during the pandemic. Sisolak's COVID-19 policies sent unemployment in Nevada skyrocketing to over 28% – the highest unemployment rate recorded in any state since the Great Depression. His subsequent orders on mask mandates and school closures have also been unpopular with state residents.  

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Still, the fact that the gubernatorial and senate races are so close has disappointed Republicans, and lackluster GOP turnout helped Democrats hold on to three U.S. House seats Republicans had hoped to flip. 

Fox News' Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.