LAS VEGAS — Control of the U.S. Senate may come down to Nevada, where a slow ballot count entered its final act Saturday in the nail-biter contest between Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.
Saturday was the last day that mail ballots can arrive and be counted under the state’s new voting law. Election officials were hustling to get through a backlog of tens of thousands of ballots to determine the race’s winner.
The Nevada race took on added importance after Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly was declared the winner of his reelection campaign in Arizona on Friday night, giving his party 49 seats in the chamber. Republicans also have 49.
If Cortez Masto wins, Democrats would maintain their control of the Senate given Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote. If Laxalt wins, the Georgia Senate runoff next month would determine which party has the single-vote Senate edge.
Cortez Masto was only a few hundred votes behind Laxalt, with most of the remaining uncounted ballots in heavily Democratic Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Democrats were confident those ballots would vault their candidate into the lead.
Laxalt has said he expects to maintain his advantage and be declared the victor. But on Saturday he acknowledged in a tweet that the calculus has changed because Cortez Masto had performed better than Republicans expected in Clark County ballots counted over the past few days.
“This has narrowed our victory window,” he tweeted, acknowledging the race comes down to the final Clark ballots.
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