Updated August 11, 2020 - 5:38 am
Attorneys for Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske have asked a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit filed against her last week by President Donald Trump’s campaign and his Republican allies, saying the GOP’s attempt to block recent election changes lacks the facts necessary to prove injury to voters.
The 24-page motion to dismiss, written by Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and several top deputies and filed Monday, also claims the court has no grounds to intervene in election preparations, which are set by the Legislature and carried out by Cegavske.
On Aug. 2, the Legislature adopted Assembly Bill 4, which made a number of sweeping changes to election law in times of emergency: sending ballots to every registered active voter, allowing ballots to be collected and turned in on behalf of the voter and ordering county registrars to accept ballots with unknown postage dates up to three days after the election.
The changes came as Nevada and particularly the Las Vegas area are still within the firm grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, with new cases hovering between 700 and 1,000 daily.
The Republicans claimed these changes could lead to voter fraud, overwhelm local registrars and disproportionately penalize rural voters, who may not have as many in-person polling locations. Allowing election officials to collect ballots that were possibly postmarked after Election Day also violates the U.S. Constitution, the Republicans argued, which gives Congress the absolute right to set an Election Day.
Republicans across the country have pointed to voter fraud possibilities as a reason to curb vote-by-mail expansion, but there are few cases to back this up. Cegavske recently testified she was not aware of any instances of voter fraud during the state’s 2020 all-mail primary election.
Ford, speaking on behalf of Cegavske, said in his motion the Republicans have failed to prove the rights of any voter would be infringed upon by AB4.
“Absent a concrete and particularized injury to plaintiffs, the court has no jurisdiction to intervene in election preparations,” the motion reads. “Because Plaintiffs have failed to plead facts from which one might reasonably infer that an injury is actual and imminent, not hypothetical, the court should dismiss their claims for lack of jurisdiction.”
The motion also argues that the discussions at the heart of the Republicans’ lawsuit center on policy, not the law.
“Ultimately, the search for the proper balance between voter access and election integrity considerations is a matter for policy makers and legislators, not federal courts.”
Ford also refuted what he called the Republicans’ argument that increased vote-by-mail would somehow “dilute” Republican votes.
Finally, Ford claimed that Trump and his allies are looking to single out Nevada for adopting vote-by-mail standards held by other states, such as Washington, Utah and Trump’s now-native Florida.
On Friday, state and national Democratic parties also filed a motion to intervene in the case, saying the Republicans’ attempts to block AB4 would have a significant effect on Democratic Party members.
If allowed, the Democratic intervention would make Nevada just one of many state battlegrounds over the expansion of vote-by-mail. Similar legal fights are underway in more than a dozen states including Indiana, Texas, Wisconsin and California.