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Nevada mail-in election law prompts Trump campaign lawsuit

Updated August 5, 2020 - 5:27 pm

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has filed a lawsuit against Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske over changes to the state’s general election plan passed by the Legislature on Sunday.

Trump’s campaign, the Republican National Committee and Nevada Republican Party filed the lawsuit in Nevada District Court on Tuesday evening. They allege several provisions of Assembly Bill 4, the election changes adopted by the special session on Sunday, “lack clear standards to guide the actions of county and city officials administering certain parts of Nevada’s elections.”

The lawsuit includes many of the Republican attacks leveled against enhanced voting by mail and so-called ballot harvesting, or the collection and turning in of ballots by people not related to the voter. Specifically, the Republicans allege compromised election integrity and increased risk of fraud.

In Nevada and beyond, there has been virtually no credible evidence to support claims of increased fraud through voting by mail. Several attempts by conservative groups to block Nevada’s vote-by-mail primary because of fraud concerns have already been dismissed by the court. And Cegavske herself said in testimony on AB4 that there were no known instances of fraud in the mail-in primary. Her office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

During a Wednesday news briefing at the White House, Trump was asked to lay out evidence that mail-in ballots in Nevada and other states are an invitation to fraud.

Trump said that the Washington Post, New York Times and “many newspapers” have written stories about vote-by-mail before falsely claiming that Nevada will no longer check signatures on returned ballots, adding that the state’s election officials do not have the proper machinery to successfully check signatures.

In June, the state counted and verified the signatures of more than 480,000 absentee ballots as part of its all-mail primary.

Signature verification remains intact under AB4, though it does slightly revise the verification procedures to be used by election officials. Officials will still contact voters if they receive an unsigned ballot, or one where a signature doesn’t match the one on file in election offices.

When told there was no evidence of widespread fraud, Trump responded “then you’re reading a different newspaper than me.”

Wide-ranging lawsuit

The Republicans’ lawsuit also takes aim at a specific provision in AB4 that requires election officials to accept and count ballots received up to three days after Election Day, Nov. 3, if the postmark on the ballot is in question. State law requires all ballots be postmarked by Election Day in order to be counted.

The lawsuit argues this new stipulation is a violation of federal law because, in forcing election officials to collect votes after Election Day, it prolongs the election day set forth by Congress.

“Democrats changed the rules of the game at the last minute to try and rig this election,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Wednesday. “AB4 will destroy the confidence every voter deserves to have in our elections.”

State Democrats slammed the lawsuit in a statement Wednesday.

“This lawsuit is a sham meant to intimidate the states from pursuing voting access expansions,” said Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II, also a state assemblyman, who voted for the bill. “AB4 expands mail-in and in-person voting options, granting Nevadans greater choice this November.”

“As states fill the void of Trump’s leadership and begin to step up to the challenge of protecting both voters’ health and their constitutional right to vote, Trump and Republicans are throwing a fit,” McCurdy added.

Trump concerned with results reporting

The Republicans’ lawsuit also calls into question the state’s ability to provide timely results, pointing to problems with absentee ballots in New York that have left two congressional primaries in limbo.

Trump once again took to Twitter on Wednesday to hammer this point.

“Nevada has zero infrastructure for mail-in voting,” he tweeted. “It will be a corrupt disaster if not ended by the courts. It will take months, or years, to figure out.”

He went on to praise voting by mail in Florida, due to its “two great Republican governors.”

During the news briefing, Trump said voters in Nevada may not know who won the election, because absentee ballots may be received and counted up until a week after the election.

“So what does that mean?,” the president asked. “If Nevada, which is a big state and a great state, a state I like very much and I think we’re going to do very well there, are we going to wait a week after Nov. 3? If it comes down to Nevada, which it could very well, I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

No problems foreseen

In interviews with the Review-Journal on Monday, officials for Nevada’s two most populous counties said they do not foresee any issues with providing results in the usual time frame under AB4.

Other complaints include unfair treatment of voters in rural counties who, the lawsuit claims, will have less opportunity to vote in person because of population-based polling location standards found in AB4.

The president and his Republican allies had threatened such litigation against the state throughout AB4’s adoption process.

The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order to block Cegavske from implementing and enforcing AB4, as well as an injunction to effectively kill the legislation.

State and national Democrats are almost certain to formally intervene in the lawsuit, as the two sides have battled over vote-by-mail and ballot collection restrictions in states across the country. Top Democratic lawyer Marc Elias responded to Trump’s online threats of a Nevada lawsuit with a pledge to “see him in court.”

Elias and the Democrats sued Nevada in April in an attempt to secure more polling places and weaken restrictions on vote-by-mail. Republicans entered into the lawsuit on behalf of the state, and the case remains active.

Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter. White House correspondent Debra Saunders contributed to this story.

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