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President Trump has claimed that sending all voters an absentee ballot will make “it impossible for Republicans to win the state.”
The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee filed a lawsuit late Tuesday challenging Nevada’s plan to automatically send ballots for the November election to all registered voters.
The change to voting procedures is the result of a bill passed by the state legislature on Sunday and signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, on Monday.
"During this global pandemic, I made a commitment that we’d do all we can to allow Nevadans to safely cast a ballot in the upcoming November election," Sisolak said in a statement. "This bill will help prevent Nevadans from experiencing the long lines at polling locations they faced during the primary election, which will protect their safety, safeguard their right to make their voices heard, and help reduce the spread of Covid-19."
Trump threatened legal action on Monday, tweeting that expansion of mail-in ballots in Nevada was “an illegal late night coup” that will make “it impossible for Republicans to win the state.”
Of the roughly 1.6 million registered voters in Nevada, 33% are Republicans. Another 38% are Democrats and 23% aren’t affiliated with a party. Under the state’s plan, all registered voters would receive an absentee ballot for November instead of requiring voters to request one. Nevada is the eighth state to announce plans to automatically send voters absentee ballots, joining states like Colorado and Washington that have had such policies in place long before the pandemic.
The lawsuit requests a court injunction to stop Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske from carrying out the new election policies. Cegavske, a Republican who opposed the change in voting procedures, but who is tasked with overseeing the election, did not respond to a request for comment about the suit.
The RNC and the Trump campaign, along with the Nevada Republican Party, argue in the filing that the new policy was too quickly considered by the Democratic-controlled legislature over just a couple days and eventually passed by a party-line vote. They also argued it will adversely affect the Republican Party, which will be forced “to divert resources and spend significant amounts of money educating Nevada voters on those changes and encouraging them to still vote.”
“Major or hasty changes confuse voters, undermine confidence in the electoral process, and create incentive to remain away from the polls,” the suit reads. “Put simply, the American people must be able to trust that the result is the product of a free and fair election.”
President Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that universal vote-by-mail will lead to election fraud. Scores of election officials, including those in states that have offered all voters the chance to vote by mail for years, say that this is false, as well as noting that it has helped improve voter turnout in states where it is offered. Studies have also found that mail voting doesn’t benefit either of the major political parties.
The lawsuit echoes the president’s tone and alleges that there were “stark irregularities in Nevada’s June 2020 primary election.” But Cegavske told lawmakers during debates over the bill that she had not seen reports of fraud in the June primary, when 98.4% of votes were cast by mail.
Trump also tweeted on Monday that Nevada does not have the infrastructure for mail-in voting, and said in a news conference that the U.S. Postal Service will not be able to handle the surge in ballots. Sisolak called Trump's statements "crazy, quite frankly."
In addition to expanding mail-in voting, the bill in Nevada also extends the deadline for when mail-in ballots can be counted until a few days after November 3, and relaxes some restrictions around who can handle and submit ballots for other people, a provision Democratic lawmakers said will help tribes in rural areas that have historically struggled with election access.
A poll released on Wednesday found that 58% of voters nationwide approve of a November election conducted by mail to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The jurisdictions sending all registered voters a mail-in ballot this year are Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Vermont, California, and the District of Columbia.
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.
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