As first reported in the Nevada Independent, the lawsuit claims "electoral process cannot function properly if it lacks integrity and results in chaos. Put simply, the American people must be able to trust that the result is the product of a free and fair election."
"Nevada’s recently enacted election laws – collectively, AB4 – fall far short of this standard," the lawsuit says.
Nevada lawmakers passed AB4 Sunday on a party-line vote, joining a list of states mailing active voters ballots before the election.
The bill was signed into law Monday by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Seven other states plan to send voters mail ballots, including California and Vermont, which moved this summer to adopt automatic mail ballot policies.
Trump called the bill’s passage “an illegal late night coup” in a tweet Monday morning. He accused Sisolak of exploiting COVID-19 to ensure votes in Nevada would favor Democrats.
Trump claimed Monday that he has the authority to issue an executive order on mail-in ballots.
“I have the right to do it," Trump said at a White House news conference. "We haven't gotten there yet, we'll see what happens.”
Nearly all election procedures are governed on a state-by-state basis, the remainder set by Congress or enshrined in the Constitution. There is no precedent for Trump to try to curtail the use of mail-in ballots by executive order.
Last week, Trump publicly suggested a delay to the presidential election Nov. 3, a notion was met with swift bipartisan blowback.
Nevada bill allows mail-in, in-person voting
In Nevada's primary in June, the state mailed all active voters absentee ballots and opened a limited number of polling places to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske told lawmakers Friday that she wasn’t aware of any fraud in the process.
Limited polling places in Reno and Las Vegas resulted in lines of up to eight hours.
The bill signed Sunday requires at least 140 polling places throughout the state, including 100 in Clark County, which had 179 in the election in November 2018.
In Colorado and Oregon, which have mailed all voters ballots for years, the procedure is cheaper than holding an in-person election. Cegavske said the equipment, education, printing and postage would cost the secretary of state’s office an additional $3 million, not including costs to counties, which distribute and tabulate ballots.
Nevada spent more than $4 million in federal relief dollars in the primary in June, most of which it funneled to counties. More than $1 million went toward leasing counting and sorting machines to accommodate a greater number of absentee ballots.
Cegavske, the state’s top election official and only Republican to hold statewide office, opposed the revised procedures. She blasted the Democratic-controlled Legislature for excluding her from discussions and said she saw a draft of the bill only a day before the vote in the state Assembly.
“We were not involved in this bill’s writing at all. ... I wish somebody would have asked us about it because we could have told you what we had planned,” she said Friday.
AB4 gives the governor the power to command the secretary of state to adjust election procedures during a declared state of emergency. It passed through the state Senate and Assembly, where Democrats were in favor and Republicans opposed.
Republicans were particularly distressed by provisions of the bill that expand who is allowed to collect and hand in ballots. They warned it would enable a practice detractors call “ballot harvesting,” in which volunteers working for political groups collect and turn in large quantities of ballots to tip the scales in elections.
Democrats argued allowing people other than family members to return ballots would help groups such as Nevada’s 32 tribes, whose members have historically faced difficulty voting and live far from polling places, and seniors, who may need assistance with voting and fear venturing to the polls.
In June's primary, all voters were mailed ballots, and 1.6% voted in person on Election Day, a tiny share compared with the 34.2% that voted in person in November 2018.
Trump casts doubt on election integrity
Trump has sought to cast doubt on November’s election and the expected pandemic-induced surge in mail-in and absentee voting. Trump, who trails in polling, called remote voting options the “biggest risk” to his reelection. His campaign and the Republican Party sued to combat the practice, which was once a significant advantage for the GOP.
There is no known evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting, and the states that use it exclusively say they have safeguards in place to ensure that a hostile foreign actor doesn’t disrupt the vote. Election security experts said voter fraud is rare in all forms of balloting, including by mail.
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In addition to his claims of fraud, Trump argued that voting by mail would delay the determination of the election's victor, noting that the winner of a New York Democratic congressional primary vote conducted by mail weeks ago remains undeclared. Trump said that race would need to be “rerun."
Trump claimed the challenge would be greater in a presidential election, in which the Electoral College could come down to one state, and some states allow mail-in ballots to be received up to a week after Election Day.
“You’ll never know who won that state,” Trump said Monday.
In Florida, a different opinion
Tuesday, Trump encouraged voters in the critical swing state of Florida to vote by mail after months of criticizing the practice.
His encouragement followed a surge in Democratic requests to vote by mail in Florida, a state that Trump almost certainly must win to secure a second term. Democrats have about 1.9 million Floridians signed up to vote by mail this November, almost 600,000 more than the Republicans’ 1.3 million, according to the Florida secretary of state.
In 2016, both sides had about 1.3 million signed up before the general election.
“Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany rejected the notion that the president changed his views. She said he supports absentee voting by mail for a reason, as opposed to states mailing out ballots to all voters, regardless of whether they requested them. Many election officials said there is little effective difference between absentee voting and voting by mail.
Trump elaborated on why he supports voting by mail in Florida but not elsewhere.
“They’ve been doing this over many years, and they’ve made it really terrific," Trump said.
“This took years to do," he said. "This doesn’t take weeks or months. In the case of Nevada, they’re going to be voting in a matter of weeks. And you can’t do that.”
Florida hardly has a history of flawless elections. In 2000, the state's disputed vote count had to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, delivering the presidency to George W. Bush over Al Gore.
Precedent for mail-in voting
More voters during this year's primary elections opted to vote by mail, and several states relaxed restrictions for voting absentee through the mail. Trump himself voted by mail in the Florida primary this year.
Five states have relied on mail-in ballots since before the coronavirus pandemic raised concerns about voting in person.
This article originally appeared on Reno Gazette Journal: Trump campaign sues state of Nevada over mail-in ballot initiative