LAS VEGAS — Attorneys for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign are urging a federal judge in Las Vegas to block a state law and prevent mail-in ballots from going to all active Nevada voters less than eight weeks before the Nov. 3 elections and amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The campaign argues in documents filed Tuesday in a bid to keep its lawsuit alive that it is hurt by the state law passed in July by the Democrat-led Legislature because it forces Republicans to divert resources to “educating Nevada voters on those changes and encouraging them to still vote.”
Thea McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, declined to comment Thursday about the lawsuit. Attorneys for the state did not immediately respond to messages.
The Trump campaign argues that sending ballots to nearly 1.7 million active voters in Nevada will impede Republicans’ ability to elect candidates “because the law will ‘confuse’ their voters and ‘create incentive’ to stay away from the polls." Mail-in ballots are due to be sent out in the next few weeks.
The 16-page U.S. District Court filing was an answer to Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s motion last month to throw out the lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign, Republican National Committee and state Republicans.
Cegavske, also a Republican, opposed the law as unaffordable before it passed. The lawsuit targeted her as the state’s top elections official. The office of state Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, is defending the law in court.
Polling shows Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading in Nevada. The state offers six electoral votes to the 270 needed to win the presidency.
Nevada argues that the Trump campaign and Republicans don’t have legal standing to take the case to court and have failed to explain how they’d be harmed. The state also argues that Republicans do not support their “nebulous argument that (the state law) increases the likelihood of voter fraud.”
The Democratic National Committee and state Democrats are seeking to join the lawsuit, and attorneys from around the country on both sides have applied to take part.
Defenders of the vote-by-mail plan note that another federal judge in Nevada rejected a challenge against the use of mail-in ballots during Nevada's primary elections in June.
They characterize the state law as a modest change to address the dangers of voting in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump, who has acknowledged voting absentee by mail himself in the past, has repeatedly attacked what he terms “universal mail-in voting" as unsafe and a soft target for fraud and interference.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history," he tweeted July 30.
The TEGNA VERIFY team found that the only difference between absentee and all-mail voting is voters have to request an absentee. In the other system, ballots are automatically sent to registered voters.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in Phoenix on Thursday that universal mail-in voting eliminates the intent of a secret vote.
“Your name is associated with a particular ballot. The government and the people involved can find out and know how you voted. And it opens up the door to coercion," Barr said.
Senior U.S. District Judge James Mahan has not scheduled hearings ahead of a decision on Democrats’ requests to intervene, or Cegavske’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.
Mahan, a U.S. Navy veteran originally from El Paso, Texas, was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2002.
Associated Press writer Bob Christie in Phoenix and TEGNA Staff contributed to this report.