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Donald J. Trump for President v. Cegavske

Issues: Whether recent changes by the state legislature to Nevada's voting procedures including, among other things, the expansion of voting-by-mail and a requirement that officials count ballots received up to three days after Election Day, violate federal election law and the Fourteenth Amendment.
State: Nevada
Court: U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada
Status: Complaint dismissed by district court

On Aug. 4, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign (along with the Republican National Committee and the Nevada Republican Party) filed a lawsuit in federal court in Nevada. The campaign asked the court to block Nevada officials from implementing a new election law, known as AB4. Signed by the state’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, on Aug. 3, the law requires the state to send mail-in ballots to all voters for the November 2020 election and makes other changes to election procedures to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

In its complaint, the Trump campaign alleged that AB4 “makes voter fraud and other ineligible voting inevitable.” For example, the campaign contended, the law requires election officials in Nevada to “accept and count ballots received after Election Day even when” it isn’t clear that those ballots were cast on or before Nov. 3 – and, as a result, effectively pushes the 2020 election past Election Day. AB4 also authorizes more in-person polling places for urban counties than for rural counties, the campaign argued, thereby discriminating against rural voters. The law allows election officials to use different standards in deciding how to process and count ballots – which, the campaign claimed, means that otherwise identical ballots could be treated differently. Finally, the campaign asserted, the law requires election officials to count ballots that may be fraudulent or invalid, diluting the power of valid ballots.

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske urged the district court to throw out the case, stressing that AB4 makes only “modest changes” to respond to the pandemic. What the Trump campaign is asking the court to do, she told the judge, is to weigh in on the wisdom of those changes. She noted that, although other states, including Florida, were also using mail-in voting for the 2020 elections, the Trump campaign has singled out Nevada “as the forum for high-profile litigation regarding vote-by-mail election processes.” But in any event, Cegavske concluded, the Trump campaign’s claims are purely speculative, as there has been no evidence of voter fraud in the states using mail-in voting.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan granted Cegavske’s motion to dismiss the case on Sept. 18. Mahan agreed with Cegavske that none of the challengers in the case had a legal right to sue, known as “standing.” Mahan stressed that “the key provisions of AB4 apply to all voters,” and the challengers had not shown how they or their members would be harmed by the law in a way that others would not. “Not only have” the challengers “failed to allege a substantial risk of voter fraud,” Mahan continued, but the state “has its own mechanisms for deterring and prosecuting voter fraud” — and the challengers have not alleged that these mechanisms will not work. What the case really boils down to, Mahan suggested, is that Trump and the GOP simply have “policy disagreements” with the law. Mahan also noted that the challengers had not asked to fast-track the case, even though they had “positioned [it] for last minute adjudication before the general election.”