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Federal court rejects Trump campaign's effort to stop Nevada's mail ballot plan

Poll: A third of voters plan to vote by mail
Poll: A third of voters plan to vote by mail 05:29

A federal court has rejected the Trump campaign's attempt to roll back changes to Nevada's election laws, the latest setback for opponents of Nevada's efforts to mail paper ballots to all registered active voters in the battleground state, whether or not they asked for one. 

"I'm pleased to see a federal court judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block [Assembly Bill 4], a measure passed to expand options for Nevadans and provide for safe, fair & accessible elections during the pandemic" Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, posted Monday on Twitter following news of the ruling.

In a filing released Monday, U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan ruled that Republicans had failed to establish standing for their suit, granting Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske's motion to dismiss the case.

"Although they purport to allege constitutional harms that go beyond these policy disagreements, at this juncture, plaintiffs' allegations remain just that," the judge wrote in the order dated Friday

"Plaintiffs ask for a remedy to cure the 'confusion' caused by AB 4, yet they have positioned this case for last minute adjudication before the general election," Mahan added.

Trump Victory spokesperson Keith Schipper released a statement saying, "We are disappointed in the decision upholding the Nevada legislature's last minute and reckless overhaul of its electoral system and are assessing our options." 

In August, Nevada joined a number of states in moving to expand voting by mail amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. President Trump quickly decried the measure, accusing the governor of using the outbreak "to steal the state." 

Republicans were critical of several election changes in the measure, which also allowed for so-called "ballot harvesting" and granted additional time after Election Day for counties to receive mail ballots. 

The Trump campaign and Republicans claimed in their lawsuit that AB4 "makes voter fraud and other ineligible voting inevitable" and protested that it "changes so many election laws so close to the 2020 general election."

The president also repeatedly claimed, falsely, that the measure removed signature-matching requirements in the state. In fact, his campaign's own attorneys acknowledged signature requirements remained in place, going only so far as to claim the law opened a possible "loophole" over unsigned ballots that arrived folded together.

As in past legal wrangling over the state's elections, state and national Democrats moved to intervene as defendants in the suit. Earlier this month, two Indian tribes had also asked to join the suit as defendants.

A similar push to undo the expanded mail-in voting measure in state court was rejected last week by a judge in Nevada, filed by the state's branch of the Election Integrity Project of California. 

Attorneys for the secretary of state, a Republican, had warned in an hours-long virtual state court hearing that blocking the law could wreak havoc mere weeks from Election Day, after Nevada had invested heavily in telling voters that they would automatically receive ballots in the mail.

"Let me emphasize, there is great potential at this point to disenfranchise voters if an order issues enjoining the mailing of ballots," Gregory Zunino, an attorney for the secretary of state, said at the Thursday hearing.

"There is very little potential that people are going to be harmed, in the legal sense of the word, by voter fraud in this election."

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