Trump, GOP sue Nevada election officials over mail voting

Since 2020, Nevada's elections have been conducted primarily through mail voting.

FILE - A person places mail-in ballots at a mail-in ballot drop box at the Clark County Election Department, Oct. 29, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

By Casey Harrison

May 3, 2024

The Trump campaign claims Nevada’s timeline for counting mail ballots received after Election Day “clearly violates” federal law, even though dozens of other states have similar laws on the books.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee, and the Nevada GOP filed a lawsuit on Friday against the state’s top elections officials, alleging the timeframe in which the state accepts mail ballots conflicts with federal law.

Current state law mandates that all mail ballots cast must be postmarked by Election Day. Those ballots must then be received by the county clerk’s office by 5 p.m. on the fourth day after Election Day to be counted.

But the GOP and the Trump campaign argue the practice undermines election integrity and “unlawfully extends” the election past what is mandated by Congress, attorneys wrote in an 18-page complaint filed to the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.

The complaint lists Nevada Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar, a Democrat, as well as the county clerks and registrars of voters for Clark and Washoe counties—the two most populous in the state, which also tend to support Democratic presidential candidates. In a press release announcing the lawsuit, the GOP said it has 83 lawsuits pending in 25 states regarding elections.

“Nevada’s ballot receipt deadline clearly violates federal law and undermines election integrity in the state,” RNC Chairman Michael Whatley said in a press release announcing the suit. “Ballots received days after Election Day should not be counted—the RNC and our partners are suing to secure an honest election, support Nevada voters, and oppose unlawful schemes.”

Approximately 21 states, including Nevada, allow mail ballots to be counted even if they’re received after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Voting rights advocates say allowing ballots to be counted if they’re delivered past Election Day is important because it accounts for postal delays and other unforeseen circumstances.

Nevada has conducted its elections primarily through mail voting since the 2020 election and was first adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, former Gov. Steve Sisolak signed AB 321 into law, which permanently codified the mail voting system.

Voters in Nevada are mailed a ballot for each statewide election regardless of if they requested one, unless they update their registration to opt-out of the program. It was one of the many voting reform bills signed into law by Sisolak at the end of the 2021 legislative session that also implemented automatic voter registration.

Voting rights advocates applauded the passage of AB 321 when it was signed into law and said it would increase voter turnout, and Aguilar has responded on multiple occasions to unfounded claims by Trump and other conservatives the elections in 2020 and 2022 were “rigged.”

Last month, Aguilar’s office published a report that showed 146 instances of potential voter fraud linked to the 2022 election — representing 0.0001% of the 1,023,617 ballots cast during that race. Multiple public and private entities, including the Associated Press, have found no evidence to back up Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud in either 2020 or 2022.

Aguilar’s office was also a driving force in advocating for a bill signed into law last year by Gov. Joe Lombardo that established criminal penalties for threatening or harassing an election worker. The need for such a bill became apparent after clerks across Nevada had trouble retaining and hiring new staff members amid a surge of threatening messages following the 2020 and 2022 elections stemming from Trump’s rhetoric and false claims of fraud, Aguilar said.

Trump carried 15 of Nevada’s 17 counties in 2020, but failed to win Clark and Washoe. President Joe Biden won the two counties by a combined 207,380 votes and ultimately carried the state by roughly 33,000 votes.

Neither Clark nor Washoe counties immediately responded to a request for comment. In a statement responding to the lawsuit’s allegations, Aguilar again affirmed the state runs safe and secure elections.

“Nevada runs some of the most secure, transparent, and accessible elections in the country,” Aguilar said. “The key for that accessibility is allowing working Nevadans to vote using the method that works best for them, including voting by mail. Our office will not comment on ongoing litigation, but I hope the RNC is putting as much time and energy into educating voters on how to participate in elections as they put into suing the state of Nevada.”

  • Casey Harrison

    Casey Harrison is political correspondent for The Nevadan. Previously, he covered politics and the Oakland Athletics' relocation to Southern Nevada for the Las Vegas Sun, and before that, was a digital producer at The Detroit News. Casey graduated from Michigan State University in 2019.

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