Judge Rules Against Trump, GOP Officials in Nevada Ballot-Counting Case

Judge Rules Against Trump, GOP Officials in Nevada Ballot-Counting Case
Supporters gather for a rally with President Donald Trump in Henderson, Nev., on Sept. 13, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Zachary Stieber

A judge in Nevada has denied a bid to slow the counting of mail-in ballots in the state’s largest county, ruling against President Donald Trump and state Republican officials.

The lawsuit, filed last month, sought to delay the counting until Trump campaign volunteers could closely observe the tallying.

Nevada District Judge James Wilson said in the ruling, which was issued last week but not made public until Nov. 2, that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing to file the suit.

While several witnesses testified that they saw ballots removed from envelopes and left alone, “no evidence was presented that any party or witness wanted to challenge a vote or voter, or had his or her vote challenged,” Wilson wrote in the 21-page ruling.

He also said there was no evidence of errors in matching ballot signatures or bias or prejudice from election staffers.

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske hasn’t failed to meet her lawful duty to let members of the general public or petitioners observe the counting of ballots, the judge concluded.

The counting of ballots will continue in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.

Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald in a statement said the ruling “should send a chill down every Nevadan’s spine.”

“The court affirmed that the bill to overhaul Nevada’s election system, which was passed at the 11th hour less than 100 days from Election Day, provides no ability to meaningfully observe or challenge obvious signature mismatches. This is a dark day in our state’s history, but our fight for a free, fair, and transparent election is not over. We are evaluating an expedited appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court,” he said.

The state GOP said in an earlier statement that one of the biggest issues was a purportedly low standard for signature verification, leading to 99 percent of ballots being approved.

Aaron Ford, the state’s attorney general, cheered the ruling, calling the lawsuit a deliberate attempt by Trump “to undermine Nevada’s elections.”

“He has made every attempt to control the outcome of this election without any regard for the health and safety of residents or Nevada’s state laws designed to protect the sanctity of the ballot. Today’s ruling makes clear that there is a proper procedure to observe an election that even the president must follow, and it’s most certainly a victory for the constitutional rights of all Nevadans,” Ford said in a statement.

In a statement following the ruling, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak thanked Ford and his team “for working on behalf of Nevadans to ensure every lawful vote is counted.”

Nevada has 6 electoral votes. Both Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden are considered to have a shot at winning the state. Trump lost the state by about 27,000 votes in 2016 to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.