President Donald Trump urged Republicans to take unspecified legal action on Aug. 2, hours before Nevada’s Democratic-controlled Legislature rushed through sweeping changes allowing voting-by-mail and ballot harvesting in the Nov. 3 election.
Nevada is considered a battleground state. The Silver State, which has six electoral votes out of the 270 required to elect the president, was hotly contested in 2016. In that year’s presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton won 47.9 percent of the popular vote in the state, besting Republican Donald Trump, who won 45.4 percent, Ballotpedia reports.
The last time a Republican carried the state was 2004.
Republicans claim that states such as Democratic-controlled California and Nevada are enacting ballot harvesting laws, which allow organized workers or volunteers to collect absentee ballots from voters and deliver those ballots to a polling place, to make it easier for the votes of illegal aliens and those not interested in the political process to be cast.
Democrats counter that they are trying to make sure that exercising democratic rights should be as easy as possible and that they want everyone’s vote to count.
Republican Adam Paul Laxalt, former Nevada attorney general and co-chairman of the Trump campaign in the state, weighed in on what was transpiring among state lawmakers in Carson City.
“Gov. Sisolak and the NV Dems called a special session with no public present and inside 24 hours are ramming through mail-in balloting and ballot harvesting,” he wrote on Twitter on Aug. 1. “They are massively altering our election 97 days out entirely without the SecState. They are working to steal our election.”
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, reportedly said on July 31 that she preferred returning to in-person balloting, after some problems erupted during the state’s recent vote-by-mail primary election. That method of voting was challenged, but a federal judge refused to intervene. She said she would need an extra $5 million to be appropriated to cover a second all-mail election.
Trump weighed in, reposting Laxalt’s tweet early on Aug. 2, adding:
“This is outrageous. Must be met with immediate litigation!” He added the Twitter user name @GOPChairwoman to his tweet, which corresponds to Ronna McDaniel, who heads the Republican National Committee.
During the Nevada primaries, Trump also tweeted his displeasure with voting-by-mail, writing on May 20:
“State of Nevada ‘thinks’ that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S. They can’t! If they do, ‘I think’ I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections.”
On July 30, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, issued a formal proclamation calling the Nevada Legislature into a special session beginning at 9 a.m. on July 31 to, in the words of a press release, “address significant policy issues that cannot wait until the regularly scheduled legislative session.” One of the agenda items he listed was “ensuring Nevadans can exercise their fundamental right to vote in a way that does not dangerously expose them to increased risk of COVID-19 infection.”
The legislative measure, known as AB4, passed the Assembly 29–12 on July 31, and the Senate 13–8 on Aug. 2. One provision in the bill allows the governor, and not the secretary of state, who normally administers the electoral process, to determine how polling places operate in an emergency.
The measure now goes to the governor for signature.
Lawmakers shared their thoughts on the bill.
“No person should ever have to choose between their health and safety and their participation in democracy,” said Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, a Democrat, as reported by the Nevada Independent. “I am proud to support and vote for AB4, as it will go a long way to ensure that citizens of Nevada can participate in a safe manner.”
Republicans say there’s no reason to rush the legislation and that it’s inappropriate to make significant changes to election law during a special sitting of the legislature.
“I cannot even begin to try and predict what effect this will have on our state, and on our election process,” said Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy, a Republican. “This bill swings the pendulum to an extreme without having time to research its unintended consequences.”