The Trump Campaign, RNC, and Nevada Republican Party filed suit against Secretary of State Barbara Cegaske to block implementation of Assembly Bill No. 4 (AB4), a new state law that had been passed along straight party lines during a Special (Sunday) Session of the Nevada Legislature. AB4 was the result of a lawsuit brought by various Democratic groups to relax vote-by mail standards during the Covid-19 pandemic (Corona, et al v. Cegavske, 20 OC 00064 1B). Among the 25 new election-related sections and 60 amendments to Nevada statutes, AB4 requires the state to send mail-in ballots to all voters for the November General Election. AB4 also directs election officials to presume that ballots are cast in time, provided they are received by 5 PM three days following an election, even without a postmark.
Historically, Nevadans overwhelmingly voted in-person. However, on March 24, Secretary Cegavske announced that the June 9 primary elections (prior to AB4 being enacted) would be 100% vote-by-mail due to the Covid-10 pandemic. The dramatic switch resulted in major irregularities with ballots. There were claims of ballots in trash cans and deceased voters receiving ballots. One postal worker noted that thousands of ballots were sitting in crates with no additional safeguards. Media reported that of the 1.3 million absentee ballots sent out over 220,000 were returned as undeliverable.
Plaintiffs reference conclusions from the Commission on Federal Election Reform Carter-Baker Report (frequently cited by the U.S. Supreme Court) and other well-regarded sources to underscore the increased risk of fraudulent behavior with mail-in voting. The issues stem from outdated voter registries, undue influence on vulnerable adults in nursing homes, and ballots going to wrong addresses in large apartment buildings. Pew Research reported in 2012 that one out of eight voter registrations was invalid or incorrect, more than 1.8 million deceased voters remained on the registry, and about 2.75 million people were registered to vote in more than one state. A 2010 Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project found that 1 in 65 records was duplicative such that one registrant was listed several times and that 1 in 100 registrants was likely to be deceased. In short, voting-by-mail is widely understood to be susceptible to error and fraud.
Plaintiffs claimed that AB4 and its predictable impact would result in violations of voters’ constitutional rights, and consequently sought to bar its use in the November election. On August 24, Secretary Cegavske moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the allegations were speculative, there was no cognizable harm, and the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the suit. She also said that AB4 merely codifies the administrative action she took prior to the primaries.
On September 18, U.S. District Judge Mahan agreed with Secretary Cegavske and granted her motion to dismiss.