President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign filed an emergency motion on Tuesday, in coordination with the Republican Party of Nevada, to prevent local election officials from processing postal ballots electronically. Its last-minute filing came shortly after a Nevada district judge rejected the campaign and the joint complaint of the party that sought the same.
Tuesday’s motion was aimed at seeking an expedited appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court on the grounds that electronic tabulation could allegedly lead to vote rigging and election fraud. The court rejected the appeal’s motion to suspend the counting of ballots in Clark County later on Tuesday, although further trials related to the suit are planned at least until early next week.
Trump’s campaign and the Nevada GOP filed their original complaint to stop electronic ballot counting in Clark County – the state’s most populous jurisdiction where the majority of voters are registered Democrats – on the grounds that their mechanical tabulation system compromised the civil process. The lawsuit pushed for increased monitoring of the way Clark County collects and counts postal ballots, arguing that human witnesses must be present to verify signatures and suggesting that cameras be installed to monitor the count.
Judge James Wilson of the Carson City District Court rejected the motion in a decision issued last Thursday. In his ruling, he noted that the Nevada state legislature passed a law in August that explicitly allows election authorities to tabulate ballots electronically as part of a series of provisions for “holding elections affected by certain emergencies or disasters,” such as the new coronavirus pandemic.
Wilson said that in making this decision, the Trump campaign and the Nevada GOP party “have failed to prove the use of [Nevada’s electronic tabulation system, Agilis] that has caused or has led to harm to any party, voter or other person or organization.
But the emergency motion filed on election day insisted that certain elements of Clark County’s tabulation process, as far as it relates to the postal vote, “create a process ripe for error or abuse. The motion repeated concerns expressed in the Trump campaign and in the Nevada GOP’s first lawsuit, which focused on electronic verification of voter signatures. It proposed that Joseph Gloria, the Clark County registrar named as the primary defendant, “prohibit observers from witnessing the duplication of postal ballots. The duplication refers to a scenario in which ballots with physical defects are copied so that tabulating machines can read them correctly.
Tuesday’s motion claims that Clark County’s duplication procedures without physical witnesses to observe are “particularly susceptible to ballot rigging fraud. Dan Kulin, a spokesman for the Clark County Elections Department, previously noted that the law does not prohibit observers from attending the tabulation proceedings.
Officials in Nevada’s local elections and Aaron Ford, the state attorney general, described the suit as an attempt to suppress voters in a large and heavily blue-colored district.
The Trump campaign and the original Nevada Republican Party lawsuit also called for Clark County to stop processing postal ballots altogether, a motion that Wilson rejected in late October. Trump has made clear his opposition to expanded participation in postal voting throughout the pandemic, falsely claiming that the widespread use of postal ballots would lead to voter fraud during the election.
“The President’s deliberate attempts to undermine the Nevada elections have failed once again,” Ford said in a statement released Monday following Wilson’s recent decision. “He has made every attempt to control the outcome of this election without regard for the health and safety of the residents or the laws of the State of Nevada that are designed to protect the sanctity of the ballot. Today’s decision makes it clear that there is a proper procedure for observing an election that even the president must follow, and it is certainly a victory for the constitutional rights of all Nevadians.
Washington Newsday asked the Trump campaign, the Nevada Republican Party and the Clark County Registrar for further comments, but did not receive responses in time for publication.
This message was updated at 21:12 ET to include the Nevada Supreme Court’s response to Tuesday’s emergency motion.