Trump falsely accuses Nevada of using COVID-19 to “steal” election by mailing ballots to voters

Trump baselessly accuses Nevada of staging illegal "coup" for moving to send ballots to voters (as in its primary)

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published August 3, 2020 12:17PM (EDT)

Donald Trump | Mail-in-Voting ballot (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump | Mail-in-Voting ballot (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump baselessly accused Nevada of an illegal "coup" and of trying to "steal" the election after the state's legislature voted to send mail-in ballots to all active voters.

Trump has repeatedly falsely claimed that mail-in voting is rife with fraud, even though multiple analyses have found that the risk of potential fraud is somewhere between 0.00006% and 0.0025%. Moreover, numerous Republican officials in states with a history of all-mail voting argue that there are safeguards in place to prevent fraud.

Trump, who has argued that voting by mail favors Democrats (even though research disputes this), has tried to draw a distinction between mail-in voting, which he claims is bad, and absentee voting, which he claims is "good." But lawyers for Trump's own re-election campaign recently admitted in court documents they are the same thing.

Trump doubled-down on his false claims Monday after Nevada lawmakers voted to send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter over concerns about the coronavirus, which has resulted in massive worker shortages, shuttered poll sites and hours-long lines in states where in-person voting has already taken place amid the ongoing pandemic.

"In an illegal late night coup, Nevada's clubhouse Governor made it impossible for Republicans to win the state," Trump baselessly tweeted. "Post Office could never handle the Traffic of Mail-In Votes without preparation. Using Covid to steal the state. See you in Court!"

But the move, which was approved by the Nevada state legislature during the day (and not at night), is expected to be signed by the state's governor. It is neither a "coup" nor "illegal."

Nevada already mailed absentee ballots to every active voter in its June primary. Several other states, including California, have recently voted to send absentee ballots to all registered voters.

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, told lawmakers last week that she was not aware of any fraud in the primary. The limited number of polling places the state opened saw lines of up to eight hours in the major cities of Las Vegas and Reno.

Trump insisted in May that Nevada's decision would lead to "voter fraud," and the president threatened to cut off funding for the state.

"To my knowledge . . . We've not had any cases of fraud that have been reported to us," Cegavske said last week.

Trump himself, and many of his advisers, have repeatedly voted by mail before opposing it this year.

Trump has also recently pushed a new claim that the U.S. Postal Service will not be able to handle the expected surge of mail ballots. Trump's comments come as his administration repeatedly sought to slash funding for the agency. The new postmaster general, a major donor to Trump's campaign, has already raised alarms over potential service cuts and a a slowdown of service ahead of the election.

Trump's complaints come as he trails badly in the polls amid sagging approval numbers over his response to the pandemic and his reaction to protests over police brutality. Trump lost Nevada by less than 2.5% in 2016. He currently trails presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 6.5%, according to FiveThirtyEight's polling average.

The president has also spun a new narrative about voting by mail, warning that results may not be fully counted until "months" or "years" after the election. The claim was quickly debunked by election experts.

Trump said during a news conference last week that "tremendous litigation" could hold up the results, but he has repeatedly signaled that the litigation would come from his own campaign. Trump and the Republican Party have already sued California over its plan to send ballots to voters and sued Pennsylvania over new rules making it easier to vote.

"This is outrageous. Must be met with immediate litigation!" Trump tweeted on Sunday in response to Nevada's vote.

Trump, who has been extraordinarily litigious since his business days, is now using the threat of litigation to argue against voting by mail. 

"So many years, I've been watching elections. And they say the 'projected winner' or the 'winner of the election.' I don't want to see that take place in a week after Nov. 3, or a month, or frankly, with litigation and everything else that can happen, years. Years — or you never even know who won the election," Trump claimed at the news conference last week before hinting at where the political litigation would originate.

"I don't want to be waiting around for weeks and months," he said. "And, literally, potentially — if you really did it right — years, because you'll never know."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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