(CN) — In a blow to the Trump campaign in a key battleground state, a federal judge rejected a bid to shoot down Nevada’s plan to expand mail-in voting during the state of emergency caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Under a bill approved by the Nevada Legislature in August, all active voters will receive a mail-in ballot for the November general election. The measure establishes a minimum number of in-person voting locations and also provides additional time after Election Day for counties to receive mail ballots.
A day after the bill passed in a special session, the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and the Nevada Republican Party filed a federal lawsuit challenging provisions of the bill they argued would lead to widespread voter fraud.
The campaign said in court papers Nevada’s mail-in voting plan would strip the election process of safeguards against voter fraud and unnecessarily complicate the timeline for counting votes.
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske moved to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of standing, arguing the campaign had no direct organizational or associational standing to represent voters’ interests.
U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan agreed, writing in a Sep. 18 ruling that the Trump campaign represents only the president and his political goals.
“The Trump campaign does not represent Nevada voters,” Mahan wrote in his 12-page order, which was made available to the public Monday. “Although the Trump campaign may achieve its ‘organization’s purpose’ through Nevada voters, the individual constitutional interests of those voters are wholly distinct.”
Mahan also rejected the Trump campaign’s argument that its supporters would be harmed by voter fraud that it claims has occurred in other states.
“Even if accepted as true, plaintiffs’ pleadings allude to vote dilution that is impermissibly generalized,” Mahan wrote.
A Trump campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.
An injunction against enforcement of Nevada’s Assembly Bill 4 would in fact worsen plaintiffs’ alleged injuries by removing a key safeguard of elections: eliminating the minimum number of physical polling sites, Mahan found.
The judge was also unpersuaded by the Trump campaign’s claim that it has organizational standing because it’s using resources to educate voters about AB 4 and voter fraud.
“If plaintiffs did not expend any resources on educating their voters on AB 4, their voters would proceed to vote in-person as they overwhelmingly have in prior elections,” Mahan wrote. “Not only have plaintiffs failed to allege a substantial risk of voter fraud, the state of Nevada has its own mechanisms for deterring and prosecuting voter fraud.”
In a response to Cegavske’s motion to dismiss the complaint, the Trump campaign argued AB 4 would hamper GOP candidates’ elections by fomenting voter confusion and creating “incentives” for voters to stay away from polls, but Mahan also rejected that argument.
“Enjoining Nevada election officials from enforcing AB 4 would not apparently improve the odds for plaintiffs’ candidates,” Mahan wrote. “Plaintiffs ask for a remedy to cure the “confusion” caused by AB 4, yet they have positioned this case for last minute adjudication before the general election.”
Attorneys for the campaign have 30 days to appeal the decision.
A spokesperson for Cegavske did not respond to a request for comment by press time. But in a tweet, Governor Steve Sisolak said he was pleased with the ruling.
“I’m pleased to see a federal court judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block AB4, a measure passed to expand options for Nevadans and provide for safe, fair & accessible elections during the pandemic,” the Democrat said.