WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and the national Republican Party have sued to block the western state of Nevada from sending a mail-in ballot to every registered voter in the state, even as Trump says absentee voting is fine by him in his adopted home state of Florida.
The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday claims the Nevada voting plan approved by the state legislature Sunday night will result in “inevitable” fraud in the Nov. 3 national presidential election.
In an interview on the “Fox & Friends” television show Wednesday, Trump sought to draw a distinction between absentee voting — when states send voters applications for ballots which they must return before being sent an actual ballot — and states like Nevada that are planning to automatically mail all registered voters a ballot.
"Absentee is OK because you have to go through a process," said Trump, who has voted by mail in Florida. "What they're going to do [in Nevada] is blanket the state. Anybody who ever walked, frankly, will get one."
For weeks, Trump has disparaged mail-in voting across the country as potentially rife with fraud and claimed that it will lead to a “rigged” election stolen by Democrats to defeat him.
But he abruptly reversed course Tuesday on mail-in voting in Florida, a state critical to his reelection chances, after surveys showed that some Republican voters were more inclined than Democrats to not vote by mail after Trump’s repeated complaints about the practice.
Trump won Florida en route to his 2016 upset victory, and he almost certainly will have to win the state again for a second four-year term. The southeastern state has 29 of the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the presidency through the Electoral College, the indirect voting system in which state-by-state voting outcome determines the national outcome, not the national popular vote.
Trump claimed in the television interview that Florida’s mail-in voting is more reliable because it has had “two good governors,” Republicans Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott. Nevada’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, is a Trump critic.
"They have an infrastructure that’s taken years to build," Trump said about Florida's mail-in voting system.
Despite Trump’s complaints, election fraud is rare in the U.S. But the vast increase in mail-in voting expected this year as voters shun in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic could lead to substantial vote-counting problems.
In some state elections this year, officials have been overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of extra mailed-in ballots compared to previous elections. In some instances, with the tedious vote-counting of the mailed-in ballots, it has taken weeks for the outcomes of close elections to be determined, contrary to the usual practice in the U.S. when winners and losers are most often known within hours of polls closing on Election Night.
Trump contended that the outcome of the presidential election "could be for months and months. It could be for years." By law, however, the next U.S. president is set to be sworn in Jan. 20, 2021.
But Trump expressed hope that the coronavirus pandemic will have abated substantially in less than three months, making voters less fearful of heading to polls to vote in person.
"By the time we get there, we'll probably be in very good shape," he predicted. “November 3rd is a long way off. That’s an eternity, as far as I’m concerned.”
In the Nevada lawsuit, the Trump campaign and Republicans claimed the voting law is unconstitutional because it allows for ballots to be counted even if they are received up to Nov. 6, three days after the election, and even if they lack a postmark.
In a statement Monday after signing the legislation, Sisolak said the law would protect Nevadans and "safeguard their right to make their voices heard."