People are used to tweeted threats and insults from President Donald Trump. There are so many, lots of people simply shake their heads and move on.
Then early Wednesday, he threatened Nevada. The president called Nevada’s mail-in ballot system illegal. He said it was creating the potential for voter fraud.
He ended by saying he “thinks” he can hold up funding because Nevada allows mail-in ballots.
The truth is quite a bit different, according to Sondra Cosgrove, president of the League of Women Voters in Southern Nevada and a history professor at the College of Southern Nevada.
Cosgrove said the first issue with the president's tweet is the idea of withholding funding. She noted that Congress holds the purse strings, which makes it unlikely that he could redirect federal funds.
Steve Sebelius, government and politics editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, agreed with a caveat.
“But, bear in mind, that the president has taken previously approved congressional funds, designated for one purpose and devoted it to an entirely separate purpose,” he said.
He gave the example of the president taking funds designated for defense and using it to build a wall along the southern border. Sebelius wonders if President Trump could take funds from Nevada to pay for the wall.
Sebelius doesn't believe the idea of cutting funding to Nevada because of the mail-in ballots will get far in a divided Congress but he feels the idea sets a bad precedent.
“This is something that I think is premised on either an intentional lie, or at the very best-case scenario, a breathtakingly uninformed view of how elections are conducted in the state of Nevada and how they can be conducted under state law,” he said.
The second issue with the president's tweet is the idea that mail-in ballots are illegal. Both Cosgrove and Sebelius said under Nevada Revised Statute mail-in ballots are legal and a district court reaffirmed that.
“We actually have a court ruling that came in two weeks ago by a Republican group ‘True the Vote’ that challenged our election and the district court judge, Judge Du, came out and said, ‘No, this is per election law. It’s per the governor’s emergency order. Everything is good – go,’”
Sebelius said that according to Nevada law mail-in ballots are legal, and according to the Constitution, elections are run by state law. He added that under state law any precinct in the state can ask to use mail-in ballots and if the secretary of state approves that move it can move forward.
He said that process happened in Nevada in blue counties and red counties.
“I find it impossible to believe that the county clerks in red counties and that Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, would agree to a scheme that they believe would perpetuate voter fraud. It’s just simply a laughable as an assertion and the only reason we’re not laughing this off… is it came with the threat of withholding federal funds,” Sebelius said.
As for the question of voter fraud, Cosgrove believes that perhaps the president was concerned about ballots being loose and not in a controlled environment like a polling place on election day.
“Somebody actually has to commit a crime for fraud to happen," she said, "So, just because there are loose ballots, doesn’t mean somebody is going to try to vote with one of those ballots and it certainly doesn’t mean that that ballot is going to be counted.”
Sebelius said the judge dismissed the idea of voter fraud being a concern because there is no evidence for the assertion that voter fraud was present.
President Trump has spent most of his presidency tweeting on a variety of issues. Some people seem to ignore and others get a lot of attention.
Cosgrove sees this latest tweet as a chance for people to get educated about the election process.
“Maybe take this opportunity to really understand what the process is and why it’s a good process," she said.
Sebelius believes that even though people might like to dismiss this latest tweet from the president it is not really possible.
“It’s one of the things that is difficult to take seriously, but when the head of the executive branch threatens to take money away from a state on a completely made-up basis, it is something you have to pay some amount of attention to,” he said.
Sondra Cosgrove, president, League of Women Voters in Southern Nevada; Steve Sebelius, government and politics editor, Las Vegas Review-Journal
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