Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s motion to dismiss a complaint by President Trump’s campaign over the state’s expanded mail-in voting was granted Friday by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.
The court ruled the plaintiffs, which included the Republican National Committee and the Nevada Republican Party, lacked standing to bring their claims for relief, a position that had been argued by Cegavske, the defendant in the case.
In his decision, Senior U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan noted the plaintiffs attempted to establish standing in three ways: “associational standing to vindicate harms to their member voters, direct organizational standing due to their need to divert resources, and direct and associational standing to vindicate competitive injuries to their candidates.” The court addressed each of the theories in turn, rejecting each of them.
The court found that the Trump campaign fails to satisfy the second prong of associational standing because it does not represent Nevada voters, “only Donald J. Trump and his ‘electoral and political goals’ of re-election.” While stating that the RNC and state party did satisfy the second prong, plaintiffs’ member voters would not “otherwise have standing to sue in their own right” and the alleged injury of vote dilution is impermissibly “generalized and speculative” at this juncture.
The court cited several precedents in this area, finally stating that plaintiffs’ claims do not establish “a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.”
Citing news articles about administrative problems in other states that “hurriedly” implemented mail-in voting for elections during the pandemic does not change the fact the “alleged injuries are speculative,” the court said.
In a nutshell, the court said that the key provisions of the bill expanding mail-in voting, AB 4, apply to all voters, and the plaintiffs “never describe how their member voters will be harmed by vote dilution where other voters will not.” As with other “available grievances about the government,” the court said, “plaintiffs seek relief on behalf of their member voters that no more directly and tangibly benefits them than it does the public at large.”
The ruling added that “the proposition that plaintiffs must seek relief that actually improves their position is a well-established principle” and that equal protection claims presented by the plaintiffs fall flat because they failed to “demonstrate how these harms are redressed by their requested relief.”
The claim that the plaintiffs have direct organizational standing to bring their claims was dismissed even more curtly by the court, which noted such standing requires “the alleged misconduct of the defendant,” in this case the Republican secretary of state, causes “a drain on resources from both a diversion of its resources and frustration of its mission.”
The plaintiffs alleged that AB 4 forces them “to divert resources and spend significant amounts of money educating Nevada voters and encouraging them to still vote” while at the same time claiming that there is a need to “divert resources to counteract voter fraud.”
The court was having none of that, stating that the plaintiffs made “no indication of how AB 4 will discourage their member voters from voting.” Moreover, the court pointed out that AB 4 “does not abolish in-person voting,” and an organization cannot “simply choose to spend money fixing a problem that otherwise would not affect the organization at all. It must instead show that it would have suffered some other injury if it had not diverted resources to counteracting the problem.”
While the plaintiffs noted in their response to Cegavske’s motion to dismiss that “they will need to divert resources to combat voter fraud,” the court countered that they cannot “divert resources to combat an impermissibly speculative injury. 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.”
The final argument, that the plaintiffs claimed they ahve both direct and associational standing to challenge “competitive harms” to their candidates, was similarly dismissed out of hand. “The pleadings make no showing of an unfair advantage in the election process,” the court stated in its decision. Plaintiffs rely on conclusory statements on confusion and disincentives that this court has already found unpersuasive.”
In essence, the court said that Republican candidates “face no harms that are unique from their electoral opponents.” As the plaintiffs “have not established a substantial risk that their alleged harm will occur,” the court ruled that “neither plaintiffs nor their member candidates have standing to sue in their own right.”
Based on the lack of standing under all possible criteria, the court granted the secretary of state’s motion to dismiss the amended complaint. In addition, the court ruled the defendant’s motion against the original complaint, the motion by the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Nevada State Democratic Party, the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment, and the motion by Walker River Paiute Tribe and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe to intervene were all denied as moot.
Finally, Mahan instructed the clerk to close the case of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., et. al. v. Barbara Cegavske.