EDITORIAL:

Trump’s threat against Nevada shows he fears free, fair and safe elections

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Evan Vucci / AP

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Washington.

Nevada, let’s cut through the Trump Twitter clutter to get something straight: The president of the United States is terrified at the idea of Nevada voting. The coward in the Oval Office will try anything — including threatening to damage the lives of everyone here — to stop us from voting him out.

Everyone in the Republican Party trembles at the idea of voters, you know, actually voting. But no one is more frightened of democracy than President Donald Trump. He loathes democracy and seeks to trample it. Trump knows he can’t win a fair election. So he wants to cheat. Again.

This time, he’s doing it with a threat to withhold federal funding for Nevada over our mail-in balloting for the June 9 primary.

“State of Nevada ‘thinks’ that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S. They can’t! If they do, ‘I think’ I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

Translation: Trump would rather force Nevadans to risk exposure to COVID-19 by voting in person than allow them to vote safely by mail.

What about the vote is illegal? Who’s cheating, and how? What evidence is there of fraud? And what makes Trump think he can actually follow up on this threat?

Trump answered none of those questions in his rage-tweeting, in which he also bashed Michigan over his false claim that it was sending absentee ballots to every voter in the state. In reality, Michigan was sending applications for those ballots to voters.

But what matters to Trump isn’t the truth or the safety of Americans or even the integrity of our elections, it’s suppressing the vote to keep himself and his minority party in power by any means necessary.

That’s why he and Republicans are so frightened of Nevada. We’ve firmly rejected Trump-era GOP extremism here before and are poised to do it again. In recent elections, we’ve voted down a slew of candidates who share the Republicans’ irresponsible views on immigration, gun safety, health care, equality and more.

Not only that, but our demographics and voting patterns reflect where the country as a whole is heading, which also scares the GOP to death.

If current national demographic trends continue, the nation by 2050 will look like Nevada does today in terms of ethnic diversity, the size of our immigrant population, the average age of the population, gender identity and other areas. That’s bad news for Republicans, and they know it. People of color, younger Americans and LGBT individuals tend not to vote for GOP candidates.

So the Republicans do everything they can to rig the system in their favor. They gerrymander to preposterous levels. They make it more difficult to vote — opposing mail balloting and automatic registration, closing polls in Democratic-leaning areas, throwing out registrations over ginned-up technicalities, etc. And when that doesn’t work, they commit outright voter fraud, like when the Colorado congressman who heads the state’s Republican Party was caught on audio pressuring a local party official to submit falsified documents to help a GOP candidate make the primary ballot.

As for Nevada, a priceless irony about Trump’s attack is that the mail-in approach was directed by our secretary of state — who’s a Republican, mind you. In fact, Democrats successfully sued to establish more in-person balloting locations for people who have trouble voting by mail or would prefer not to.

If Trump seriously wanted to protect against voter fraud, he and GOP leaders would stop blocking efforts to secure our elections from foreign tampering. But of course, they welcome foreign tampering, don’t they?

Interestingly, there are signs that Republicans have figured out a way to pollute mail-in votes. This year, GOP leadership mailed out millions of fake census documents that were identified only in tiny print as a product of the Republican Party. The goal was to dupe people into responding to the fake census, then ignoring the real one.

It’s not hard to imagine that a similar effort — or many of them — will pop up to suppress mail-in voting. Imagine U.S. households awash in fake ballots just like the fake census documents sent by the GOP. How would voters know what’s real and what’s not?

Congress and the Federal Elections Commission should immediately criminalize — with steep penalties — this specific kind of fraud. The current protections are weak, because providing someone with a fake ballot and tricking them into thinking they have voted doesn’t result in actual fraudulent votes being cast. Instead it’s a form of voter suppression by fraudulent mailings. Since Trump says he wants to prevent fraud, he should sign such protections.

Of course, he has no legitimate interest in protecting the vote. He wants to suppress voting and also prepare the ground for telling his blind believers, when he loses, that the vote was rigged so he can try to invalidate the election.

Which brings us back to Wednesday.

Hiding behind his phone screen, here was a president trying to tear down a safe mail-in election and send Nevadans where he wouldn’t be caught dead — standing in line with voters at a ballot box. The alternative, in Trump’s threat, was for Nevada to lose an economic lifeline to the federal government.

Nevadans would get hurt either way. Obviously, Trump doesn’t give a rip. Instead this would-be tyrant, while insulated in one of the most protected places on the planet, would throw innocent people into danger to protect himself and his party.

“For the president to threaten federal funding in the midst of a pandemic over a state exercising its authority to run elections in a safe and legal manner is inappropriate and outrageous,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a tweet.

Well put. All we would add is that it’s also the picture of cowardice.