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President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev., Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP) President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev., Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP)

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev., Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman September 13, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • At a rally, President Donald Trump said Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, is in charge of the election and millions of ballots. That ignores that local elections officials largely operate elections including mailing out ballots.

  • Trump repeated his inaccurate claim that the only way he could lose the presidential election is if it’s rigged. Trump, like any incumbent president, will be judged on his record, in his case the handling of the pandemic.

  • Trump falsely suggested that mail-in ballots may only go to Democratic areas. Ballots will be mailed to Democrats, Republicans and voters who register with other parties or are independents. 

President Donald Trump made a series of false attacks on voting by mail at a Nevada rally, wrongly suggesting that Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, is in charge of millions of mail ballots and can "rig" the election.

In broad attacks on voting by mail, Trump falsely suggested that mail ballots will only be sent to Democrats. Dead people and dogs will also receive ballots, he said, without providing any details. 

Nevada media outlets reported that thousands of Trump supporters gathered for his outdoor rally Sept. 12 at the Minden-Tahoe Airport, despite state rules limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people. Many in the audience did not wear masks or social distance. Trump was scheduled to hold a rally in Las Vegas on Sept. 13.

We sent emails to the Trump campaign asking for evidence to support his statements about voting by mail in Nevada and did not get a reply by deadline.

Here’s a look at six of Trump’s false or misleading claims about voting in Nevada:

Says Gov. Sisolak "is the guy that we’re entrusting with millions of ballots, unsolicited ballots, millions and millions."

Trump is wrong about Sisolak’s role in handling mailed ballots. Local elections officials will handle them. Trump also exaggerated the number of Nevada voters.

County election officials will send ballots to every active voter as part of a law passed by the State Assembly. The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in August challenging AB4.

Sisolak signed the bill in August and rejected a request from Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske to require individuals who return 10 or more ballots on behalf of others to provide their name and political associations. Cegavske, a Republican, opposed AB4.

Nevada has about 1.7 million active voters. (The number will likely be higher by the election.) 

Says Sisolak is "in charge of the election and the millions of ballots. So if I’m up like millions of votes, he can rig the election, he can rig the election."

The idea that Sisolak could "rig" the election in Nevada is wrong.

The day-to-day tasks of operating an election are in the hands of county officials, not the governor. County election officials send out ballots, recruit poll workers and operate in-person voting sites. The secretary of state supervises state and local elections and certifies election results. 

The secretary of state’s office warned that if results change after Election Day, it does not mean there was fraud or malfeasance. The counting of ballots must be done by the ninth day following the election, and county officials have 13 days to certify results.

RELATED: Be patient on election night 2020: Counting the returns will take time

"It’s a rigged election. It’s the only way we’re going to lose." 

Pants on Fire! Trump is an incumbent facing several ongoing challenges: a major pandemic, high unemployment, civic unrest and future uncertainty. Those are significant political hurdles that would be challenging for any president. 

A conspiracy to rig the results of a national election would require hundreds or thousands of people working together to commit felonies across many jurisdictions. Experts do not consider this feasible, nor do we.

"They send 80 million ballots out. Where are they going? Who are they sending them to? Are they sending them to certain areas and not other areas? Are they sending them to Democrat areas? These are all controlled by Democrat governors, like your politically motivated governor. "

Trump falsely suggests that mail ballots will be sent only to Democrats. 

Nationwide, ballots will be sent to voters who are Democrats, Republicans, other parties or independents. (Here’s the breakdown of the party affiliation of active registered voters in Nevada.) Ballots will be sent in states that have historically sent ballots to all voters for many years predating COVID-19. Some states, including Nevada, decided to send out ballots to all voters this year to reduce the number of voters gathering indoors at voting sites. 

Trump’s number of 80 million ballots is likely based on an estimate from the New York Times in August for ballots cast by mail in November.

"They don’t even have to have an authorized signature in Nevada. Do you know that? They don’t have to have …You don’t have to have an authorized signature on a ballot? No. They’re trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen."

This is wrong. According to the secretary of state’s "facts vs myths" for the 2020 general election: "Signature verification is performed on every ballot received. If the signature is missing or if the signature on the ballot return envelope does not match the signature on file for the voter, the ballot will not be counted until the voter verifies their signature."

If there is a problem with the signature or its missing, county election officials reach out to voters to offer an opportunity to correct the ballot.

"People died, and they’re getting ballots. They’re sending them to dogs. You see that? Dogs got ballots."

We recently fact-checked a misleading claim on Facebook that 200,000 ballots were sent to dead people and pets in Nevada. Around 226,000 ballots for the June 9 primary were returned to Clark County because the voters no longer lived at the address. That doesn’t prove they were all dead; it’s likely many of them moved since they registered to vote.

The fact that the ballots were returned to the elections office is not evidence of fraud. In fact, it is a sign that the system worked. Postal workers are not allowed to forward ballots if voters have a forwarding address — they are required to return them. County election officials regularly receive data about deaths that they use to remove dead voters from registration lists.

What about ballots being sent to dogs? 

There have been instances of third-party groups, which use commercial mail lists, of erroneously sending voter registration materials to pets. If people put their pets’ names on various mailing lists, it is possible that their pets will wind up with election-related mail. But we’ve never met a dog or cat that is capable of registering to vote and casting a ballot on their own, so if that were to happen, it would be fraud on the part of a human being.

That’s what happened in 2006 in Washington state when Jane Balogh fraudulently registered Duncan, her Australian shepherd terrier-mix. Balogh returned the ballot in her dog’s name with an image of a paw print for the signature and wrote "void" on the ballot. Balogh said she did it in an effort to point out flaws in the voter registration system. Balogh took a plea deal and agreed to perform community service and pay a fine. Criminal charges were later dropped.

The dog was removed from the voter roll.


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Our Sources, President Donald Trump Minden, Nevada Rally Speech, Sept. 12, 2020

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, Facts vs myths, 2020 general election

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, Secretary Cegavske Submits Emergency Regulation Request to Governor Sisolak, Aug. 17, 2020

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, Secretary Cegavske Announces an Increase in Active Registered Voters in August, Sept. 1, 2020

Nevada State Assembly, AB4, 2020

Nevada Independent, Trump sows doubt on election integrity with false assertions at Douglas County rally amid coronavirus pandemic, Sept. 12, 2020

Nevada Independent, The Indy Explains: Everything to know about Nevada’s expanded mail-in election,Aug. 25, 2020

Nevada Independent, Nevada Senate votes on party lines for bill expanding mail-in voting during times of emergency, Aug. 2, 2020

Nevada Independent, Sisolak rejects Cegavske’s request for ‘ballot harvesting’ regulations, says it echoes ‘voter suppression rhetoric,’ Aug. 25, 2020

Reno Gazette Journal, Trump in Minden: Largely maskless crowd hears attacks on Nevada's mail-in election, Biden, Sept. 12, 2020

Las Vegas Review-Journal, Trump excites crowd of supporters in Northern Nevada, Sept. 12, 2020

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, Tweet, Sept. 12, 2020

Seattle PI, Canine removed from voter rolls, July 10, 2007

King County Elections, King County Elections cancels fraudulent registration, July 10, 2007

Washington Post, Warren joked about her dog voting Democrat. GOP officials insist electoral pet fraud is no laughing matter. July 17, 2020

Seattle Times, No jail time for Federal Way woman who registered dog to vote, Sept. 5, 2007

Seattle Times, Case of dog on voter rolls is over; But owner not happy, Aug. 26, 2008

New York Times, The Facts About Mail-In Voting and Voter Fraud, Aug. 26, 2020, Trump Campaign Exaggerates Potential for Mail-In Voting Fraud After Election, Aug. 14, 2020

USA Today, Trump claims during Nevada campaign rally that Democrats are trying to 'rig' upcoming election, Sept. 12, 2020

Trump campaign, Lawsuit in Nevada, Aug. 4, 2020

NPR, Nevada Gov. On A Law That Expands Mail-In Voting, Aug. 4, 2020

Politico, Trump fumes over Biden ad, media coverage at Nevada rally, Sept. 13, 2020

PolitiFact, Post wrongly says thousands of ballots sent to dead people, pets in Virginia and Nevada, Sept. 9, 2020

PolitiFact, Donald Trump says Joe Biden can only win by a 'rigged election.' That's wrong in several ways, Aug. 24, 2020

Telephone interview, Dan Kulin, Clark County, Nevada elections spokesperson, Sept. 13, 2020

Telephone interview, Jennifer Russell, Nevada Secretary of State spokesperson, Sept. 13, 2020

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