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November 22, 2017

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Nevada Democratic Party sues GOP, Trump over alleged voter intimidation

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AP Photo/John Locher

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas.

Updated Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 | 3:50 p.m.

The Nevada State Democratic Party is suing the state Republican Party, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and others over alleged voter intimidation in Nevada and across the nation.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court on Sunday, alleges the Trump campaign, the Nevada Republican Party and one of Trump’s close associates, Roger Stone, and his Stop the Steal super PAC, have violated the Ku Klux Klan and Voting Rights acts through a coordinated voter intimidation campaign.

Details of the lawsuit were first reported by Election Law Blog this morning.

The Ku Klux Klan Act was passed by Congress in 1871, banning conspiracies to intimidate or threaten voters and stop threats and harassment of former slaves and their white supporters by the KKK. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to stop any threats or intimidation against voters.

The complaint references a recent report by Bloomberg in which a senior official with the Trump campaign is quoted as saying that the campaign has “three major voter suppression operations under way.”

“While the official discussed communications strategies designed to decrease interests in voting, it has also become clear in recent weeks that Trump has sought to advance his campaign’s goal of ‘voter suppression’ by using the loudest microphone in the nation to implore his supporters to engage in unlawful intimidation at Nevada polling places,” the complaint states.

The filing alleges that “in Nevada, Trump supporters and volunteers for the campaign have harassed and intimidated voters in Clark County.” The complaint cites three alleged instances:

• At an early voting polling site on Lake Mead Boulevard, a Trump supporter allegedly “harassed and intimidated multiple voters ... repeatedly asking voters for whom they were voting, and then yelling at them belligerently and keeping them from entering the voting location when they stated they were not voting for Donald Trump.”

• A poll observer for the Trump campaign was asked to leave the Arroyo Market Square early voting site after allegedly “yelling at voters, accusing voters and poll workers of breaking the law, and talking to voters in line and giving them inaccurate information.”

• At a Nye County polling place, a woman who identified herself as an “an agent and ‘part’ of the RNC conducted ‘exit polling’ of voters and questioned them on their votes within 100 feet of the polling place.”

The document also states that Stone and Stop the Steal are recruiting Trump supporters and “specifically targeting nine Democratic-leaning cities with large minority populations, including Las Vegas” to conduct “exit polling.”

Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald called the arguments made in the lawsuit “nothing more than a partisan stunt” and said they do not reflect the efforts of the party’s operation.

“The Nevada Republican Party is committed to holding free, fair, and open elections throughout the state of Nevada,” McDonald said in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for any attempt to intimidate voters from exercising their constitutional rights.”

Stone, in a statement provided through a Stop the Steal email address, called the lawsuit “bogus” and “without merit." He said that the group is conducting “neutral, scientifically based” exit polls and said that precincts are chosen based on past reports of irregularities, not the racial makeup of the surrounding community.

“Since it is our intention to interview voters voluntarily after they vote it (is hard) to see how voters would find this intimidating,” Stone said. “Our methodology is no different than that used in the network consortium exit polls.”

He also said that Stop the Steal is not coordinating with the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, or any individual state Republican parties.

Trump’s Nevada campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The state Democratic Party is seeking immediate relief, with only eight days until Election Day and with in-person early voting underway.

“Trump’s calls for unlawful intimidation have grown louder and louder, and the conspiracy to harass and threaten voters on Election Day has already resulted in numerous acts that threaten to interfere with the voting rights of registered Nevada voters,” the complaint states.

The complaint asks for the court to prohibit the defendants from “funding, encouraging, or otherwise supporting” poll-watching activities not allowed by Nevada’s election law, monitoring polling places if the monitors do not meet statutory requirements to serve as a poll watcher, and questioning, harassing or taking pictures of voters.

The Nevada complaint is one of several filed across the nation alleging voter intimidation. The state Democratic parties in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arizona have each filed lawsuits against their respective state Republican parties, the Trump campaign, as well as Stone and Stop the Steal.

“We have every confidence that a record number of Nevada voters will make their voices heard in this election and we are committed to helping them to do so,” said state party spokesman Stewart Boss in a statement.

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