During his campaign stops in Nevada over the weekend, Republican President Donald Trump made several false claims about Nevada’s new vote-by-mail law, characterizing it as an attempt to “rig” the election. KUNR’s Paul Boger spoke with Tom Perez, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to talk about that push for more voting by mail, and what the party is doing to elect Democrats in Nevada.
Paul Boger: Mr. Chairman, since the start of the pandemic earlier this year, Democrats have pushed to move to mostly mail-in voting for this election. That's something that the president has been very vocally critical of, making numerous false claims that voting by mail will lead to increasing fraud. What is the party doing to combat those assertions from the president?
Tom Perez: The issue of voting by mail has become a subject of some controversy, only because Donald Trump believes he can't win unless he suppresses the vote. Republican governors like Michael DeWine in Ohio, [and the] governor of Iowa, a Republican, have said clearly that vote by mail is not a problem. Vote by mail is safe. It's secure. It's been used in Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Arizona, and elsewhere.
It's really quite simple, Democrats believe that we should have a really strong and robust debate about the issues of the moment and then we should make sure that every eligible person can cast their vote and make it as easy as possible for those eligible people to do so. That's exactly what leadership in Nevada did — making it easier for eligible people to vote. I think that's a great thing for our democracy to increase turnout.
Boger: You briefly mentioned AB4, which passed in the special session requiring a ballot be sent to all active, registered voters. Part of that bill though gives third parties the ability to drop off ballots for voters. That's one of those major points of concern for Republicans who refer to the practice as ballot harvesting. Why is that provision needed?
Perez: Well, I think sometimes you have senior citizens who are not able to get to a polling location and they have loved ones or others who pick up the ballots. You have, for instance, in Arizona, if you're on the Navajo reservation, you have to go 20-30 miles [to] deposit your vote. And so in places like Arizona, laws that allow people to carry the ballots for people who live remotely are really important.
Boger: Obviously, the presidential race is getting the vast majority of the news coverage this year, but Democrats are also trying to take back the Senate, make gains in the House of Representatives and pick up seats in statehouses across the country. What is the party doing to reach out to voters in order to make headway in those down-ballot races?
Perez: In Nevada, one of the major advantages is that for many years now — and I take my hat off to Senator Reed for really building a remarkable infrastructure —we've been communicating with voters for years building those relationships. We don't just show up every fourth October asking people for their vote. We are showing up every day, listening to voters in Nevada, asking them what are the issues that are most important to them, and then fighting for those issues, whether it's healthcare or good jobs that pay a decent wage. That's how we've been able to have so much success up and down the ballot, and that's what we're continuing to do.
We have our virtual clipboards out now in Nevada. You look at the voter registration advantage - by the end of July, Nevada Democrats had a nearly six-point statewide voter registration advantage. I've really been impressed with the progress that's been made up in Washoe County, where Democrats are really holding their own. I look at the results in 2018 and Democrats continue to do even better because people in Washoe County, people in Clark County, people all over the state want to make sure that their leadership is gonna fight for their healthcare. They want leadership that's going to get us out of this pandemic. And so that's why I'm very excited about what we've been able to accomplish over the course of many years. And those relationships are serving us well, as we have this digital outreach because we can't speak to people face to face.
Boger: What about rural areas? As I'm sure you're aware, between Clark and Washoe counties there's a whole lot of very conservative communities. What are Democrats doing to make inroads there?
Perez: We can compete in every zip code and every county because there are people in every county across the state with preexisting conditions who are worried about their health care. You look at the unemployment rate, there are people across this state who are struggling mightily. It's not simply folks in Washoe County and Clark County. People are suffering.
We have three different crises, the coronavirus, the economic collapse and the civil rights crisis, and what this president has in common in all three of these crises, he's made them all worse. He didn't cause the coronavirus, but his absolutely anemic response has resulted in such needless loss of life and catastrophic loss of jobs. That message, we believe resonates across this state, and that's why we're organizing everywhere. That's why I have confidence that we can indeed hold our own in every single county across the state and, and win big.