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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

We’re serving our country. Now Trump says votes like ours don’t count.

By Amy Rose Special to the Washington Post

My husband serves as a major in the U.S. Air Force; I work as a lawyer at a nonprofit helping veterans access their benefits. We both take our civic duties very seriously. So when I learned a few days ago that Republicans in our home state, Nevada, were claiming without evidence that thousands of votes had been “improperly cast” – including, it appears, ours – I was incredulous.

We lived in Nevada for almost eight years, until 2018, when the Air Force transferred my husband to California. I joined him about a year later. Nevada is still our state of legal residence. It’s where we maintain our drivers’ licenses, where we’ve registered our cars, where we’re still registered to vote. We’d love to be able to return someday. What happens there is important to us.

Most of the military families I know are in a similar situation – they maintain a state of residence different from where they live. As a result, they vote absentee, just like my husband and I do. This right is protected by multiple federal and state laws. We’re uprooted so often, and so frequently sent overseas for assignments or deployments, that without such laws, many military members could end up disenfranchised.

The stakes of this election felt especially high. I was extra conscientious about ensuring that all our ducks were in a row so we could participate. I double-checked that our voter registrations remained active and that the county election records included our new address. We completed our absentee ballots within days of receiving them. I signed up for the state’s digital ballot tracking system. I even emailed the Clark County registrar to confirm that our ballots had been tabulated.

In the days after the election, we paid close attention to the news. Joe Biden won Nevada by 2.7 points. When officials from President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign claimed to have found criminal voter fraud in Nevada, identifying thousands of people who they said improperly cast votes out of state, I wondered if they possibly could be referring to my husband and me. No way, I told myself – obviously, our votes were legal. Then, on Twitter, I saw that a reporter at the Nevada Independenthad shared a letter that lawyers for the Trump campaign sent to the Justice Department, with voting records attached. That document didn’t include names, but did list two votes sent in from our current city, Davis. Both records were associated with our ZIP code in Nevada and our nine-digit California Zip code, which encompasses just a few blocks around our home. They appeared to be our votes.

It seems obvious to me that the campaign hadn’t bothered to actually examine these votes for signs of fraud: They’d simply compiled a list by cross-checking names and addresses of voters with the post office’s change-of-address database, and then referred all those voters for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. But simply having an address out of state does not indicate fraud: Military families, students and diplomats, for example, may still be eligible to vote in Nevada even though they no longer live there. If campaign aides had taken even a cursory glance at their list, they would have noticed the hundreds of new addresses that included the initials “AFB,” “DPO,” “APO” or “FPO” – meaning they were located on an Air Force base, associated with an Army, Navy or Air Force installation, or associated with a U.S. Embassy overseas. This should have been a red flag that there were military members on this list who had legally voted. The accusation wouldn’t stand up to even a second of scrutiny. Still, a Justice Department official said authorities would investigate the claim.

(Asked for comment, a press representative for the Nevada Republican Party referred a Washington Post editor to a tweet from Tuesday: “We have referred a list of people who voted in Nevada’s election, yet have moved out of the state, to the Department of Justice and local election authorities. Due to privacy concerns, we have not shared, and will not share, the list of names with the public. We have no way to confirm whether a small number of these voters fall under an exemption, which is why we referred it to the authorities for further investigation. All valid voters’ votes should be counted.”)

I’m not particularly worried about myself. I do not expect to be disenfranchised, much less prosecuted for felony voter fraud: If I got a call from a federal prosecutor or agent investigating this, I could provide evidence of my eligibility. But it makes me angry to think that anyone on Trump’s list should have to defend the integrity of their vote just because the campaign is trying to construct a baseless narrative about voter fraud. And it makes me furious that politicians might point to my perfectly valid vote, and the votes of other military families, to try to delegitimize our nation’s elections. (For the record, it does not matter how I or anyone else on this list voted. No government official should claim that any vote is fraudulent without evidence.)

The campaign officials leading this effort – including Adam Laxalt, Nevada’s former attorney general and a military veteran himself – know the law. They should know better than to throw out such wild, reckless accusations or to proceed with legal action with so little evidence. They are not the only ones: Around the country, in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania, state officials and campaign operatives are bringing flimsy claims to court and spreading misinformation. Judges have been dismissing their cases, but I worry that the damage is already done.

Such maneuvers are not a real or honest attempt to ensure the integrity of our elections. They’re aimed only to sow distrust and undermine the democratic process. I worry that these destructive accusations will ultimately lead to fewer people choosing to vote. Perhaps that’s the goal of these baseless claims.

Every aspect of this saga is upsetting, but the idea that the Trump campaign would use the votes of military families – people who have dedicated their lives to protecting and defending the rights of Americans – to pursue their nefarious agenda just highlights the absurdity of it all.

Amy Rose lives in Davis, California. She is the managing attorney at Swords to Plowshares. This article is as told to Post editor Sophia Nguyen.

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