California investigating after secret filming shows 'Trump Store' employees saying they collect votes in unofficial ballot box

Staff members claim votes ‘locked in our safe’

James Crump
Thursday 29 October 2020 01:24 GMT
Trump claims polls fake 'like 2016' and threatens to block vote counting beyond November 3

Undercover video taken at a Republican campaign headquarters in California shows employees discussing an operation to collect ballots for 3 November’s election from unofficial ballot boxes.

The video, shot at the campaign headquarters’ “Trump Store,” which sells merchandise featuring the president, also recorded the staff offering to store ballots for people in a safe, because the box had been moved off the premises.

The video, which was filmed at a GOP location in Newport Beach, California, and obtained by Vice News, was sent alongside a complaint to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

The video starts by showing the shop, which is filled with merchandise for President Trump, including Make America Great Again hats and Blue Lives Matter flags.

The woman filming the video then covers the lens and asks staff members if a ballot box is located in the shop.

One of the staff members replies “yes” while another reassures the woman that “it’s very safe” for the ballot to be dropped off there.

The woman then says that she previously saw ballot boxes in the headquarters, and one of the staff members replies: “Right, so it’s being delivered,” as the other adds: “They physically pick up the box and take it and deliver it.”

The staff member then says that if the ballot box is being delivered then “we lock it in our safe.”

The woman then asks multiple questions about how she can be sure her vote has been counted, saying: “I hate to be so paranoid,” but one of the employees replies: “Better to be paranoid than to, you know, throw your vote away.”

In the complaint sent to the Orange County Registrar of Voters, the unnamed woman sent a picture of the ballot box she took the day before.

She said that when she went back the next day: “The box was gone from the sales floor, but I was told by two people working that I could hand them my ballot because they have an official ballot box in the back of the store in a safe. I shot this video of them explaining.”

The woman added: “PLEASE INVESTIGATE!!!” The video and complaint were sent to the registrar Neal Kelley.

Libby Huyck, the chair of the Newport Harbor Republican Women group which runs the store, told Vice in a statement on Tuesday: “We take the ballots just like all the other places, and we don’t have an official ballot box, we have an unofficial ballot box. We put [the ballots] immediately into the safe.”

She then claimed: “We have the left stealing votes left and right. It’s just a matter of getting a grand jury to come in and investigate which they will once Trump is re-elected.”

Sam Mahood, the spokesperson for California secretary of state Alex Padilla, said: “This will be looked at as part of our on-going investigation with the California Department of Justice.”

Mr Mahood was referring to the investigation launched by Mr Padilla regarding reports of unofficial ballot drop boxes being situated in Republican offices in California.

More than 50 boxes labelled “Official Ballot Drop off Box” or “Ballot Drop Box,” were placed outside Republican Party offices, near churches and outside gun shops in California in early October, according to the New York Times.

The California Republican Party admitted owning the misleading drop boxes for mail-in ballots, but claimed that they were permitted under a 2016 law allowing California voters to designate someone to return their ballot on their behalf.

Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the California Republican Party, told the New York Times: “There is nothing in any of the laws or regulations cited in that advisory that indicate private organisation drop boxes are not permitted.”

He added that “the way Democrats wrote the law, if we wanted to use a Santa bag, we could,” but commented that “a locked heavy box seems a lot safer.”

However, Mr Padilla and attorney general Xavier Becerra then sent a cease-and-desist order to the party and ordered them to remove the drop boxes.

Mr Padilla added: “Never hand your ballot over to someone you don’t trust. Official county drop boxes are built with specific security protections, and ballots are retrieved only by designated county personnel.”

Mr Barajas told the New York Times that the party would continue to place the boxes across the state, and would not explicitly identify them as Republican drops.

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