Lara Trump’s Voting Remarks Alarm Election Observer

Lara Trump’s recent remarks about “physically” handling ballots and preventing mail-in ballots in upcoming elections have triggered a backlash, with one Florida election supervisor telling Newsweek that “poll watchers cannot handle ballots.”

On Friday, the Republican National Committee (RNC), along with Donald Trump’s campaign, the Nevada GOP, and a Nevada voter, filed a federal lawsuit against election officials in Nevada, seeking to stop the counting of mail-in ballots received after Election Day. Under current Nevada law, mail-in ballots received up to four days after Election Day can be counted if they are postmarked before the end that day.

While appearing on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo on May 5, Lara Trump, the RNC’s co-chair and Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law was asked: “What are you doing with regard to suing Nevada right now?”

“You cannot have ballots counted, Maria, after elections are over and right now that is one of the many lawsuits we have out across this country to ensure that just that happens,” she told Bartiromo. “That we have a free, fair and transparent election. So, in Nevada…we are saying we want on Election Day to be the last day that mail-in ballots can be counted.”

Lara Trump ’s Voting Remarks Alarm Election
A photo-illustration shows Lara Trump and people voting. The RNC’s co-chair’s recent remarks about “physically” handling ballots and preventing mail-in ballots have triggered a backlash.

Photo-illustration by Newsweek/Getty

Responding to Lara Trump’s comments, Jerry Holland, a supervisor of elections in Duval County, Florida, told Newsweek: “Poll watchers cannot handle ballots. Any registered voter who takes the required three-hour course and passes can be a poll worker.

“In Duval County we have as a minimum two Republicans and two Democrats in each voting location, with specific instructions to call me immediately if anyone violates any procedures or election laws.”

Lara Trump’s comments triggered a social media backlash. Bradley P. Moss, a national security attorney, simply wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “The stupid. It hurts.”

Speaking during an interview with Newsmax in April, Lara Trump said the GOP governing body is hiring people to “physically handle the ballots” ahead of the 2024 election, in which Donald Trump and Joe Biden will face each other once again.

“We now have the ability at the RNC not just to have poll watchers—people standing in polling locations—but people who can physically handle the ballots,” she said.

When asked by Newsmax host Eric Bolling whether the people handling the ballots will be stationed directly inside polling locations, Lara Trump pointed toward a consent decree running from 1982 to 2018 limiting Republican poll watcher activity.

“So there was a moratorium for about 40 years on the RNC actually training people to work in these polling locations,” she said. “And last year, the judge who implemented that passed away, so that gives us a great ability, heading into what I assume everyone understands is the most important election of our lifetimes.”

Former President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies have consistently claimed, without evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen from him because of voter fraud. Some Republicans have pushed for hand-counted ballots and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an avid Trump supporter, has called for paper ballots.

However, writing on X, formerly Twitter, Democratic attorney Marc E. Elias slammed Lara Trump’s suggestion that people be allowed to physically handle ballots.

“Poll observers are NEVER permitted to touch ballots,” he wrote. “She is suggesting the RNC will infiltrate election offices.”

Speaking to Newsweek, Robert Shapiro, a political science professor at Columbia University suggested the practice could be illegal.

“If you take her literally that is vote tampering that is illegal,” he said. “You have to ask her for a clarification. The press should now watch who gets hired to work in counting votes on Election Day, if she is to be believed.”

In a statement emailed to Newsweek, last month, RNC Spokesperson Anna Kelly defended the strategy.

“This election cycle, Republicans will beat Democrats at their own game by leveraging every legal tactic at our disposal based on the rules of each state,” Kelly said. “That includes ballot harvesting in states like California and Nevada and nominating Republican poll workers in states like Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”