Trump campaign, RNC pledge to deploy 100,000 attorneys and volunteers to monitor the vote

Democrats and election experts say the figure is unrealistic, but expressed concerns the effort could hamper normal election operations and intimidate voters.

April 19, 2024, 2:27 PM CDT

By Jane C. Timm

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee announced a massive “election integrity” operation on Friday, promising to deploy 100,000 volunteers and attorneys to battleground states to “protect the vote and ensure a big win” in November.

In a press release, officials said they wanted the volunteers and lawyers to monitor logic and accuracy testing, early voting, ballot tabulation, mail ballot processing and Election Day voting, as well as post-election canvasses, audits, and recounts. The release suggests they may intend to recruit poll workers, too.

“Having the right people to count the ballots is just as important as turning out voters on Election Day,” Trump said in the release..

“The RNC is hiring hundreds of election integrity staff across the map — more than ever before because our Party will be recruiting thousands of more observers to protect the vote in 2024. These campaign officials in states are tasked with recruiting, training, and when possible, shifting poll watchers and poll workers day in and day out,” added RNC co-chair Lara Trump.

Poll watching is a normal part of elections — both parties do it — but experts warn that unruly operations can be a problem. And as Trump and his allies continue to make false claims about the 2020 election, some experts worry that empowering these sort of observers at polling sites could hamper normal election operations or intimidate voters.

The GOP release notes they plan to work with “passionate grassroots coalitions who are deeply invested in fighting voter fraud.”

The planned operation would double the RNC’s promised 50,000-person operation from 2020, though some experts said both numbers figures were aspirational and unrealistic. The RNC did not respond to a request for data on how many people had volunteered or been staffed in recent elections.

“I’ve actually run a program like this with real people,” said Justin Levitt, a former advisor in the Biden White House on democracy issues who has previously worked in the Department of Justice on voting issues. “We did really well and got multiple tens of thousands.”

Recruiting individuals in particular to monitor for voter fraud, he said, is even harder than staffing poll workers.

“They’re recruiting people to stand there and watch for something that’s not going to happen. Can you please show up and watch, wait for the UFO for 15 hours?” he said.

Marc Elias, a leading Democratic election lawyer, agreed the 100,000 number was unrealistic, but said he was still concerned about the plans.

“I think they are going to have a massive voter suppression operation and it is going to involve very, very large numbers of people and very, very large numbers of lawyers,” he said. “I think we need to take the RNC literally and seriously — except on their numbers.”

Lauren Groh-Wargo, executive director of Fair Fight PAC, the political advocacy arm of the Georgia voting rights group of the same name, said the effort would harm election administration.

“The Republican National Committee’s new voter suppression unit is just the latest version of their cynical playbook to divide and intimidate voters and steal American’s voices by building an operation based on the lie of voter fraud,” she said in a statement.

Until 2018, the RNC’s poll watching plans were limited by a consent decree, which required it seek court approval to prove that any poll watching work wasn’t discriminatory.

That decree was put into place after Democrats sued and accused the RNC of sending armed, off-duty police officers to patrol the polls in minority neighborhoods in 1981. The decree required them to seek prior court approval for poll watching operations, but expired at the end of 2017 after 35 years.

Poll observers are a normal and beneficial part of the election process when they are well trained and do not interfere with administrators work, said David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, a group that helps support election officials. An army of 100,000 would present a different dynamic, he said, but noted that election workers are prepared to handle unruly observers if they appear.

“They will protect the right of their voters to vote free of intimidation. If observers are acting any way contrary to voters interests or interfering with poll workers, they will be dealt with under the laws of the state,” he said.

NBC Article