Video Allegedly Shows California 'Trump Store' Illegally Collecting Ballots: 'It's Very Safe'

A new undercover video has emerged of "Trump store" employees at a Republican campaign headquarters in Newport Beach, California, talking about collecting ballots through an unofficial drop-off box.

The video, obtained by Vice News, shows several women in a store full of Blue Lives Matter flags as well as "Make America Great Again" and other Trump-related merchandise.

The citizen taking the video is heard asking two women if there is a ballot box at the location. The women tell her "it's very safe" to drop off her ballot in a box in the back of the store.

The woman filming points out that when she was at the location a week ago, she saw a ballot box on the sales floor, to which the campaigner responded, "Right, so it's being delivered. They physically pick up the box and take it and deliver it."

The videographer seems hesitant, asking when the box would be back to ensure her vote is counted in this year's election. "I hate to be so paranoid," she said.

The campaigners reassure her that if a ballot is dropped off at the location when the box isn't there, "We lock it in our safe."

The video was sent with a complaint to the Orange County registrar of voters via email on October 12, less than a month before Election Day. The unknown camerawoman said she had returned to the store after initially seeing the box a few days before. She questioned the employees about the ballot box because "the box was gone from the sales floor."

"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 email read.

official ballot drop box
A car passenger places a ballot in an official mail-in drop box outside of the Los Angeles County registrar’s office in Norwalk, California, on October 14. Mario Tama/Getty

On Tuesday, the chair of the Newport Harbor Republican Women group running the store, Libby Huyck, defended use of the ballot box to Vice, saying, "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."

The California GOP has continued to use ballot boxes despite a cease-and-desist letter from Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The letter, sent earlier this month, stated that the state Republican Party had until October 15 to remove all drop boxes seen at churches, gyms, gun stores and other locations across four California counties.

Lawyers for the California Republican Party has said the GOP plans to ignore the order, arguing that the boxes are legal under California's ballot collection law, which says voters can authorize "the designation of any person" to collect their ballots and return them on their behalf.

When the measure was signed into law in 2017, Democrats applauded the expansion of ballot collection privileges for making voting easier for Californians.

"If Democrats are so concerned with ballot harvesting, they are the ones who wrote the legislation, voted for it, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law," California GOP spokesperson Hector Barajas said in a statement. "California Republicans would be happy to do away with ballot harvesting."

Padilla has disputed that ballot boxes are a form of ballot harvesting. Instead, he said, the issue is that voters may unknowingly deliver their ballots to unofficial drop boxes.

"They do not know who it is they're surrendering their ballot to," Padilla said during a press conference earlier this month. "The impression voters have with the words 'official drop box' is that they're surrendering it to a county official. And that's not the case."

Newsweek reached out to Padilla's office for comment but did not hear back before publication.