HENDERSON, Nev. — Dozens of enthusiastic Donald Trump supporters gathered in Las Vegas on Monday to learn how to keep an eye on the November vote, as GOP national party chairman Michael Whatley said the state was “absolutely critical” of returning the former president to the White House.

“Nevada is clearly a key swing state across the country,” Whatley said. “We know there are seven real battleground states that decided 2016, decided 2020 and will decide ’24. Nevada is absolutely critical among those states.”

The GOP leader spoke to reporters along with a group of party stalwarts, including Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker. The politicians were there to kick off a training event for poll watchers and other Republican election workers who want to ensure the integrity of the election.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump dances as he arrives at his campaign rally in Sunset Park on June 9, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AP

As in other states, the actual training was not open to the press, a spokeswoman said.

A majority of Nevada’s nearly 2 million registered voters — one-third — are registered as nonpartisan. Democrats are second at 29.32 percent, followed by Republicans at 28.75 percent. The remainder listed the Independent American Party, the state’s Libertarian Party or other “minor” parties as their affiliation.

Voting by mail is a big deal in Nevada. Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar, a Democrat, reported that 65% of primary votes in June were submitted by mail or cast electronically by active-duty military personnel.

That has not gone down well with politicians like Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony, a Republican, who lost an earlier race for a seat on the Clark County Commission in 2020 when mail ballots received after Election Day wiped out the margin of victory he had achieved.

Michael Whatley, the national GOP party chairman, said Nevada is “absolutely critical” of Donald Trump returning to the White House. AFP via Getty Images
The GOP leader spoke to reporters and several party stalwarts, including former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald was also in attendance. AP

“I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is,” Anthony said. “The last election, the first time it was implemented, the voter rolls were not clean. The signatures were verified at 40%, 50%; we had no idea where these ballots were coming from.”

Anthony said the Republican Party in the state should embrace mail-in voting, but it must be done “legally and with integrity.”

He said the party has lawyers ready to file lawsuits over alleged irregularities in voting or by mail.

Anthony said, “We’re starting to clean up the rolls. We’re putting pressure on the county clerks to clean up the rolls and go through them and remove people who are dead, (or) have moved out of town. They shouldn’t be getting a ballot in the mail.”

Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony said the state GOP should embrace mail-in voting but ensure it is done “legally and with integrity.”

He also mentioned a pending voter initiative to require ID at the ballot box, which is expected to appear on the November ballot. The measure has received 170,000 voter signatures — 50,000 more, Anthony said, than is needed to put the question to voters.

“I guarantee it will pass,” Anthony said.

Matt Whitaker, acting US attorney general under Trump, said election integrity has become a national issue.

Matt Whitaker, acting US attorney general under Trump, said election integrity has become a national issue. Vanessa Abbitt/ Arizona Republic/ USA TODAY NETWORK

“We cannot have a country where nearly half of our fellow citizens do not trust the outcome of an election,” Whitaker said. “We should be able, as the world’s only superpower, to have free, fair elections with election integrity that everyone trusts.”

In addition to efforts to ensure voter integrity, speakers told volunteers that the GOP’s message was resonating with voters, something Chairman McDonald emphasized to the press Monday night.

“President Trump has certainly emphasized programs that are for the working men and women, that are for the people here, the service industry,” he said. “The ‘no tip tax’ is a very big deal. We’re working across party lines to show that if you want a better quality of life, you vote for Donald Trump.”