Republicans look to erase stigma on early voting

Republicans are scrambling to shake off the stigma of early mail-in ballots among many voters as they aim to catch up with Democrats in 2024.

Earlier this month, the Republican National Committee (RNC) rolled out a “bank your votes” campaign to encourage Republican voters to get used to the practice heading into 2024. And while former President Trump, the front-runner in the Republican primary, has long questioned early voting and mail-in ballots by his government, he has encouraged voters over the past few months in the wake of disappointing midterm elections. began to encourage adoption of the method.

“We don’t want to wait until the fourth quarter to start scoring touchdowns,” RNC chairman Ronna McDaniel said earlier this month at a press conference announcing the mail-in ballot campaign.

“We will let the Republican ecosystem track ballots and lead efforts to build an edge by Election Day.”

Some rifts within the party are evident, as Republican voters remain skeptical of mail-in ballots after President Trump and his closest allies questioned the mail-in ballot process in 2020. It is only in recent months that Republicans have been unable to recapture Senate seats and have successfully reversed them. The House won by a narrow margin, but some of the party’s most die-hard critics changed their minds slightly.

Earlier this year, the Trump campaign focused specifically on this issue and began urging Republicans to embrace so-called ballot collection, which allows third parties to collect and submit absentee and mail-in ballots.

“Vote in a state where harvesting is legal or say goodbye to this country because Democrats win every election,” the campaign wrote in a February fundraising email.

The former president then urged Republican voters to reconsider mail-in and early voting in a speech at the Conservative Party Political Action Conference in March.

“Republicans must compete by all legal means to win,” Trump said. “That means the left will be overwhelmed with mail-in ballots, early voting, and Election Day voting. We have to do that.”

It’s not just Trump. Some of his closest allies are starting to shift to voting, amid signs that opposition to early mail-in ballots could threaten the party’s prospects next year. Former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake last month announced a vote-tracking effort aimed at registering new voters and tracking Republican and independent voters, including those on early voting lists. . In his speech, Mr. Lake seemed to recognize that he needed the Republicans to rethink their approach to voting.

“We’ve been playing checkers. They’ve been playing chess,” Lake said at an event announcing the operation. “We’re going to show up for a knife fight with guns.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Lake were the most vocal opponents of mail-in ballots, with both claiming without evidence that mail-in ballots contributed to fraud in the 2020 and 2022 elections. McDaniel says the party is more united than ever on the issue, but some question whether voters will follow the party’s sudden change of course.

“We’ve always tried to amass as many votes as possible through paid contact and volunteering with voters,” McDaniel said. “But if there are people in the ecosystem who say they don’t vote early, they don’t vote by mail, that’s certainly a challenge, and those cross-messages certainly have an impact.”

“I don’t think I see that situation going into 2024. I think I see us all singing the same songbook,” she said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s biggest rival in the Republican presidential primary, told voters in Iowa last month that he supports ballot collection, citing differences in practices between Florida and other states. pointed out.

“I’m going to collect ballots. Yes, I do,” said DeSantis.

“Each state is different,” he continued. “In Nevada, we sent ballots to everyone, which sucks, but we’re going to collect ballots. We’re not going to fight with one hand tied behind our back.”

Mr. DeSantis signed a bill last year that would create an Election Crime Safety Agency under the Florida State Department to investigate allegations of voter fraud. Additionally, the law includes penalties for collecting ballots.

Florida Republican Party Chairman Christian Ziegler said: “Florida has very strong protections in place, so while other states may not have, I have a lot of confidence in my vote in Florida.” said.

McDaniel said at a press conference that the RNC is hiring 80,000 poll monitors and poll workers and is pushing for more protections, including filing 100 election fraud cases by 2022.

“Once the Republican Party actually takes part in government, introducing these safeguards into the early voting and mail-in voting processes will really help the electoral system,” said Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project. I hope that we may be able to consider strengthening the , a group promoting more restrictive voting laws.

Ahead of last year’s midterm elections, DeSantis encouraged voters to vote early in case they couldn’t make it to the polling place on Election Day.

“If you wait until Election Day, you’ll have a flat tire and you won’t be able to mulligan,” DeSantis told a crowd at a Florida campaign hall last year. “On the other hand, if you vote early, you can run the vote. [while you’re on your way], another blow. “

Florida’s Republicans scored big wins up and down in the last ballot, with Mr. DeSantis winning re-election by nearly 20 points, and the Republicans overthrowing the Democratic stronghold in Miami-Dade County.

“It’s probably the only place we’ve had a red wave in the last cycle,” Ziegler said. “We’re a lot more confident than other regions, but Democrats are using mail-in ballots across the country for a variety of reasons, and we can’t just sit around and wait for Election Day. I will not go to

“From conversations with Republicans in other states, I think there’s a strong desire to do whatever it takes to win,” he said. “You’ve seen President Trump and Governor DeSantis come out and say we need to change election laws.

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