After years of claiming mail-in voting was rife with fraud, some Republicans — including the former president donald trump – Efforts are underway to turn things around ahead of corresponding presidential and congressional elections next year.
Trump, who is entering the White House for a third time, told attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month that it was time to “change the way we think about early voting and voting by mail.” In speeches and fundraising emails, he touted his campaign’s plan to encourage “ballot harvesting,” the practice of allowing third parties to collect and turn in other voters’ ballots. He said his party had “no choice” but to “beat the Democrats at their own game”.
It was a stark reversal for a politician who issued an all-caps post last November declaration Claiming in part on his Truth Social account, “You can never have a fair and free election by mail ballot — never, ever, ever.”
The change in tone and messaging reflects the view of party strategists that Trump’s relentless and false allegations of 2020 election fraud and Republican harsh rhetoric about voting forms widely used in key battleground states such as Arizona have led to the party’s order. Disappointing midterm election results. They fear it could jeopardize Republican hopes of seizing the White House and other offices next year.
“This is a problem the Republican Party has created among Republicans,” said Paul Benz, a Republican pollster in Phoenix.
Most Republican voters in Arizona still vote early, but “a significant number have shifted their behavior to go to the polls in person on Election Day,” he said.
He said Trump had “effectively suppressed a portion of his own support base.”
Republican officials across the country are now scrambling to figure out how to change voter attitudes before the 2024 election cycle kicks into high gear. The Republican National Committee’s review of the midterm elections is expected to focus in part on how to encourage early voting among loyal Republicans. In Pennsylvania, a presidential battleground that has seen Democrats gain ground in the midterm elections, Republican officials in the state recently formed several committees to explore ways to catch up to Democrats’ mail-in voting advantage.
“Any party that votes for 50 days is going to beat a party that votes for 13 hours. Simple as that,” Andy Reilly, a Republican National Committee member from Pennsylvania, told CNN. He is a member of several NSW Republican committees working to encourage mail-in voting.
Ahead of the midterm elections, some Republicans expressed concern that Trump’s continued rhetoric around mail-in voting and election security would hamper GOP turnout and cost them key elections.
Trump, who has been warned by multiple allies that Democrats have built the infrastructure that bad-mouthing mail-in voting would disadvantage Republicans, has doubled down on claims of electoral fraud and massive fraud.
In the end, the GOP underperformed in the midterms — failing to topple the U.S. Senate, winning only a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and removing only one Democratic governor from the White House in an election of high inflation and low Democratic poll numbers.
“What we really need is our voters need to vote early,” Republican National Committee Chairman Rona McDaniel, a Trump ally, said in a Fox News interview in December, the same day as Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Winning re-election in Georgia solidified his party. Senate majority. “I’ve said it over and over again. There are a lot of people in 2020 who say, ‘Don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early. “We have to stop that.”
In the months since the midterm elections, Trump allies and advisers said the former president had been focused on his claims around a stolen election but had been persuaded to change his public rhetoric.
“No matter how many people tell him, he doesn’t think the 2022 loss has anything to do with election denialist rhetoric,” a source close to Trump told CNN. “It’s because he still listens to people who say the base cares about it.”
Since the midterms, close advisers have studied state laws and presented Trump with research on how Democrats work within the system and how to use mail-in voting and third-party ballot collection to their advantage, as well as a study that shows what Republicans are capable of doing. A plan to this point also helps them win the 2024 election.
“information [to Trump] Yes, ‘if we don’t, we’ll never win,’ a Trump ally familiar with the conversation told CNN.
Notably, Trump also toned down his lengthy public rants about the 2020 election — something his advisers had asked him to do ahead of the midterms.
His rivals have also brought the voting issue to the forefront.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the first Republican to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination, publicly called on the party to accept early absentee ballots.Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition after the midterm elections, she think republicans “Sit by” in the election as Democrats vote early.
while in speech at the same eventFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is widely expected to enter the Republican presidential primary later this year — urged his party to conduct “ballot collection” in states that allow it.
Benz, the Arizona pollster, said failure to deposit ballots early puts Republicans at a strategic disadvantage because it forces them to “watch over” likely voters during Election Day to make sure they vote — rather than deploying those resources To infrequent voters or voters. Win over the undecided.
It’s a risky tactic should there be severe weather or other problems on Election Day. Several Republican candidates in Arizona complained last year that their voters were disenfranchised after printer problems occurred at several polling places on the last day of voting in the state’s most populous county and Maricopa County, home to Phoenix.
Local officials say the Election Day issues haven’t stopped anyone from voting legally, and judges have so far resisted efforts to overturn last year’s election results. (Later this month, the Arizona Supreme Court will decide whether to accept the last electoral challenge of 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate Carrie Lake, who lost about 17,000 votes to Democratic Gov. Katie Hobb by more than 2.5 votes. S. million votes.)
More than half of the states — including key presidential battlegrounds such as Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia — allow no-excuse mail-in voting. National Conference of State Legislatures.
But Democrats are already ahead of Republicans in using this approach. Nearly 60% of Democrats voted by mail in 2020, compared with 32% of Republicans, as remote voting opportunities mushroomed during the height of the pandemic, survey data show Charles Stewart Analysisa political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Laboratory.
Both parties had similar turnout by mail in 2016 and 2012.
In Pennsylvania, where Democrats retained the governorship and toppled a Republican seat in the U.S. Senate last year, Democrats have a clear mail advantage in midterm elections.
Republican candidate Dr. Mohammad Oz beat Democrat John Fetterman on the Election Day ballot. But Victor Fetterman received more than 960,000 mail-in ballots, while Oz received about 234,000 mail-in ballots, The status record is displayed.
MIT’s Stewart said some Republicans who discourage mail-in voting have left “a very powerful set of tools” in place for some time. Meanwhile, a group of conservative grassroots activists are calling for in-person voting within a day, Other Changes to the Election Processechoing the distrust of the system expressed by Trump and others who claim the 2020 election was stolen.
“The whole narrative associated with in-person voting has permeated the Republican Party so thoroughly that it’s going to take a lot of time to change Republican sentiment at this point,” Stewart said.
Some of mail-in voting’s most ardent critics have embraced it — albeit reluctantly. Among them: Doug McLinko, a local Republican official in Pennsylvania lead plaintiff In a Republican lawsuit, the lawsuit sought unsuccessfully to overturn the state’s 2019 law establishing no-excuse mail-in voting.
McClench, who helps oversee local elections as part of the Bradford County Commission in northeastern Pennsylvania, said he believes most voters should vote in person on Election Day, which he believes demonstrates true democratic participation. “People shouldn’t be allowed to eat Tostitos in bed and cast a mail-in ballot,” he told CNN.
“I’m not stupid. We’re going to have to learn how to do it,” McClench said of mail-in voting. “…we’re going to avoid the bushes and try to get in every mail-in ballot.”