McDaniel did not mention former President Donald Trump, who has for years spoken out against early, absentee and mail-in voting and falsely claimed the methods led to widespread voter fraud, which cost him the election. And a spokesman said His comments were not targeted at the former president.
But, privately, Republican operatives acknowledge that Trump has put their party in an electoral pinch and that the problems go beyond voting methods.
A top GOP campaign official said, “We can sit here and talk about mail-in voting and use it as an excuse, but that’s like a drunkard saying That they would no longer drink gin, only beer.” “We have 99 problems and mail-in voting is one.”
There is a growing sense of alarm among GOP ranks that Trump’s push of conspiracy theories about early voting and mail ballots not only hurt him greatly in the just-concluded midterms, but took several cycles to measure. may seem Republican committees and groups are working to educate voters on laws regarding early voting and plan to intensify those efforts. But they are up against not only Trump and his oversized megaphone, but also a sizable swath of conservative leaders who now denounce absentee voting and mail ballots as false.
,[P]People are waking up to it, even Trumpistas,” Karl Rove, a longtime GOP strategist who runs RITE, a new voter integrity project, said in an interview. “It’s a sad comment that we have to do this and there’s resistance. He’s creating a class of people who may believe as long as mail-in ballots exist that elections are stolen, And because of this people say that my vote does not count, I need not bother to vote.
Republicans hoping to change their voters’ perception of mail voting have seen some positive developments in recent days, as some major skeptics have emerged, noting that Democrats voted to bank big on Election Day. The emphasis is on early voting.
After Georgia runoff elections appeared likely to defeat Republican Herschel Walker, Fox News host Sean Hannity questioned the “reluctance some Republicans in many states are voting early and voting by mail”, and said That it was time the party mended its ways. “You’re absolutely right,” agreed House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy. Another Fox host, Laura Ingraham, became visibly agitated as she discussed the issue with former counselor to Trump Kellyanne Conway, who said Republicans needed to bank ballots quickly.
“How come we didn’t? We didn’t do it in 2020 because people said, ‘Don’t vote early, because it’s corrupt,'” Ingraham said. [say that]At the top of the Republican Party.
Two top potential contenders for 2024, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former ambassador to the United Nations nikki haley, has also said that Republicans need to be smarter about early and absentee voting. And conservative commentator Charlie Kirk tweeted after the election that “the first lesson we need to take from the midterms is the power of early voting.”
But those in the trenches believe that a true embrace of voting outside of Election Day will take some time. This is because Republicans have historically been suspicious of election administration. And over the decades, many have also come to believe that efforts to increase voting access have meant opening the door to fraud.
“Republicans are taking the right steps to ensure state elections are safe and secure. Our problem now is a messaging and operational one. “We start by throwing out the Trump BS lies and telling people the truth about their vote and the power of their vote,” said a Republican strategist who worked on the Georgia midterm elections. “Who would have imagined telling people, ‘The election is rigged’ and then asking them to vote wouldn’t work?”
As Republicans begin laying the groundwork for the party to embrace early and mail-in voting, they face a major obstacle: Trump has shown no eagerness to embrace the cause.
He has promoted conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary “2000 Mules,” which casts ballot harvesting as a nefarious and highly coordinated operation choreographed by Democrats. And last week, he wrote on Truth Social, “Remember, you can never have a fair and free election with mail-in ballots – never, never. Won’t and can’t!!!”
Trump has also caused confusion by confusing absentee ballots, which can be requested before Election Day, and mail-in ballots, which are sent to all registered voters and are only used in eight states, including California. and Colorado are included. have unexcused absentee ballots available in twenty seven states, including Arizona, Georgia and Florida. The former president suggested, without evidence, that by sending millions of ballots in the mail, someone could grab someone else’s ballot, fill it out, and mail it in.
Top activists point to Georgia as a prime example of the problems Trump-like skeptics could create. The former president spoke out against mail voting during the 2020 cycle and GOP officials believe that in doing so, he cost himself and won Senate Republicans the state. His campaign against the voting method only intensified during the Senate runoff in Georgia that followed his election loss, during which both GOP candidates were defeated. And it is sustained through the 2022 cycle.
During Tuesday’s runoff election, Sen. Raphael Warnock received 64 percent of the absentee mail vote and nearly 58 percent of the early vote, according to data released by Office of the Secretary of State.
Republicans point to Florida as a state where they have successfully adopted early voting. and in California, Republican preferred early voting and ballot harvesting, which is legal in the state, and were able to retain and win several tightly contested existing House seats open seat in central valley during this cycle.
“The RNC plays by the rules set by each state and will spare no efforts to win as many races as possible up and down the ballot. The RNC has invested more millions of dollars than ever before to get Republicans into the polls during the early voting period done and successfully joined states with election laws that allow ballot harvesting,” said RNC spokesman Nathan Brand.
The RNC is widely expected to focus on correcting perceptions about absenteeism, mail-in and early voting as part of its upcoming review of the party’s performance after the midterms. Blake Masters, the losing Republican Senate candidate from Arizona, who is on the review team, said the party needed to “modernize” to compete with “the Democrats’ GOTV early voting machine.”
Republicans have too filed lawsuits To more strictly enforce or toughen state laws around absenteeism and mail-in voting, which critics argue can disenfranchise voters.
It’s a posture the RNC has adopted for several cycles now. But in view of the midterms, even some party insiders say too much time is being spent on litigation and not enough on voter education, outreach and mobilization.
“Republicans spent too much time complaining and suing about election rules,” said Kevin McLaughlin, former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and director of the GOP-aligned nonprofit Common Sense Leadership Fund, for the 2020 election cycle. ” “Imagine how effective we would be if we spent even half of that time developing a strategy, and call me crazy for excluding voters.”
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