GOP, election integrity advocates embrace early voting, legal ballot harvesting

Election integrity advocates still raised concerns about using some of these methods.

Published: June 9, 2023 11:07pm

The Republican National Committee, state GOP parties, and election integrity advocates are all embracing absentee balloting, early in-person voting and ballot harvesting in states in which it is legal for the 2024 elections – a major turnaround from the Republicans’ earlier stances on the issues.

On Wednesday, the RNC announced its new “Bank Your Vote” initiative, calling it a "nationwide campaign focused on maximizing pre-Election Day voting.”

“Bank Your Vote will encourage, educate, and activate Republican voters on when, where, and how to lock in their votes as early as possible, through in-person early voting, absentee voting, and ballot harvesting where legal,” the RNC said in a announcement on the initiative. 

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said: "We have some voters that like to vote on Election Day, and we have to explain to them we can't allow Democrats to get a head start. We don't want to wait till the fourth quarter to start scoring touchdowns when you have four quarters to put points on the board."

Mail-in voting and early voting have historically been a weakness for the GOP, with Republican voters predominantly opting to vote in person on Election Day. 

Furthermore, while Democrats continued to use such methods to help their candidates win elections, Republican instead sounded the alarm that universal mail-in voting and ballot harvesting were ripe for voter fraud – at least until recently. 

Former President Trump said in March that Republicans are “gonna have no choice" but to embrace absentee voting, early in-person voting and ballot harvesting in states where it is legal.

He is officially opposed to ballot harvesting – in which political operatives, volunteers and others third-parties gathering and submitting of completed absentee or mail-in voter ballots. And he contends the practice has become so much a part of modern elections that he would seek if reelected to abolish it.

Several state GOPs on Twitter either posted their support of the “Bank Your Vote” campaign or simply retweeted McDaniel’s video announcing the initiative.

The state parties include California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Iowa, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

"It's not just important, but it's the key to winning," Wisconsin GOP Chairman Brian Schimming told "Just the News, No Noise" TV show on Wednesday. "I’ve been around for a few years, and I generally have not voted absentee or early in my life. But look, things are changing.

"And I keep telling people in Wisconsin, we can't keep going into Election Day 200,000 votes down and make it up in 13 hours. The arithmetic does not work."

The Arizona GOP told Just the News on Friday regarding the RNC's initiative, "AZGOP Chairman DeWit campaigned on the need for a strong ground-game operation. And for many months has been diligently working on setting up an early ballot chasing structure that will deliver wins up and down the ticket for Republicans in 2024.

"Upon learning about the RNC's efforts, we are thrilled to collaborate and provide our full support. We look forward to working together to achieve these goals."

Phill Kline, the director of election integrity watchdog The Amistad Project, told Just the News that while he agrees with the RNC’s strategy, “what it doesn’t address is the unfortunate privatization of elections in the urban core,” which he says gives Democrats about a 3-5 point advantage.

“Any party that wants to stay relevant needs to be engaged with how the rules are right now,” he also said. 

Kline also argued the focus of any such initiative should at least in part address "concerns about transparency in the counting room ... to ensure that ballots are managed correctly.”

He also added a word of caution about more ballot harvesting, saying, "Once both parties are engaged in [the] effort, they might be able to see that’s not the best way to do elections."

However, “if it’s legal, it’s stupid for one party to watch while another does it,” he conceded.

Republican election lawyer Cleta Mitchell, chairwoman of the Election Integrity Network, said Thursday, “We have been urging people since 2020 to vote in person on the FIRST DAY of Early Voting, to claim their votes – because we heard so many times in 2020 reports of people who were told when they went to vote on Election Day, that they had already voted.

"That is a big issue of stolen votes, but no agency to my knowledge has ever tried to look into/understand why people would be told they had already voted, according to the records of the election office, when the voter had NOT voted yet."

She also argued that in-person early voting is preferable “because there are too many potential problems with voting by mail, depending on the jurisdiction.”

Mitchell also said that while the new RNC program is a start, "There are many other systemic issues in the election process brought on by the changes enacted under the pressures of the leftist organizations funded by leftwing billionaires over the past decade. ... To think this is a panacea for all of those issues is to ignore about 90% of the other concerns and problems that exist with regard to the election systems in some states."

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