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Republicans have a post-election epiphany on mail-in voting

McDaniel did not mention former President Donald Trump, who spoke out against early, mail-in, and mail-in voting for years and falsely claimed the methods led to widespread voter fraud that cost him the ‘election. And a spokesperson said his comments were not aimed at the former president.

But, privately, Republican operatives admit that Trump has put their party in an electoral pinch and that the problems go beyond voting methods.

“We can sit here and talk about mail-in voting and use that as an excuse, but it’s like an alcoholic saying he won’t drink gin anymore, just beer,” a senior law enforcement official said. GOP campaign. “We have 99 issues and postal voting is one of them.”

There is a growing sense of concern among GOP ranks that the conspiracy theories Trump has pushed about early voting and mail-in ballots are not only hurting them in the just-ended midterm. , but could take several cycles to fix. Republican committees and groups have worked to educate voters about the early voting laws and plan to step up those efforts. But they face not only Trump and his oversized megaphone, but also a significant number of conservative leaders who are now falsely declaring early voting and mail-in ballots tainted.

“[P]People are waking up to it, even the Trumpistas,” said longtime GOP strategist Karl Rove, who leads RITE, a new voter integrity project, in an interview. “It is a sad comment that we have to do this and there is resistance. It creates a class of people who may for a long time believe that elections are stolen as long as there are absentee ballots, and it gets people saying my vote doesn’t count, I don’t need to bother voting.”

Republicans hoping to change their voters’ perception of mail-in voting have seen positive developments in recent days, as some major skeptics have emerged, noting that Democrats have emphasized early voting to draw big benefits before election day.

After Georgia’s runoff election showed Republican Herschel Walker was likely to lose, Fox News host Sean Hannity questioned the “reluctance of some Republicans in many states to vote early and vote by mail,” and said it was time the party changed its ways. “You’re absolutely right,” agreed House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. Another Fox host, Laura Ingraham, became visibly flustered as she discussed the issue with former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who said Republicans need to bank ballots early.

“How come we didn’t?” We didn’t do that in 2020, because people said, ‘Don’t vote early, because it’s corrupt,’ Ingraham said. “A lot of people have done [say that]at the very top of the Republican Party.

Two of the main potential candidates for 2024, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, also said Republicans need to be more savvy when it comes to early and mail-in voting. And conservative commentator Charlie Kirk tweeted after the election that “one of the first lessons we need to learn from the midterm elections is the power of early voting.”

But those in the trenches believe real buy-in to voting outside of Election Day will take some time. That’s because Republicans have always been skeptical of election administration. And over the decades, many have also assumed that efforts to expand voting access meant opening avenues for fraud.

“Republican states are rightly taking steps to ensure election security. Our issue is now a messaging and operational issue. We start by throwing out the Trump BS lies and telling people the truth about their votes and the power of their vote,” said a Republican strategist who worked on Georgia’s midterm elections. “Who would have imagined telling people, ‘the election is rigged’ and then asking them to vote wouldn’t work?”

As Republicans begin to lay the groundwork for the party to embrace early and mail-in voting, they face a major hurdle: Trump has shown no eagerness to embrace the cause.

He promoted the documentary “2000 Mules” by conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, which presents the harvesting of ballots as a nefarious and highly coordinated operation choreographed by the Democrats. And last week he wrote on Truth Social, “REMEMBER, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE FAIR AND FREE ELECTIONS WITH MAIL-IN BALLOTS – NEVER, NEVER, NEVER. CANNOT AND CANNOT HAPPEN!!!”

Trump also added confusion by confusing mail-in ballots, which can be requested before Election Day, with mail-in ballots, which are mailed to all registered voters and are only used in eight states. , including California and Colorado. No-excuse absentee ballots are available in twenty-seven states, including Arizona, Georgia and Florida. The former president has suggested, without evidence, that mailing millions of ballots allows someone to grab someone else’s ballot, fill it out and send it off.

Top operatives cite Georgia as a prime example of the problems Trump-style skepticism can create. The former president spoke out against mail-in voting in the 2020 cycle and GOP officials believe that in doing so he cost himself and Senate Republicans prevailed in the state. His campaign against the ballot only gained momentum in Georgia’s Senate runoff following his election defeat, in which both GOP candidates lost. And that persisted throughout the 2022 cycle.

In Tuesday’s runoff election, Senator Raphael Warnock received 64% of mail-in votes and nearly 58% of early votes, according to figures released by the Secretary of State’s office.

Republicans named Florida as a state where they successfully adopted early voting. And in California, Republicans prioritized early voting and ballot harvesting, which is legal in the state, and were able to retain several hotly contested incumbent House seats and win an open seat in the Central Valley this cycle.

“The RNC abides by the rules set by each state and will spare no effort to win as many races as possible up and down the ballot. The RNC has invested millions of dollars earlier than ever to get Republicans to the polls during early voting times and has successfully engaged in states with election laws that allow ballot harvesting,” said RNC spokesman Nathan Brand.

The RNC is widely expected to focus on correcting perceptions about absentees, correspondence and early voting as part of its upcoming post-midterm party performance review. Blake Masters, the losing Republican candidate for the Arizona Senate who is on the review team, said the party needed to “modernize” to compete with the “Democrats’ GOTV advance voting machine.”

Republicans have also filed lawsuits to more strictly enforce or tighten state laws regarding mail-in and mail-in voting, which critics say could disenfranchise voters.

It’s a posture the RNC has taken for many cycles now. But in the wake of the midterm elections, even some party insiders say too much time is being spent on litigation and not enough on voter education, outreach and mobilization.

“Republicans have spent an inordinate amount of time complaining and suing election rules,” said Kevin McLaughlin, former executive director of the National Republican Senate Committee for the 2020 Election Cycle and director of the nonprofit aligned with the GOP, the Common Sense Leadership Fund. “Imagine how effective we would be if we spent even half that time developing strategy and, call me crazy, training voters.”

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