After the Midterms, the GOP reconsiders its dislike of absentee ballots

ATLANTA – In the Georgia Senate runoff, Republicans once again faced the reality of giving the Democrats a lead they could not overcome.

According to the Foreign Minister Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock built a lead of more than 320,000 votes for Tuesday’s election. He outscored Republican Herschel Walker by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio in absentee ballots and held an advantage of more than 250,000 early, in-person votes over Walker. Although Walker received more votes on Election Day, the challenger lost by nearly 97,000 votes.

It was just the latest example of Republicans giving Democrats a voting advantage due to former President Donald Trump’s lies about the risks of absentee voting. Conservative conspiracy theorists urged GOP voters wait until election day before casting their ballots and spinning stories about how such a strategy would prevent Democrats from rigging voting machines to steal the election.

There was no widespread fraud in the Election 2020 or this year’s midterms.

A problem with such a strategy is the random glitches that often occur on election day.

In Arizona’s most populous county, for example, a Nov. 8 printer error resulted in long lines at several polling stations. Republicans eventually lost several statewide contests, including for governor and secretary of state, although Maricopa County officials said all voters had a chance to cast ballots and all valid ballots were counted.

The Arizona attorney general race, which has the GOP nominee trailing by a little over 500 votes, is headed for an automatic recount.

In northern Nevada, an Election Day snowstorm made travel difficult. The Republican nominee for the Senate lost his race with 8,000 votes. In the Georgia runoff, rain drenched the state as the disproportionately Republican crowd finally made their way to the polls.

Overall, Republican turnout in the midterms was fairly robust, suggesting the party didn’t have much trouble getting its constituents to vote. But the loss in Georgia, that allowed Democrats to win a seat in the Senate was the last straw for several conservatives during an election where the GOP hoped to retake the chamber.

“We have to make it a priority from the start to compete with the Democrats, to beat them at their own game,” said Debbie Dooley, a Georgia Tea Party organizer who has been loyal to Trump but has been critical of the way he spoke about the United States has spoken electoral system.

In Washington, South Dakota Senator John Thune, the second-ranking GOP leader, told reporters, “We need to get better at turnout, especially in states that use absentee voting extensively.”

Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview on Fox News this week that Republican voters need to cast their ballots early.

“I’ve said that over and over again,” she said. “In 2020, many were saying, ‘Don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early.’ And we have to stop that.”

McDaniel didn’t name the main person in 2020 attacking the pre-election day vote — Trump.

When the US went into lockdown during the March 2020 primary, the nation’s voting system shifted heavily to postal voting. The then President began attacking this type of votingand said Democrats’ efforts to expand it could lead to “a level of voting where you would never vote for a Republican in this country again, if you ever agreed to that.”

Trump continued to baselessly claim absentee voting would lead to massive fraud and then blamed him imaginary mass fraud to the his loss in November even after his own Ministry of Justice found no such organized activity. Trump’s lies helped fuel the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, new GOP-backed legislation to tighten election rules in Republican-run states, and a wave of Republican candidates running for state office in the 2022 elections, who embraced his conspiracy theories.

Academic research has shown that absentee voting increases voter turnout but benefits neither party. However, it is usually driven by campaigns. Once they get some votes in the mail, they can focus turnout on the laggards and get them to vote by Election Day.

Absentee voting also provides insurance against inclement weather, equipment breakdowns, traffic jams and other Election Day issues that can discourage voters.

Republicans in states like Florida and Utah established robust postal voting systems and continued to expand their presence. In states like Colorado, which mail ballots to every voter, older, more conservative voters were more likely to return their ballots in the mail.

Still, the GOP has traditionally been more skeptical about mail-in voting, though it wasn’t a central element of the party’s identity until Trump made it so in 2020. But even Conservatives who oppose expanding mail-in voting warn the party needs to wake up to reality.

“There’s a tension on the right side between people who say, ‘These are the rules and you have to stick to them,’ and those who say, ‘No, you don’t,'” said The’s Jason Snead Honest Elections Project, a conservative group campaigning for stricter restrictions on postal voting. “I think there’s a lot of re-evaluation and re-evaluation going on.”

“You can stand on principle and say, ‘I’m not going to do this,’ but it’s a performance drain when you do it,” Snead said.

He noted that Republicans with robust early voting programs, such as Govs. Brian Kemp in Georgia and Ron DeSantis in Florida easily won their elections, while those who echoed Trump’s conspiracy theories mostly lost.

One of the worst performances for election conspiracy theorists was in Pennsylvania, where the Republican gubernatorial candidate who watched protesters attack the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, lost by almost 15 percentage points. The GOP also lost a Senate seat there control of the House of Commons of the legislature.

Democrats outscored Republicans by more than 3-to-1 via mail-in ballots, accounting for 69% of the nearly 1.25 million mail-in votes cast in the state. That was almost a quarter of a total of almost 5.4 million ballots cast.

Republicans controlling the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a massive overhaul of the state voting system in 2019, so everyone can vote by mail. Many Republicans had concerns in 2020 after Trump began criticizing mail-in voting. GOP lawmakers and their allies have since fought in courts to overturn the law and increase the number of absentee ballots rejected on technical grounds.

Top party officials in the state are now reassessing.

“Republican attitudes toward absentee ballots need to change,” said Sam DeMarco, chairman of the Allegheny County GOP. “President Trump is running across the country telling people not to use it and it’s killing us.”


Riccardi reported from Denver. Associated Press writer Marc Levy of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. After the Midterms, the GOP reconsiders its dislike of absentee ballots

Sarah Y. Kim

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