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Republicans rethink voting by mail


WORLD Radio - Republicans rethink voting by mail

Some party leaders now encourage early voting and mail-in ballots

A worker sorts through vote-by-mail ballots during the presidential primary election on March 12 in Vancouver, Wash. Associated Press/Photo by Jenny Kane

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday the 11th of April, 2024. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. First up: Republicans and voting by mail.

In 2020, many states accommodated pandemic restrictions by allowing mail-in voting. Concerns about election fraud have led Republican officials in some states to roll back mail-in voting.

REICHARD: A recent Pew Research study found that less than 30 percent of Republicans support voting by mail. Compare that to more than 80 percent of Democrats.

But some in the GOP want to change minds about voting by mail. WORLD’s Washington Bureau reporter Carolina Lumetta brings us their story.

CAROLINA LUMETTA: Late last year, the Republican National Committee ran an ad asking Republicans to do something unexpected.

AUDIO: [Bank Your Vote ad]

MCDANIEL: When Republicans vote early, we win.

LUMETTA: Ronna McDaniel… the former chairwoman of the RNC, launched the “bank your vote” initiative to convince Republicans to cast ballots before Election Day - either by mail or in person. Former President Donald Trump joined the effort.

TRUMP: Go to to sign up and commit to voting early.

LUMETTA: Other Republicans agree - it’s time to boost mail-in voting. That includes …Guy Ciarrocchi… - a former congressional candidate in Pennsylvania.

GUY CIARROCCI: The Democratic party saw this as an educational tool to increase and improve voter turnout, having little or nothing to do with COVID. And the Republican party still, I think up until the recent past, saw it as an outgrowth of COVID and didn't want to do it. The biggest change is the recognition that without adapting to this extra tool, that we weren't going to win.

LUMETTA: In 2020, Trump lost the popular vote in Pennsylvania by less than 2 percent in a record-high turnout year. Republican leaders have said this year the margins could be even closer. The RNC revamped Ronna McDaniel’s Bank Your Vote initiative into a broader “Grow Your Vote” campaign. Here’s the new RNC co-chairwoman Lara Trump on FOX News in March.

LARA TRUMP: Look at the polling between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. If the election were held today, Donald Trump would win handily. No problem hands down. We have to ensure that over the next eight months, we get people out to early vote, we ballot harvest like nothing we've ever seen, and we ensure that every person who is legally able to vote can do so. And anyone who legally is not able to vote cannot do so. We have to protect that vote once it's in and that is how we are going to win on November 5.

LUMETTA: Conservative activist Charlie Kirk has also changed his tune on mail-in voting. He recently launched a team of so-called “ballot chasers” at Turning Point USA. These are volunteers dedicated to getting hesitant voters to cast mail-in ballots. Here he is on the Megyn Kelly Show in January.

KIRK: And you knock on the door and you try to persuade or convince Earl to fill out that ballot and chase that ballot and get that into the mail, now you can’t touch the ballot, you can’t assume custody, but you can persuade him, you can build a relationship…

LUMETTA: But many Republicans still express doubts that voting by mail is secure…including Donald Trump. At a campaign rally in Michigan last month, Trump repeated claims that mail-in voting is prone to fraud.

TRUMP: And we will restore free speech and I will secure our elections with the goal will be one-day voting with paper ballots and voter ID. [Applause] Mail-in voting is totally corrupt. Get that through your head.

LUMETTA: Back in Pennsylvania, where voters have several options for submitting early ballots, a legislative committee is working to remove ballot drop boxes. Republicans argued that anyone can walk up to these boxes and toss in multiple fake ballots. Committee Chairman Cris Dush told WORLD that the measure was a first step towards securing elections. He would rather ban all no-excuse mail-in ballots, not just the ones deposited in drop boxes. Here’s Dush during a recent State Government Committee meeting.

DUSH: Unsecured drop boxes pose a threat to the integrity of our elections. We want to make this as convenient as possible for electors. But we do not want to give convenience at the sacrifice of that integrity that is so paramount to securing the election process.

LUMETTA: In the last general election, a record 60 percent of Democratic Party voters cast ballots by mail, according to the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. That means a majority of Democrats were able to vote at their convenience, with less chance for unexpected circumstances to disrupt Election Day plans. And Ciarrocchi says that’s something Republicans need to pay attention to.

CIARROCCHI: Let's pretend to win Pennsylvania, you need a hundred votes. If history's any guide, President Biden is gonna have 51 or 52 votes before election day, those representing mail-in voting. If we don't change our behavior only about nine or 10 votes will be cast for President Trump ahead of time. That means on election day, we have to go find 90 or 91 voters and encourage them to get to the polls. And that means they didn't have their car break down, they didn't have to go to the doctors, their kids weren't called home sick from school. Or, because turnouts particularly in presidential elections have been so high, it is very common for waiting lines on election day to be 2, 3, or 4 hours.

LUMETTA: Ciarrocchi says there are still ways to boost election security measures, but the GOP can also trust the current process.

CIARROCCHI: We should be able to do both. We should be able to work on the integrity side, but also use it as a tool. The other side has done it well and shown that they can do it well. Why would we not do it when so much is at stake? Let’s use the same tools at our disposal and make it a fair contest.

As of last week, general election polling finds Trump and Biden only one percentage point apart…and if that number holds true going into November, mail-in voting could make the difference for which party comes out on top.

LUMETTA: Reporting for WORLD, I’m Carolina Lumetta.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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