Thursday, July 25, 2024

After Senate Steal, GOP Reconsiders Stance on Fraud-Enabling Mail-In Ballots

'We’ve got to put a priority on competing with Democrats from the start, beat them at their own game...'

(Headline USA) In Georgia’s Senate runoff, Republicans once more met the realities of giving Democrats a head start they could not overcome.

According to tallies from the secretary of state, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock built a lead of more than 320,000 votes heading into Tuesday’s election. He topped Republican Herschel Walker by an almost 2-1 ratio in mailed ballots and had an advantage of more than 250,000 early, in-person votes over Walker.

So even with Walker gaining more votes on Election Day, the challenger lost by nearly 97,000 votes.

It was only the latest example of how Republicans have handed Democrats an advantage in balloting due to their rigid opposition to early mail-in voting, which documents like the recently produced 2000 Mules have shown Democrats using to conduct illegal ballot-harvesting and potentially to submit fraudulent ballots that are either fabricated whole-cloth or automatically issued to an array of ineligible voters.

With two stolen elections now notched on their watch—despite professed efforts in states like Georgia and Arizona to close loopholes and be more vigilant—GOP leaders may consider pivoting to a new philosophy of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

“We’ve got to put a priority on competing with Democrats from the start, beat them at their own game,” said Debbie Dooley, a Georgia tea party organizer who remains loyal to former President Donald Trump but is critical of how he has talked about the U.S. election system.

That could prove risky, as a 2018 case in North Carolina revealed when notorious Democrat election-stealing lawyer Marc Elias dramatically reversed his support for such practices to target a Republican elected official who stood accused of ballot-harvesting in the state, where it is illegal. The ordeal ultimately forced Rep.-elect Mark Harris to withdraw himself, forcing a rematch in which Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C. prevailed.

But it underscored the fact that mail-in voting is simply a means to an end for left-wing operatives who will do everything in their power to secure a victory, despite rhetoric that equates it with nebulous terms like “voter access.”

Whether fighting it or joining it, Republicans must be prepared to lawyer up for the no-holds-barred lawfare attacks that will ensue.

Nonetheless, in the 2022 cycle, Democrats showed one of the key vulnerabilities Republicans faced in pinning all their hopes on in-person voting after corrupt Maricopa County officials appeared to sabotage the voting machines on Election Day, handicapping top GOP candidates Kari Lake and Blake Masters, as well as several other down-ballot positions at the state level.

In Arizona’s most populous county, a printer error created long lines at several voting locations on Nov. 8, and those who were able to vote left their ballots in the hands of county officials who tabulated them behind closed doors—after intermingling the untallied ballots with those already cast in some cases.

Even forces of nature may work against Republicans in a lopsided and rigged game where early and day-of voting are both options.

In northern Nevada, a snow storm made travel tricky on Election Day. The Republican candidate for Senate, Adam Laxalt, lost his race by 8,000 votes after a last-minute surge of votes in Las Vegas on the eve of election night proceeded to whittle away at his commanding Election Day lead.

In Georgia’s runoff, rain drenched the state as the disproportionately Republican crowd finally made its way to the polls.

Overall, Republican turnout was fairly robust in the midterms, suggesting the party did not have many problems getting its voters to the polls. But the loss in Georgia, which enabled Democrats to gain a Senate seat during an election where the GOP hoped to retake the chamber, was the last straw for several conservatives.

“We’ve got to get better at turnout operations, especially in states that use mail-in balloting extensively,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking GOP leader, told reporters in Washington, D.C.

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

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

McDaniel did not name the main person in 2020 who was attacking voting before Election Day—Trump.

When the U.S. went into lockdown during the March 2020 primaries, the nation’s voting system shifted heavily to mail. The then-president began to attack that manner of casting ballots, saying Democratic efforts to expand it could lead to “levels of voting that if, you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Trump blamed the resulting fraud in several key battleground states for his loss in November, even after his own Justice Departement refused to support his efforts to challenge it, deeming the vast troves of anecdotal evidence that emerged to be outside of its jurisdiction.

Democrats and their media allies continued to gaslight, saying that the fraud was non-existent and that it was the “most secure” election in U.S. history, while lawyers—led by Elias—began waging their own legal attacks to punish any who dared press forth with challenges.

Outrage over the stolen election helped spur the  Jan. 6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol, new GOP-backed laws tightening election regulations in Republican-led states and a wave of Republican candidates running for statewide posts in the 2022 elections.

Even so, it failed to muster enough backlash to counter the growing wave of momentum on the Democrat side to continue leveraging their early voting advantage.

Republican party leaders hope that leaning into it in places where it has now become the norm will allow them to work better within the system and incorporate it as a campaign strategy.

Once they have locked in some votes by mail, they can focus turnout operations on the laggards and get them to vote by Election Day.

Republicans in states such as Florida and Utah set up robust systems of mail voting and kept expanding their footprint. In states such as Colorado that mail every voter a ballot, older, conservative-leaning voters were the ones most likely to return their ballots by mail.

“There is a tension on the right between folks who say, ‘They’re the rules and you’ve got to play by them,’ and those who say, ‘No, you do not,’” said Jason Snead of the Honest Elections Project, a conservative group that advocates for tighter restrictions on mail voting. “I think there’s a lot of reevaluation and reassessment going on.”

“You can stand on principle and say, ‘I am not going to do this,’ but it’s a drag on performance if you do,” 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 fought against it mostly lost.

One of the worst performances was in Pennsylvania, where Democrats out-voted Republicans by mail by more than 3-to-1, netting 69% of the nearly 1.25 million mail ballots cast in the state. That was almost one-fourth of a total of nearly 5.4 million ballots cast.

Republicans who control the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a massive overhaul of the state’s voting system in 2019, allowing anyone to cast a ballot by mail. But nany Republicans had second thoughts in 2020 after Trump began to castigate mail voting.

Top party officials in the state are now reassessing.

“Republican attitudes on mail-in ballots are going to have to change,” said Sam DeMarco, chair of the Allegheny County GOP. “President Trump is running across the country telling people not to use it, and it’s crushing us.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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