There are a number of actions Republicans could and should take to win big in the 2024 election. But one thing they must do is embrace mail-in and early voting. The good news is that it appears the GOP leadership is trying to do just that. But will it be enough?
According to a Pew Research Center poll from October, right before the 2022 midterms, “Republican voters, who already lacked confidence in absentee and mail voting, are now also less likely to say they are very confident that ballots cast in person at polling places will be counted as voters intend.”
Pew says that 79 percent of Republican voters were very or somewhat confident that their in-person vote would be counted accurately, with only 26 percent being very confident. Contrast that to Pew’s 2020 survey, which found that 92 percent of Republicans were very or somewhat confident, with 48 percent being very confident. For mail-in voting it’s even lower, though the numbers didn’t change much between 2020 and 2022, when 37 percent said they were very or somewhat confident their mail-in vote would be counted versus 36 percent in 2020.
I have never understood Republican opposition to early voting. I always vote early. In my home state of Texas, we have two weeks of early voting. I usually go a few days after early voting starts, because the first and last days can be busier than the rest of the time. There is little or no waiting in line, and it generally takes me 10 to 15 minutes. And, importantly, if some problem at the poll were to arise, I can always come back in a day or two.
Republican voters are much more likely to wait until election day to vote. But a personal emergency or some other conflict might come up that day, or bad weather might be a discouraging factor, especially if voters have to stand in line for an hour or more. For those who wait until voting day, there is no second chance.
When everyone voted on election day, Democratic voters were just as likely to be affected by unexpected conflicts, inclement weather, or glitches at polling places. But they are now more likely to vote in-person early or by mail.
To be sure, it was mostly Democrats at the state and local levels who used the pandemic to vastly expand voting options. And there was a lot of understandable concern that those expansions facilitated, whether intentionally or not, election fraud. But while fraud absolutely exists in elections, those caught and charged with election fraud usually involve only a handful of votes or fewer.
For those still grumbling about the expansion of voting options, including early voting and mail-in voting, it’s time to get over it. States are expanding voting options, and that is unlikely to change. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, only three states (Mississippi, Alabama and New Hampshire) do not offer early in-person voting. And eight states run elections primarily by mail, though most of them offer in-person voting for those who want or need it.
While every state has passed election reforms in the past few years, several (mostly red) states have passed reforms intended to expand voting options while improving election integrity, a process sometimes referred to as “making it easy to vote but hard to cheat.”
Democrats’ over-the-top howling about these reforms — for example, President Biden’s claim that they were “Jim Crow 2.0” — only reinforced some Republicans’ concern that Democrats wanted a less accountable system that encouraged, or at least didn’t discourage, election fraud.
Given these changes, it is important for Republicans to accept them and to work to get conservative and GOP voters to use them. Elections are about voter turnout. With one to three weeks of early voting, depending on the state, there is a lot more time to ensure voters get to the polls.
Republicans who claim the voting system can’t be trusted shouldn’t be surprised if many Republican-inclined voters don’t vote, and if Republicans lose elections as a result. You may not be sure whether your vote will be counted. But if you don’t vote, you can be sure it won’t be counted.