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At Election Integrity Roundtable, House Republicans Champion Early Voting

House Election Integrity Caucus
Image CreditVictoria Marshall

In a roundtable discussion Tuesday night, House Republicans and state election officials signaled their support of states expanding early voting procedures in states where Republicans can’t yet tighten election rules.

“Early voting is the most secure way of voting prior to Election Day because it is exactly like Election Day,” South Carolina Election Commission Executive Director Howard Knapp said. South Carolina established early voting for the first time last year, when its Republican supermajority legislature voted in favor of two weeks of in-person voting prior to Election Day. Knapp attributes early voting’s popularity among Republicans to South Carolina’s strict voter ID requirements.

“What really got early voting passed in South Carolina is that you have to have an ID,” Knapp said. “If there’s an issue with you as a voter it can be solved during the voting period prior to Election Day.”

The roundtable was hosted by the House Election Integrity Caucus and House Administration Committee, and led by Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., co-chair of the former caucus. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose echoed Knapp’s comments on the security of early voting.

“It’s unfortunately a false choice that is offered by folks sometimes on both sides of the aisle that you have to choose either a secure election or a convenient election,” LaRose said. “That’s not a real choice. You don’t have to choose one or the other. States like ours demonstrate that you can have both convenience and security. In Ohio we’ve got a whole month of early in-person voting which runs just like Election Day voting.”

After Republicans largely allowed Democrats to push huge changes to the election process after imposing widespread lockdowns, many Republicans and concerned citizens were skeptical of such overhauls. They’ve turned election day into a month of early voting, mass mail-in balloting, and unsupervised drop boxes.

Several of these changes were rammed through state legislatures or implemented by Democratic secretaries of states under the guise of protecting public health because sloppy voting rules and low-information voting is well known to benefit Democrat candidates. Following the 2020 presidential election, some states passed legislation making such changes permanent, while others repealed them.

In states where Republicans can, they should repeal these changes that weaken confidence in elections, prejudice elections towards Democrats, and help political parties pick and choose the electorate. Where Republicans currently can’t return voting procedures to pre-2020 expansions yet, they are working to match Democrats’ vote harvesting.

“My hope is that folks take advantage of it [early voting] because it is a great way to catch up,” LaRose said.

Tenney emphasized that Democrats use early voting to their advantage by targeting low-propensity voters and harvesting their ballots. Republicans, she noted, tend to spend their resources targeting high-propensity voters when they should be using early voting to also target low-information voters.

“If Republicans want to win, they have to start doing what Democrats do,” Tenney said. “They’re on top of this stuff. It’s not about winning votes, it’s about collecting ballots.”

Nowhere is this more true than in Pennsylvania’s 2022 midterm election results. Pennsylvania voters literally re-elected a dead man to state office, as well as an extremely ill man to federal office. John Fetterman was likely elected to the U.S. Senate not because of his opponent’s lackluster credentials, but because of the strength of the Democratic Party machine in Philadelphia.

“Democrats are really, really good because they use their resources well and are great at targeting people for votes,” Georgia Secretary of State Chief Operations Officer Gabe Sterling said. “We [Republicans] aren’t doing that. We’re trying to chase people we already have in the bank.”

According to LaRose, establishing early voting is helpful from a ballot chaser’s perspective because he knows which voters to target leading up to Election Day. Lengthy election seasons make it easier for campaigns to essentially buy elections by deploying expensive, targeted vote-harvesting efforts in close or key races. That’s because lengthy election seasons tip off political parties to the likely outcome of the votes that have already come in while the polls are still open.

“Both operatives on the Republican side and on the Democratic side really want people to vote early,” LaRose said. “Because then you take them out of the contact universe. So if you’ve gotten your data project and know that these are the 300,000 influenceable voters in this election and you see them voting early, then that narrows down your contact window for mailing, for social media, and for get-out-the-vote on Election Day.”

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia currently allow some form of early voting prior to Election Day. In January, the House Election Integrity Caucus released a report championing election integrity changes that passed in 2021 and 2022. One such bill was Georgia’s SB 202, which expanded early voting and required a valid ID to vote by mail.

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