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Republicans Need To Chase Ballots From Every Low-Turnout Voter Who Polls For Trump

Republicans need to mobilize ballot chasing operations to reach those registered but unmotivated voters who are moving toward Trump.


After a New York Times/Siena College poll on Monday showed former President Donald Trump leading President Joe Biden in five battleground states, Republicans might be tempted to congratulate themselves on their standard strategy of trying to persuade enough voters to win at the polls on Election Day. But the lesson the Trump campaign and other Republicans should take from the polling bump is the opposite: Republicans need to care more than ever about chasing ballots from low-propensity voters.

The NYT poll reflected significant gains by Trump among traditionally Democrat, traditionally low-turnout voters such as young people and racial minorities. The poll commissioned by the corporate media outlet showed the former president ahead of Biden among 18-29-year-olds, and just three points behind among Hispanic voters. But both Hispanic voters and voters between the ages of 18-29 are traditionally low-propensity voters, meaning they may be registered to vote but have infrequent turnout compared to other demographics. 

Just 19 percent of Hispanic voters voted in all of the past three even-year elections, compared to 37 percent of Americans overall, according to Pew Research. Voters ages 18-29 accounted for 11 percent of turnout in 2018 despite making up 30 percent of the nonvoting population.

In some states, Trump’s lead over Biden narrowed slightly among likely voters, compared to registered voters — suggesting the existence of voters, many of whom may be from traditionally Democrat blocs, who may not be “likely” to vote but who lean toward Trump. The significance of ballot-collecting operations targeted at such voters should be obvious to Republicans.

Overall, in a head-to-head match-up Trump leads Biden 48-42 among registered voters and 49-43 among likely voters, according to the poll.

Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania remained steady, leading Biden 47-44 among registered voters. Both candidates gained one percentage point among likely voters at 48-45.

In a state that hasn’t been won by a Republican since 2004, the poll showed Trump doing remarkably well with Nevada voters, leading Biden 50-38 among registered voters and 51-38 among likely voters. Trump also did better among likely voters than registered voters in Wisconsin, where he leads 47-46 among likely voters compared to trailing Biden 47-45 among registered voters.

But in states like Arizona where Trump leads Biden 49-42 among registered voters — a seven-point lead — his margin slightly shrinks to 49-43 among likely voters: still a six-point lead but nonetheless a narrower margin in a state decided by less than 10,500 votes in 2020.

Georgia showed a similar outcome, with Trump’s lead shrinking by a net of 1 percentage point among likely voters compared to registered voters. The poll showed Trump ahead of Biden 49-39 among registered voters but 50-41 among likely voters.

Most drastic is the difference in Michigan, where the former president goes from leading Biden among registered voters 49-42 to trailing the Democrat 47-46 among likely voters. A significant amount of Michigan Democrats have signaled they are “uncommitted” to voting for Biden over what they perceive as insufficient sympathy for Hamas terrorists.

Meanwhile, a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll found that Biden leads Trump by 4 percentage points among likely voters though the duo was nearly tied in a head-to-head matchup among registered voters, with Biden only leading Trump 46-45.

Biden’s team is aware of the difference between registered and likely voters, with Biden telling donors at a fundraiser prior to the NYT/Siena College poll that his team runs “strongest among likely voters in the polling data,” according to the NYT.

“While the national polls basically have us registered voters up by four, likely voters we’re up by more,” Biden claimed to supporters on Saturday, according to The Times.

That cluster of registered but unmotivated voters who are moving toward Trump is good news for Republicans, if they can mobilize operations to reach out to those voters and collect their ballots.

Ballot chasing — in which a third party, such as a paid worker or volunteer, goes to residences, nursing homes, or other locations to pick up voters’ completed ballots before dropping off their ballots for them at the polls — is a mainstay tactic of Democrats. Republicans have traditionally lagged behind in ballot-chasing operations, preferring to encourage voter turnout in person on Election Day.

[READ NEXT: RNC Has Few Operatives On The Ground In Swing States, Local GOP Leaders Say]

At least 24 states permit a voter to designate an individual who can return a mail-in ballot for them, though some states stipulate conditions such as how many ballots an individual can return.

The practice was key to helping Democrats take back the House in 2018 after California quietly passed legislation two years prior legalizing ballot collection. Approximately 250,000 ballots were collected and dropped off in California’s Orange County on Election Day during the 2018 midterms.

As my colleague Shawn Fleetwood pointed out, “Democrats realized they don’t have to focus on Election Day turnout to win elections — they only need to bank enough mail-in ballots during early voting to bring home the bacon.”

Republicans have started to understand the importance of the ballot ground game. The Republican National Committee last year promised to conduct its own ballot collection operations “where legal.” In March, RNC Chairman Michael Whatley reiterated the party’s position on legal ballot gathering, telling The Federalist the RNC will “fight in every state to turn out the vote and will utilize every legal process to get voters to the polls and chase ballots across the country.”

Trump campaign senior adviser and RNC Chief of Staff Chris LaCivita told The Federalist that both groups are “deploying operations that are fueled by passionate volunteers who care about saving America and firing Joe Biden.”

“We do not feel obligated however to discuss the specifics of our strategy, timing, and tactics with members of the News Media,” LaCivita added.

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