The Dallas Morning News
Trump singing new tune on early voting, mail-in ballots
Donald Trump has railed against mail-in and early voting, which has resulted in many Republicans waiting until Election Day to vote, even if it’s inconvenient for the busy or infirm.
Now, after critical GOP losses in 2020 and 2022, Trump has somewhat changed his tune. While he’s still against mail-in and early voting, the former president concedes that Republicans should use all voting options available.
Trump’s new approach comes as he’s trying to recapture the White House in 2024. On Saturday, he’ ll stage a campaign rally in Waco, which could come after a possible indictment in New York on charges related to alleged hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Despite legal troubles, Trump is focused on winning a return match against President Joe Biden, if the incumbent emerges as the 2024 Democratic nominee for president.
“Republicans must compete using every lawful means to win,” Trump said earlier this month during his keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “That means swamping the left with mailin votes, early votes and election day votes. We have to do it.”
Trump is pushing for U.S. elections to be conducted largely on Election Day, with paper ballots given to eligible voters who must produce photo identification.
But unlike his stand in 2020 and 2022, when his supporters took to heart his feelings about alternate means of voting, Trump is telling his voters to work within the election systems in place. At the CPAC gathering outside of Washington, D.C., he even said Republicans should engage in ballot harvesting, which is the collection and submission of completed mail-in or absentee ballots by operatives and volunteers, instead of voters submitting their ballots directly to official ballot collection sites or election departments.
Texas has outlawed ballot harvesting, but it’s legal in other places.
“Until we can eliminate ballot harvesting, we will become masters of ballot harvesting,” Trump said.
“We have no choice, beating Democrats at their own game. And we will do it legally.”
What about drop boxes for ballots?
“We need them in every church,” Trump said.
Trump’s new tune is sweet music to Republicans across the country who acknowledge that his criticism of the mail-in and absentee ballot process hurt GOP voter turnout efforts.
While many Republicans still believe election systems across the country need to be reformed, they acknowledge that it’s counterproductive to have GOP voters who otherwise would have participated in early and mail-in voting to ditch the practice.
In North Texas, Republicans used to have early-voting rates that exceeded those of Democrats. After Trump declared Election Day voting a better alternative, many Republicans retreated to traditional voting. That not only deprived those voters of the convenience of voting early or by mail, but it made it possible to lose votes from residents who couldn’t make it to the polls on that day.
At CPAC, Trump conceded that waiting until Election Day to vote could be challenging. He used the 2022 general election in Arizona as an example. It was there his choice for governor, former television anchor Kari Lake, was defeated.
“They had lines that were a mile long, all over the place in Republican areas,” Trump said.
In Texas, some Democratic strongholds in urban areas like Houston have frequently endured long lines, which is why some leaders want to make it easier for people to vote, not more restrictive.
Texas Republicans have successfully pushed for laws they said would curb election fraud and create a uniform system for voting. Democrats contend those efforts are being made to suppress votes in urban centers.
But most lawmakers agree the system should allow an early voting period and a mail-in ballot process for voters over the age of 65, folks who are out of state, the military and the sick.
Jeremy Bradford, a GOP consultant and former executive director of the Tarrant County Republican Party, said he’s glad Trump has modified his position.
In 2020, Bradford spent much of his own money to travel to Georgia and knock on doors for GOP candidates in two critical Senate contests. He said there was confusion from some Republican voters he encountered over remarks made by Trump and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani about early and absentee voting. Democrats picked up both of those Georgia Senate seats.
Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him also could have helped depress the GOP vote in the Georgia Senate contests.
“It is music to my ears to hear former leaders of the party say ‘OK, we’ve got to win elections and you have to exhaust all legal means,’” Bradford said. “I want people that, if they’re going to be out of town, if they’re going to have a major surgery coming up and they’re not going to be able to vote on Election Day, to be able to vote early because I want people’s vote to count.”
Bradford said he’s moved away from Trump and will support Ron Desantis for the GOP nomination for president. Desantis is not an official candidate, but is widely expected to mount a campaign.
The Republican race for president could be a hard-fought contest.
Trump and others will need every vote they can get — even if it’s early.