Both Florida & National GOP Suddenly Changed Their Tune on Early Voting

by | Nov 20, 2023 | Quick Facts

Donald Trump speaks at the Florida Freedom Summit on Nov. 4, 2023 (Photo credit: Mitch Perry)

Both Florida & National GOP Suddenly Changed Their Tune on Early Voting

by | Nov 20, 2023 | Quick Facts

Donald Trump speaks at the Florida Freedom Summit on Nov. 4, 2023 (Photo credit: Mitch Perry)

Trump hates mail-in ballots and the GOP has echoed him, until now. The RNC has changed its tune and is pushing a "bank your vote" early voting mail-in campaign for the 2024 election.

Republished with permission from Florida Phoenix, by Mitch Perry

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has launched  a “Bank Your Vote” campaign in Florida to encourage Republicans to vote early in next year’s general election—even as the party’s leading presidential candidate, Donald Trump, continues to disparage voting by mail.

Early voting and especially voting by mail have been a regular form of casting ballots in Florida for well more than a decade, among both Republicans and Democrats. But the concept was novel for many voters around the rest of the country when states began implementing it in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic made people wary of leaving their homes to vote in person.

That led to criticism by Trump and other Republicans that there was something nefarious about early voting.

But the RNC announced in June that the party could no longer afford the luxury of relying on their voters to only cast ballots on Election Day, and national party chair Ronna McDaniel said that to beat Joe Biden in 2024, “We must ensure that Republicans bank as many pre-Election Day votes as possible.”

“You can’t think you’re going to win the game if you only start scoring in the fourth quarter,” McDaniel put in during a conference call last week.

The problem for her and the GOP is that former President Trump isn’t sticking to the script.

“Mail in-ballots are a disaster,” Trump said during the Republican Party of Florida’s Freedom Summit in Kissimmee earlier this month. “California sends out 36 mail-ballots. They go all over the place. Some people get six. Some people get eight.”

Trump also went on to mention in that speech that former President Jimmy Carter had at one point expressed security concerns about mail ballots.  He was referring to a 2005 report by an organization co-chaired by Carter and James Baker, George H.W. Bush’s former Secretary of State. The Carter-Baker report said that absentee voting was vulnerable in several ways, according to a recent PolitiFact analysis. (In 2020 Carter publicly expressed his support for absentee ballot in a statement).

When asked about negative comments Trump and others have made about voting-by-mail, McDaniel said that Trump had recorded a video for the Bank Your Vote.

“I think the entire ecosystem right now is understanding we can’t play catchup,” she said. “We can’t start from behind. We can’t let Dems get a big head start and think we’re going to win it all on Election Day. Things happen on Election Day.”

‘Phenomenal Job’

McDaniel acknowledged that although the party is launching such efforts around the country, “Florida is not a state where this is usually a problem.”

“They’ve done a phenomenal job,” she said. “We’ve seen years and years of the embrace of absentee and early voting, but we can always do better, and especially with the amount of people moving from New York and other Democratic states to Florida, we need to make sure that they’re aware of this initiative.”

Florida Democrats say that they’re also acting to ensure their voters are aware that they can continue to vote by mail, in particular because of an election law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022 that requires Floridians to submit a new request for a vote-by-mail ballot every two years, instead of the previous four.

The law requires that every voter who requested a vote-by-mail ballot before Nov. 8, 2022, must resubmit their request for their mail ballots for the primary elections and the 2024 presidential election.

“Democrats have always promoted vote-by-mail and ways for voters to cast their ballots safely and securely,” a spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party told the Phoenix last Thursday in an email. “We are committed to year-round organizing to encourage voters to re-enroll in vote-by-mail after new laws passed by Republicans in Florida canceled millions of VBM requests, forcing voters to sign up again every election cycle.”

‘They’re Just Trying to Copy Us’

However, one Democrat in Tampa tells the Phoenix that the party needs to do a better job of informing voters about that change in law. Hillsborough County Black Democratic Caucus Chair Angela Birdsong says her job is to get Black voters back on the rolls, but it’s not happening quickly enough.

“There’s 12,000 so far who have not renewed” she says of African Americans in her county who have not renewed their mail-ballots. “And so, we’re doing phone banks to call those voters to let them know that their ballot is not coming unless they renew it.”

Upon learning of the Republican Party’s new efforts to entice their voters to get their votes in ahead of Election Day, she joked, “They’re just trying to copy us.”

“President Obama taught us that the best way to make sure your votes are in the bank is to vote by mail,” Birdsong said. “So you don’t have to worry about the car broke down. The baby-sitter didn’t show up. The weather was bad.”

RNC Chair McDaniel said that the Florida Bank Your Vote website will act as a “hub” to keep Florida Republicans informed about early-vote efforts, as will Deposita Tu Voto, a similar website designed for Spanish speaking GOP voters.

“It will be used as a resource for voters to go get election integrity updates,” she said. “Voting updates. It will send them messages as voting gets close.”

A spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party questions how well the GOP’s efforts will work out.

“Nationally, Trump’s Republican Party worked overtime in 2020 to spread misinformation and demonize the United States Postal Service, one of the most trusted public entities in the country. Now, the Florida GOP is attempting to reverse Trump’s lies and rebuild trust their party leader broke. For the sake of democracy and trust in our institutions, we wish them luck.”

Florida Phoenix

Florida Phoenix

The Phoenix is a nonprofit news site that’s free of advertising and free to readers. We cover state government and politics with a staff of five journalists located at the Florida Press Center in downtown Tallahassee.

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