Republicans are pushing to get more party faithful to vote early and mail in their ballots, while also trying to assure them of ballot security. An initiative from the Republican National Committee, Bank Your Vote, is aimed at tapping into turnout tactics that Democrats have been nurturing for years.
“We need a culture change with our Republican voters,” said US Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC9, chair of the Republican Congressional Committee, in a recent media call with the RNC. “We are united in our efforts to educate Republican voters on how, when, and where to bank their votes before election day.”
In North Carolina, Republicans have been slower to embrace early voting and voting by mail, but that has increased in recent years. Meantime, voter concerns over election security in the 2020 and 2022 processes sparked efforts by the State Board of Elections and state lawmakers to increase transparency.
early voting by the numbers
According to data from the NCSBE and analyzed by the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, more than two million North Carolina voters cast their ballots early in 2022, with 3.6 million voting early in 2020. Among the 2020 ballots, 34.7% of Republican votes were cast early, or “absentee,” with just over 20.7% of Republican votes mailed-in. Among Democrats who cast a ballot in 2020, 35.3% were cast early with 44.5% cast by mail-in ballot.
“Republicans have traditionally opted to vote on election day, rather than making use of one-stop-absentee voting,” said Jim Stirling, research fellow at the John Locke Foundation’s Civitas Center for Public Integrity. “Democrats, on the other hand, have opted to heavily promote the use of both early and mail in voting over the years and have seen their participation in these methods of voting rise due to it.”
GET TO VOTERS EARLIER
NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley says in 2024 they are focusing their contact campaign earlier in the voting cycle and increasing efforts to reach undecided and infrequent voters. He’s hoping to expand their early-vote program from the special congressional election in 2019. In 2020, Republican early voters outnumbered Democrats for the first time in state history.
“As many of 60% of North Carolina voters are going to be voting before election day in 2024,” said Whatley. “We have got to communicate with those voters before they go vote. We’ve got to communicate with the independents, and the undecided voters so they have a higher propensity to vote Republicans when they get there.”
The pre-Election Day data is made public by the State Board of Elections so parties and campaigns can create strategy in the closing days. Once voters cast a ballot, they are removed from campaigns’ list of potential supporters. It gives candidates what Hudson called “visibility” into the state of their race.
“Pre-Election Day voting saves campaigns precious dollars because the longer it takes voters to cast their vote, the more it costs our Republican ecosystem valuable resources,” said Hudson.
election integrity concerns
But election security was weighing on the minds of North Carolina voters ahead of the 2022 elections. In March of 2021, just 49% of voters polled said they thought the 2022 elections would be free and fair. The mistrust was felt more heavily by Republicans. In that poll, just 23% of Republicans were confident in the election, while 73% of Democrats expressed certainty in the process. Some 43% of unaffiliated voters at that time said they did not believe the elections would be free and fair. Since that time the state has instituted voter ID.
“Since 2020, Republicans in the state legislature have done great work to enact election integrity measures to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” said US Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC. “North Carolina voters have the chance to vote securely before election day and we have to take advantage of that.”
While Republicans in other states consistently used mail-in voting and North Carolina saw an increase, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said that 2020 changes in election laws across the nation made Republican voters more reticent, with some opting to wait and vote in person on Election Day instead.
“I think things do change, and 2020 was part of that,” said McDaniel. “We had folks saying don’t vote by mail; don’t trust it. We can’t continue to win if we say things like that. We need to embrace it. The Democrats are embracing it, and it saves us money, time, resources, and allows us to seek out the new voters we are going to need. If we are saving it for Election Day, things happen on Election Day. We just can’t count on everything coming in that one day.”