Republicans launch new effort to boost early voting, breaking with Trump’s past criticism

(WASHINGTON) — The Republican National Committee on Wednesday launched an effort to increase early-vote turnout in 2024, seeking to curtail a Democratic advantage and to put more distance between the GOP and former President Donald Trump’s past criticism of mail and early ballots.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced “Bank Your Vote,” which the party said in a news release will “encourage, educate, and activate Republican voters on when, where, and how to lock in their votes as early as possible, through in-person early voting, absentee voting, and ballot harvesting where legal.”

The effort will have voters sign up at BankYourVote.com, triggering digital reminders from the RNC on early voting options. The party will also activate its volunteer network — which the RNC said has made more than 300 million volunteer door knocks and phone calls in the last two election cycles — to activate “neighbor-to-neighbor contact to inform and mobilize Republicans.”

“To beat Joe Biden and the Democrats in 2024, we must ensure that Republicans bank as many pre-Election Day votes as possible,” McDaniel said in a statement. “The RNC is proud to build on our historic efforts from last cycle and work with the entire Republican ecosystem to reach every state. Banking votes early needs to be the focus of every single Republican campaign in the country, and the Republican National Committee will lead the charge.”

Early and mail voting have become increasingly prevalent since the onset of COVID-19 but haven’t been embraced equally by both major political parties.

According to data compiled by the U.S. Election Project, 33.8% of the early vote in the 2022 midterms came from Republicans, while 42.5% came from Democrats.

In a show of support for the new initiative across the GOP, North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson, the chair of House Republicans’ campaign arm, and Steve Daines of Montana, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, appointed Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., and Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., to co-chair the effort.

“To take back the White House and Senate and strengthen our House majority in 2024, Republicans must play the game by today’s rules, which means maximizing our efforts to bank votes before Election Day,” Hagerty said in his own statement. “We cannot afford to sacrifice most of the opportunities to bank votes in key states while Democrats run up the score. Encouraging Republicans to securely ‘Bank Your Vote’ is the only way to protect the vote and reclaim our out-of-control government.”

The new effort, as the lawmakers noted, is an attempt to build up enthusiasm for early voting among Republicans.

Trump throughout his presidency and after he lost the 2020 race railed against unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud — including baseless allegations that early and mail-in voting is particularly ripe for abuse. Republicans are even changing their stance on third-party ballot collection, which is legal in some states.

The GOP’s underperformance in the 2022 midterms, in which they lost a seat in the Senate and only barely flipped the House after predicting massive gains in light of economic issues and President Joe Biden’s unpopularity, sparked widespread alarm from Republican operatives and activists, leading many to reluctantly press voters to vote via all methods legally available to them.

“One of the first lessons we have to take from the midterms is the power of early voting,” activist Charlie Kirk tweeted after the midterms.

Kirk wrote in 2020 that rule changes to early voting in 2020, reflecting public health concerns during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, amounted to “nothing more than a blatant political power play.”

The RNC said Wednesday that they will deploy staff and lawyers on the ground and have poll watchers “observe every step of the election process.” But McDaniel suggested on a call with reporters that having party figures continue to sound off on concerns over fraud is unhelpful.

“It’s simple math: You want to get as many votes in before Election Day,” she said. “But that certainly is a challenge if you have people in your ecosystem saying ‘don’t vote early’ or ‘don’t vote by mail.’ And those cross messages do have an impact. I don’t think you’re seeing that heading into 2024. I think you’re seeing all of us singing from the same song.”

“We need voters to know that if they vote early, their vote will be protected,” McDaniel said on the press call.

Republicans said they hope the RNC initiative will help undo some of the reluctance to early voting that spread during the Trump years.

“Trump led Republicans to give up one of its key advantages over Democrats — mail-in voting and the absentee ballot chase — effectively making Republicans fight with one arm behind their electoral back,” said Doug Heye, a GOP strategist and former RNC aide. “This decision takes the cuffs off and allows Republicans to re-use a tactic it had used so well.”

ABC News’ Caroline Curran contributed to this report.

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