28 February 2024

GOP Pushes Early Voting

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Republicans are trying to boost their early-voting efforts after lagging behind Democrats in the past two election cycles, spending unprecedented sums at the state level and launching a national campaign to get GOP voters to cast ballots before Election Day. With early voting beginning Friday in three states, the GOP's efforts have the potential to affect the outcome of close races. Campaigns that bank early votes can then spend their resources chasing supporters with less reliable voting histories, who may need a push to the polls.

Thirty-five states allow some voting before Election Day, with Oregon and Washington conducting their elections entirely by mail starting in early October.

An immediate focus of Republicans' campaign is Iowa, where early voting begins next Thursday. The state party has gone from investing nothing in its 2010 early-voting push to more than $1 million this year, Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said.

At the same time, the Republican National Committee on Friday is launching an effort to get GOP voters to commit to casting ballots early, with a campaign that mimics the social-media-driven "ice bucket challenge" that raised money for disease research.

Iowa, where GOP state Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley are competing in one of the closest Senate races in the country, illustrates the challenge Republicans face and how far behind Democrats they remain.  Already, Iowa Republicans are behind Democrats. According to data from the secretary of state, Iowa Democrats this year have requested nearly twice as many early-voting absentee ballots as have Republicans—more than 50,100 ballots were requested by Democrats and 27,400 by Republicans as of Wednesday, the latest data available.

Democrats say pushing early voting to supporters is no longer a novel approach. Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Christina Freundlich called it "textbook grass-roots work." The DNC believes its early-voter advantage from 2012 will carry over as people repeat past behaviors.

Six states will have more early-voting days in 2014 than they did in 2012. Eight states will have fewer early-voting days in 2014 than in 2012, with the most drastic decrease in Maine, which will go from 46 days of early voting to 16.

Before 2008, early voters tended to be more educated, older, wealthier and more partisan than the general public, said Paul Gronke, the founder of the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College. But Mr. Obama's first presidential campaign that year changed the calculus for Democrats—mobilizing African-American church groups and others to go to the polls as soon as possible.

To try to change Republicans' voting culture, the RNC on Friday will begin redirecting people who visit GOP.com to a website that will allow them to request an absentee ballot or find their early-voting location. The party will gather these voters' information and use it to press them to vote before Election Day. While Democrats are universally pushing their voters to cast ballots early, the GOP push varies by state.

Click here to access the full article on The Wall Street Journal. 

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