Republicans Need to Play the Same Game as Democrats

Apparently there’s some confusion about what some of us are actually proposing for winning in 2024. The best place to start in clearing up that confusion is by defining terms correctly. 

We argued here and here, that if MAGA wishes to turn out its voters and win, the movement and its candidates must aggressively pursue their vote by securing their consent, and then, protecting them by implementing that agenda. Some have found these arguments less than persuasive because they fear Republicans are joining the Democrats in their less-than-honest methods of securing votes. So, we must explain further for those who appear confused.

There is a difference between ballot chasing versus ballot harvesting. Chasing absentee ballots is something Republicans have been doing for many years. It is legal in all 50 states and has been for as long as absentee ballots have existed. Take Florida, for example: the Florida GOP’s budget for their absentee ballot chase program for many cycles has been $10 million over the last six weeks leading up to Election Day.

And what does that process look like? Well, typically just over 1 million absentee ballots (mail-in ballots) are requested by Florida Republicans. As soon as the ballots “drop,” i.e., hit mailboxes, the “chase” begins: live calls, mail pieces, peer-to-peer texts, door knocks, targeting and encouraging those with ballots to fill them out and return them (and yes, the names and addresses are known, so targeting is pretty straightforward). 

The chase is essentially a series of contacts until the ballot is returned. Once someone returns his or her ballot, that name is dropped from the targeted list with the Florida GOP aiming for 80-90 percent return on absentee ballots. 

Ballot harvesting is not really the same as ballot chasing. For starters it’s not legal in all states—like Florida for example—yet it is legal in Virginia. According to Ballotpedia.com, the harvesting laws are as such: “24 states and D.C. permitted someone chosen by the voter to return mail ballots on their behalf in most cases, 14 states specified who may return ballots (i.e., household members, caregivers, and/or family members) in most cases, 1 state explicitly allowed only the voter to return their ballot and 11 states did not specify whether someone may return another’s ballot.” Which means pure “harvesting” is only legal in 11 states. So, in reality, ballot harvesting is part of a ballot chase program where harvesting is legal, but they are not the same thing. To be clear about this, however, we’re all for Republicans harvesting where it is legal. As long as it is legal in a given state, we should not unilaterally disarm.

Now others seem confused about whether there is a plan for 2024. Just because you don’t understand the plan, or are unfamiliar with how it works, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. The plan is to take the Florida model developed and perfected over the past dozen years and replicate it in as many of the presidential battleground states in 2024 as possible. 

What does that look like? 

Take Arizona, for example: in 2022, there were just over 1 million absentee ballots requested, yet only about 650,000 were returned. When you have only a 65 percent return, it’s indicative that the Arizona GOP and the state party chairman, along with others, were asleep at the wheel, or possibly focused on making money elsewhere instead of winning elections. If Republicans in Arizona had achieved 80 percent return, they would have won everything.

Nevada is another example. Under Nevada’s new election laws, every registered voter is sent a ballot. Every Republican in the state is mailed a ballot, meaning there is no need for a “push,” i.e., pushing people to request a ballot. But in 2022, in Clark County (essentially Las Vegas and its suburbs), roughly 170,000 Republicans who had a ballot didn’t return their ballots and Adam Laxalt lost his U.S. Senate race by fewer than 10,000 votes. 

Another aspect of a ballot chase program is growing the pool of voters. In 2018, Republicans in Florida were down by over a quarter million in partisan registration. Now, five years later, because of a focus and investment into voter registration, Republicans enjoy a greater than 470,000 voter registration advantage. This is one of the reasons Florida isn’t really a battleground state anymore. 

What Republicans and conservatives need to be doing in 2024 battleground states right now is expand their voter pool through registration drives and get people who normally don’t vote prepped to request a ballot. This is what people like Scott Pressler are already doing. To break it down even further, we need to target low-propensity conservatives who are already registered to get on absentee ballot lists where applicable and then make sure that we get the ballots back from them; that’s how you increase your universe of ballots to collect. The Left has been extremely effective in the last several cycles at turning unlikely voters into likely voters by doing massive ballot request pushes.

None of this is rocket science but it does require hard work and funding. It also requires a willingness to play the game by the rules that are already in place: we cannot change the rules of the game unless we win the game by the existing rules. To think otherwise is to bark at the moon. We must use the laws as they currently stand in every state across the country to help our candidates across the finish line. 

To be clear, where we have the political power, we should absolutely push for secure election integrity measures: voter ID, paper ballots, opposition to 24-hour voting and same-day voter registration, etc. But where we do not have political power, as in most of the battleground states, to achieve some of those reforms, there must be a realpolitik approach to win the game by the current rules. 

The plan for 2024 is painfully obvious and clear. As we’ve said time and time again, we should re-examine our tactics, strategy and funding on the center-Right. We must orient towards action, not by throwing money at think tanks, not by whining about tactics and plans for 2024 because of “reasons” that have no basis in the real world of politics. If we don’t win in 2024, whatever vestiges of the American republic that still remain will be gone.

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About Ned Ryun and Erik Root

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter @nedryun. Erik Root, Ph.D is a writer living in North Carolina.

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