Mark Uncapher, is serving as President of the Montgomery County Republican Club. Mark is a long-time party activist who previously served as the Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee.
When is the Best Time to Vote? Early, By Mail, or On Election Day?
Since Election Day 2022, multiple Republicans have called for a reevaluation of the party’s reluctance to embrace turnout strategies involving early and mail-in voting. [i]
Summing up the emerging Republican view, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel warned on Fox News: “Our voters need to vote early. There were many in 2020 saying, don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early, and we have to stop that and understand that if Democrats are getting ballots in for a month, we can’t expect to get it all done in one day.”[ii]
Hers is just one of the many voices reflecting the opinion that the GOP war on voting by mail is a strategic blunder.
- “One of the first lessons we have to take from the midterms is the power of early voting,” tweeted Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk last month.[iii]
- “We simply have to beat them at this VBM game,” added Blake Masters, who lost a bid to oust Arizona’s Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. [iv]
- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called on the party to embrace mail ballots after Herschel Walker’s defeat in Georgia.[v]
Polling data indicates that rank-and-file Republican attitudes toward mail-in ballots are also softening. While Democrats were 29% more likely than Republicans to vote by mail in 2020, there was only a 9-percentage-point difference in 2022 for election-day voting. Republicans (45%) remain more likely to vote in person on Election Day than Democrats (37%). [vi]
Unfortunately, some Maryland Republican activists have been very reluctant to accept this. For example, the Cox campaign circulated a communication advising voters: “All Marylanders must vote in person, one day only, on November 8th. Absolutely no early voting and no mail-in ballots.” [vii] Beyond this, the Cox document cautioned against touch screen voting, instructing voters to “Demand paper.”
The implied subtext to the “Only vote on Election Day” appeal suggests that somehow non-election day votes are less likely to be “counted.” Yet even the wildest conspiracy theorists have yet to allege that non-Election Day votes are more prone to being “subtracted” from vote totals in Maryland.
Perhaps not to be outdone, the Peroutka campaign went even further and was caught on tape by Kate Amara of WBAL-TV advocating: “Vote on November 8th as late in the day as possible, if everyone would stand in long, long lines at six o’clock that would actually help us.”[viii]
In response, the State Board of Elections issued a statement: “Anybody who intentionally interferes with someone else’s attempt to vote is committing a crime and is subject to prosecution. We would also like to remind voters that early voting centers and Election Day polling places will be open continuously from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Anyone in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote.”[ix]
While the Board of Elections speaks for itself, a more partisan question for Team Peroutka is: If Republicans actually formed long wait lines in the two hours before the poll closing, would not these last-minute lines be more likely to discourage other Republicans from voting than non-Republican voters, given more Republicans vote on election day? [x]
Another way to put these Cox and Peroutka voting recommendations in context is to imagine if a Democratic campaign had sent the identical information to Republicans: “Only vote on Election Day and only in the final two hours before the polls close. And don’t vote early or by mail.”
Understandably, Republicans would call foul over such an overt attempt at voter suppression. Yet, this was not a Democratic plot but a misguided Republican campaign effort.
Even if one prefers Election Day-only voting, its return is not realistic. The Democratic legislature will not change it in Maryland, and a divided Congress will not do it either.
In the future, the Republican party and its candidates and campaigns must embrace “All of the Above” get-out-the-vote turnout strategies that encourage voters to select their preferred voting method and to work to see they follow through with it.
[vi] How-we-voted-in-2020-v01.pdf (mit.edu) https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/11/16/how-americans-cast-their-votes-2022-election
[vii] Refer to “FIVE Actions You Can Take to Protect Maryland Elections”
, “Um, not so fast.”