Despite a few prominent politicos on the left who have jumped ship, the Democratic National Committee appears to be sticking with the man who carried the party to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2020. Republicans are incredulous that Democrats remain tethered to such a frail and – to them, at least – feckless leader as Joe Biden. But perhaps it’s because they know something the GOP hasn’t come to terms with yet: It doesn’t much matter who runs if election laws are on your side.
Election Laws in Pennsylvania – A Missed Lesson
The election of John Fetterman in Pennsylvania should have sent the Republican National Committee straight to Big Pharma for the Xanax. Here was a man who couldn’t sling a coherent sentence together but had already banked hundreds of thousands of mail-in votes by the time the senatorial debate was held. When the former Mayor of Braddock, PA, won a US Senate seat, the GOP began pointing fingers at each other, saying they never should have run Dr. Mehmet Oz as the Republican candidate. The backbiting between the establishment and MAGA wings of the party got nasty and, many claimed, it was all Trump’s fault.
A house divided, the GOP missed the real story, which was staring them in the face the whole time: The election of John Fetterman proved the Keystone State is still playing by pandemic-era voting laws. Instead of bickering, the RNC should have realized it was time to put boots on the ground in PA and work hard to effectuate change regarding mail-in voting – but they preferred airing their grievances over uniting against the big blue Pennsylvania machine. Unsurprisingly, things have only gotten worse in the Commonwealth since then.
On November 20, a federal judge ruled that undated ballots should be counted in Pennsylvania if they reach the proper destination by Election Day. So, while conservatives are busy pushing for stricter election laws, the Democrats are running circles around them. Republicans need to understand that it is much easier to bestow a privilege than to remove one. The genie is out of the bottle, and like it or not, mail-in voting is here to stay. The RNC is promoting a “bank your vote” campaign, but they appear to be losing both the battle and the war in Pennsylvania.
An op-ed by Guy Ciarrocchi in Politico made a few salient points about the GOP state committee in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that are worth repeating. He maintains Keystone State Republicans should “stop fighting about the merits” of mail-in voting “and just do it.” He continued:
“Florida’s GOP under Gov. Ron DeSantis has mastered early voting — they don’t rail against it; they embrace it and are working to perfect it. And our neighbors in Virginia — in a much more blue state — are using it as a tool to bring their races to essentially a tie, and they’re just getting started.”
Ciarrocchi also brings up those pesky drop-boxes, which he says appears to be a thorny issue:
“Since county commissioners may install drop boxes across their counties, there is an element of partisan gamesmanship. I live in Chester County in Philadelphia’s western suburbs — which had been ‘red’ until the Obama years and is now ‘navy blue,’ like much of suburbia along the East Coast. Chester had 13 drop boxes. But our western neighbor, Republican-run Lancaster County, offered only two boxes, even though it has more voters. The same for our northern Republican neighbor, Berks County, even though it’s geographically larger. By contrast, Philadelphia had 38 locations. Perhaps Republican-run counties in Pennsylvania should think about where they might add drop-off boxes to help with their GOTV?”
To underscore how controversial drop boxes have become, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has put the kibosh on them in their state. In its decision, the court also said that voters must return their ballot to the appropriate location in person. Michigan’s MPR News reported: “The court’s decision stands to significantly affect the upcoming elections in the swing state, where about 2 million residents voted by absentee in the 2020 general election, a record number.” This is a big win for the GOP in a crucial state, but it is the exception, not the rule.
In Oakland County, MI, where Detroit is located, there are so many drop boxes that the graphic listing them is completely covered. Granted, it is the most populated area in the Wolverine State, but certainly not the largest in square miles. Like most urban areas in the US, Detroit is a Democratic Party stronghold.
Michigan, where early voting has been lengthened to nine days, is only one state that Democrats have a lot to crow about regarding election laws. In Nevada, the distribution of mail ballots to every voter has been made permanent.
There are a couple of avenues that state Republican committees could take that would help them over the finish line in the upcoming presidential election. Across the nation, drop-box locations are determined by any number of local officials, from the county clerk to the Board of Supervisors. Republicans should be focusing on these small and seemingly unimportant elections because those who hold seats in these governing bodies exert a great deal of power during election time.
They could also go in the direction of Georgia, in which new laws limit drop boxes. Across the Peach State a new statute restricts their use so that only one box is permitted for every 100,000 active registered voters. These receptacles will no longer be located on street corners but inside voting and election facilities and will only be open to the public during early voting hours.
The MIT Election Data Science Lab conducted a study on the 2020 election. It found “Sixty percent of Democrats, compared to 32 percent of Republicans, reported voting by mail.” But what is more troubling for Republicans is another key finding: “Sixty percent of mail voters stated that it was ‘very likely’ they would vote by mail again, 65 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of Republicans.”
Instead of intra-party squabbling or trying to roll back vote-by-mail laws, the GOP should tend to the things that matter most, which always begin at the granular level. This means they should push for an equal distribution of drop boxes. It also means paying attention to local city and county elections and motivating Republican state committees to hit the streets and urge people to vote by mail.
None of this is new, but time is short. If Republicans focus more on process than person, they are likely to see a better outcome in 2024.