The voter-suppression bender of Donald Trump’s 2020 election debacle might be leaving the Republican Party with an electoral hangover two years later.
Many Republicans have taken literally Trump’s demagoguery against mail-in ballots and other early voting -- even though it was only intended to bolster false claims of fraud. And as one red state is already showing, that could boomerang on Republicans in a midterm cycle they’re expected to dominate.
Early returns on early voting in Indiana’s heavily Republican Vanderburgh County suggest a dramatic partisan shift from four years ago, according to county election board data cited by the Evansville Courier & Press. Here’s what the newspaper reported:
“Since early voting commenced on April 5, a startling 61% of votes cast in-person and requests for mail-in absentee ballot applications came from people voting in the Democratic Party primary. It was different in May 2018, the last midterm primary election in Vanderburgh County.
“That year, 55% of the early votes cast five days before primary election day were Republican. But that was in a world before Trump and his claims of voter fraud-riddled Democratic mail-in campaigns stamped themselves on the national consciousness.
"’I think what a lot of (Republicans) heard was, the leaders of my party think that Election Day is the most secure way to cast the ballot, and that’s what I’m going to do,’ said Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University Fort Wayne.”
Nationally, that’s a message Republicans keep hearing. In Arizona, for example, the party filed a lawsuit to eliminate all early voting in keeping with Trump’s rhetoric. But the Arizona Supreme Court -- whose seven justices all were appointed by Republicans -- dismissed the case out of hand, without even hearing it.
As the Arizona Republic had noted two weeks before that action, 62% of Arizonans had opposed the lawsuit. It was still another example of how following Trump’s party line was hurting the party.
This week, Republican-leaning state of Ohio also reported a sharp decline in early voting. Here’s how the Statehouse News Bureau reported it:
“Despite hotly contested races on the Republican and Democratic primary ballots, the turnout for early voting in Ohio is down nearly 30% compared to the number of ballots cast at this point in the 2018 primary four years ago. There are two weeks to go before the May 3 primary and Ohioans have been casting absentee ballots — by mail and in-person — since April 5.
“As of April 15, around 125,000 early ballots have been requested. That is down 27% compared to 171,954 absentee ballots requested two weeks prior to the 2018 primary
“Democratic voter turnout is slightly outpacing Republican turnout with 22,795 Democrats casting an early ballot compared to 21,636 Republican ballots returned.”
The flip side of the argument for Republicans was made last November by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin -- in defiance of Trump’s nonsense -- when he emphasized the importance of early voting in his successful campaign. But Youngkin success has not slowed Republican efforts across the nation to treat mail-in ballots and other forms of early voting as corrupt.
No one is predicting that Republicans shooting themselves in the foot on the subject will rescue Democrats in their uphill 2022 electoral struggle. But as many reports showed in 2020, the Democrats’ massive early-voting advantage certainly didn’t hurt them.
Much of this is common sense. As any salesman knows, when the customer’s ready to sign, one doesn’t waste any time closing the deal. Stumping politicians on both sides of the aisle are no different.
If a candidate has convinced a voter to support them, the last thing they want is to have to wait Election Day for that vote to come. An early voter can’t change their mind. And a factor such as illness or bad weather on Election Day doesn’t affect their decision, either.
So, Democrats are happy to watch Republicans cast doubt on early voting. That’s why, in conservative Indiana -- where Democrats are crushing GOP candidates in early voting -- there was this from the Evansville Courier-Journal:
“Republican candidates who want early votes to help them win the May 3 primaries haven't been shy about asking for them.”
No matter what Donald Trump thinks about it.