Former President Donald Trump has railed against early voting relentlessly, slamming it as an injustice designed to steal votes from Republicans and give Democrats an unfair advantage. But journalist Jessica Piper, in an article published by Politico on January 2, takes a close look at some hard data on the effects of early voting. And that data shows that early voting, in states where it has been expanded, clearly doesn’t give one party an advantage over another.
If anything, Piper stresses, the data indicates that rolling back early voting hurts the GOP in red states by making it harder for Republicans to vote.
“If there was any doubt Donald Trump’s vilification of early voting is only hurting the GOP,” Piper reports, “new receipts from the midterm elections show it. Election data from a trio of states that dramatically expanded the ability to cast ballots before Election Day, either early or by mail, demonstrate that the voting methods that were decidedly uncontroversial before Trump do not clearly help either party. Lawmakers of both parties made it easier to vote by expanding availability of mail and early voting in a politically mixed group of states: Vermont, Kentucky and Nevada.”
Kentucky, home of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul — both hard-right Republicans — is very much a red state, although it has a centrist Democratic governor: Andy Beshear. Nevada is a swing state, while Vermont is a blue state with a reelected Republican governor (Phil Scott) and an independent senator who caucuses with Democrats and identifies as a “democratic socialist” (Bernie Sanders).
“The states had divergent results but shared a few key things in common,” Piper explains. “Making it easier to vote early or by mail did not lead to voter fraud, nor did it seem to advantage Republicans or Democrats. In Kentucky, Republicans held on to five of the state’s six congressional districts and a Senate seat. Both Vermont and Nevada saw split-ticket voters decide statewide races, by a gaping margin in Vermont and a narrow one in Nevada.”
Piper continues, “It reflects a broad lesson for other states that might consider expanding voter access or encouraging voting before Election Day: While voting methods have become deeply polarized by party, expanding access to early and mail voting does not appear to benefit one party over the other. Republicans do not do themselves any favors when they follow in Trump’s footsteps and vilify early voting: It puts more onus on their voters to cast ballots on a single day. But there is little evidence that expanding voter access tilts elections toward Democrats, either.”
According to Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adam, a Republican, both of the United States’ two major political parties are benefitting from early voting in the Bluegrass State.
Adams told Politico, “We’ve shown that it is bipartisan. Both sides are comfortable using it.”
Piper describes Kentucky as a “rare” example of a “red state that expanded access to early voting.”
“Many states expanded mail and early voting options on short notice in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Piper observes. “They faced prompt backlash from Trump, who falsely claimed that mail ballots were linked to widespread voter fraud. His rhetoric helped drive an unprecedented partisan split among voting methods, with Democratic voters becoming far more likely to use mail and early voting options while Republican voters mostly cast ballots on Election Day…. The successful use of mail and early voting during the pandemic provided a model for expanding voting access.”
Piper points out that in Nevada, incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak lost to GOP challenger Joe Lombardo in 2022. And in Vermont, early voting didn’t prevent Republican Gov. Scott from being reelected by a landslide last year.
“Scott, a moderate, easily won reelection in November with more than 70 percent of the vote, while Democrats won other statewide races in Vermont,” according to Piper. “The state also saw its highest turnout ever for a non-presidential election, with 57 percent of adults casting ballots — something Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters attributed in part to the ease of voting by mail.”
Winters told Politico, “There were a number of Republicans who were worried about the security aspect of vote-by-mail and potential voter fraud that came forward afterward and said, ‘You know what, this helped a lot of people turn out who normally would not vote.’”