With Democratic voters having dominated early voting and voting by mail since 2020, national and Pennsylvania Republicans launched a campaign earlier this year to encourage GOP voters to “bank your vote” before Election Day. It does not appear to have worked.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania and many other states changed their laws prior to the 2020 elections to make it easier to vote by mail. Although he had frequently cast votes by mail himself, President Donald Trump railed against mail-in ballots, tweeting, “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” He falsely claimed it was “a whole big scam” and would lead to “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.”
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel echoed Trump’s claims, writing in a Fox News op/ed, “Mail-in voting increases the opportunity for fraud.”
That year, Democratic voters significantly outpaced Republicans in early voting. In Pennsylvania, about 65% of the mail ballots returned were from Democratic voters and 24% were from Republicans, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer analysis of public data. The gap was even larger in the commonwealth in 2021 and 2022.
Despite the party’s previous rhetoric, McDaniel announced a national campaign in June to get Republicans “to lock in their votes as early as possible, through in-person early voting, absentee voting, and ballot harvesting where legal.”
While Trump initially backed the campaign with a July 26 video message, two days later he was contradicting it, telling right-wing radio host John Fredericks: “We should have one-day voting, we should have paper ballots, and we should have voter ID and you’d have honest elections. When you see these votes when they take 42 days and they have ballots sitting all over the place, it’s a disgrace. We’re like a third-world country.”
On Oct. 17, the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania announced a joint Bank Your Vote effort aimed at both this year’s and next year’s elections. “We are thrilled to launch Pennsylvania Bank Your Vote together to ensure that Keystone State Republicans maximize every legal voting method to secure victories up and down the ballot in 2023 and 2024,” said Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Lawrence Tabas.
“This is a nationwide initiative but I honestly can’t think of a state where this is more important than in Pennsylvania,” McDaniel said at the launch event, according to the Inquirer.
Dave McCormick, the party’s endorsed 2024 candidate to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, contributed his own video message: “We can’t allow Democrats to continue outpacing Republicans on locking in votes early. We need to maximize every opportunity to put the points on the board.”
According to the Inquirer’s data, however, just 21% of the requests for mail ballots for Pennsylvania’s Nov. 7 election have been from Republicans, as of Oct. 30, compared to 71% from Democratic voters. Of those returned, 73% have been from Democrats and 20% from Republicans.
Democratic voters in Pennsylvania have requested and returned more ballots so far this year than in the entire lead-up to the 2021 election.