In the days leading up to Herschel Walker’s loss in Georgia’s Senate race on Tuesday, astute Republicans likely felt gloom because they knew he was already defeated. A mountain of absentee ballots served as the evidence.
Any fair analysis of the GOP’s missteps in these midterms must take into account the party’s repeated choices to field unqualified Senate candidates (remember 2010?) and to pin its hopes on Trump once again (remember 2020?). However, the second important point is that the Republicans lost to the Democrats’ early-voting game and may be years behind in a fundamental shift in turnout strategies. The opposition party complained more about the Democrats’ proposed voting reforms for 2020 than it did about the reasons its supporters were so intent on streamlining absentee and early voting.
As it happens, 720 hours (the month Democrats utilize to recruit early votes) is greater than 72 hours (the three days Republicans use to mobilize their Election Day voters). Republicans at the highest levels have recently found mathematics. Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said last week on Fox News, “Our voters need to vote early.” “Many people said, ‘Don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early,’ and we have to stop that and realize that if Democrats are receiving ballots in for a month, we can’t expect to get it all done one day,” said one candidate in 2020.
The results of the Georgia senate election say it all. Participation in this week’s runoff election broke records for early and absentee voting for a midterm election. Over the course of the week leading up to Tuesday, almost 1.9 million individuals cast their ballots early or absentee; Democrat Raphael Warnock received support from about 64% of those voters. Mr. Walker did quite well on election day, garnering 57% of the popular vote. However, the turnout for the day was 1.6 million, which is 46% of the total vote.
A number of observers have pointed out that Governor Brian Kemp and other statewide Republicans won resounding victory in November despite a poor showing in the early going for the GOP. Mr. Walker’s problematic campaign, though, stands as a glaring example of why a more complex early voting approach is required. Voters won’t turn out in large numbers to vote for candidates who don’t excite them. It is preferable to locate them and ensure their votes.
Just what the Democrats have been doing all along. The left now has a massive infrastructure to bank votes in places that offer early voting. They have shown that this is a win-win situation. A large number of eligible voters may not show up to the polls on Election Day, and early and absentee voting gives them a chance to change their minds and cast their ballots. Voter participation rates can vary greatly from one year to the next and between different candidates, demonstrating how huge these statistics can be.
Progressive organizations in states that send out absentee ballot applications use the mailings paid for by taxpayers as an opportunity to swoop in and influence the election. They send out adverts, messages, and phone calls to “their” voters, encouraging them to submit their ballots. In states where citizens are required to seek ballots, they behave in exactly the same way. When the ballots finally arrive, they start the process all over again, going door to door in many states to “harvest” voters and get them to fill out and send in their ballots.
Along with this astute campaign strategy, they have also worked out how to take advantage of early voting. Do you think it was a coincidence that Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman, who is recovering from a stroke, postponed his debate with Mehmet Oz until October 25? Even though he did a terrible job in the debate, nearly half of the absentee ballots had been returned by the time the results came in. Mr. Fetterman received 78% of the mail-in votes and over a quarter of all votes cast.
The Democratic Party and its allies devote significant resources to this endeavor, while conservative organizations continue to waste money on television ads. That is not to say that there is a large pool of potential early recruits waiting in the wings. Trump claimed on Truth Social as recently as last week that “CAN NEVER HAVE FAIR AND FREE ELECTIONS WITH MAIL-IN BALLOTS—NEVER, NEVER, NEVER.” However, Trump’s home state of Florida demonstrates otherwise. Voter registration and alternative voting have received more attention from Florida Republicans in recent years. Early voting results showed a Republican rout, while the Democrats’ vote totals in the mail were only slightly behind. That was all part of the Florida GOP’s stunning victories at every level of government.
If we lived in an ideal world, voting would be reinstated as a civic duty and reverted back to Election Day in all states. Voting by mail and absentee ballots, however, will remain options. The GOP can moan about it, continue to freak their voters out about election integrity, fritter away weeks of vote gathering—and lose. They can either watch from the sidelines or join the action.