Republican Lawsuits Aim to Push In-Person Election Day Voting

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Politics|Republicans are using lawsuits and rhetoric to push Election Day voting.

The efforts, which are strong in battleground states, could create a false impression that Republicans are faring better on election night.

Official vote-by-mail balloting material at an early voting polling location in Coral Gables, Fla.
Credit...Eva Marie Uzcategui for The New York Times

Nick Corasaniti

  • Nov. 7, 2022

Since the 2020 election, Republican voters have been encouraged by some of their most vocal leaders, including former President Donald J. Trump, to eschew mail voting and instead cast a ballot in person, preferably on Election Day.

That push is in part a strategy and in part a concession to the conspiracy theories about elections and mail ballots that have consumed much of the Republican base. Since before the 2016 election, Mr. Trump has been making false statements about mail voting being part of a rigged system, and was joined by many allies during the 2020 election falsely painting mail ballots as corrupt. On the Democrats’ side, voters and candidates embraced the method en masse during the pandemic.

But there has also been a legal strategy behind the Republican rhetoric, evident in 2020 and this year, seeking to gain an edge over Democrats.

Republican lawsuits in some battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, have targeted mail ballots, seeking to either reject or restrict ballots that have leaned overwhelmingly Democratic since the pandemic, and potentially gain a marginal edge that could help in an extremely close race. Those efforts have precedents in the 2020 election. For example, in Texas, with just weeks to go before that vote, Republicans sued to disqualify more than 127,000 absentee ballots dropped off in drive-through locations in Houston.

This year, Kristina Karamo, the Republican candidate for secretary of state in Michigan, filed a recent lawsuit that could have potentially led to the rejection of tends of thousands of absentee ballots cast only in Detroit — the biggest city in the state and a Democratic powerhouse. On Monday, a judge issued a scathing dismissal of the lawsuit, saying plaintiffs failed to produce “any shreds of evidence.”

Lawyers for the Thomas More Society, a conservative group who was active in 2020 litigation, have filed lawsuits seeking to eliminate drop boxes in Wisconsin and challenge counties processes for allowing voters to fix issues with absentee ballots.

The conspiracies about mail voting have persisted in the two years since, and numerous candidates this year have encouraged their voters to cast a ballot on Election Day to ensure that it will be counted. In key states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the flood of Republican in-person votes can give a false impression that Republicans are faring better on election night, because the Democratic-leaning absentee and mail ballot take longer to count.

Not all Republican campaigns have embraced a rejection of mail voting. Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia encouraged his voters to vote early, including by mail.

And in Arizona, where Republicans waiting to vote on Election Day could actually give a misleading perception of Democratic strength on election night due to state counting policies, some leaders are shifting tone. Kelli Ward, the state party chairwoman, posted a picture of herself voting early last week.

“I recommend that you go vote early — early in-person is just as secure as voting in-person on Election Day,” Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for Senate in Arizona, said Wednesday night during an event with Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor, and Mr. Trump, who appeared by phone.

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