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Port: It's time for Republicans to embrace early voting

Democrats have embraced early voting, to their benefit. Republicans, following Trump's lead, have not, and it's hurting them.

A woman in a vest and button down hands a man a ballot.
Election judges Mary Jo Cayley and Paul Owens give instructions to an early voter on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
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MINOT, N.D. — Like so many of the things he's promoted, disgraced former President Donald Trump's insistance that Republicans vote late, on Election Day, turned out to be stupid.

"Vote on Election Day, because it’s harder for them to cheat,” he said at his last pre-election rally in Ohio . “It’s much harder because they don’t know how many votes they have to produce. They don’t know how many ballots they have to print out. You know? You keep them in suspense and then you say: ‘Nope, we beat you here.’”

His words were echoed by pillow pitchman Mike Lindell. “It’s a lot easier to catch any fraud,” he told the Associated Press . In Arizona, specifically, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a devout Trumpist and election conspiracy theorist, lost after telling her voters to eschew early voting and, instead, turn up on Election Day to “overwhelm the system” with “shock and awe.”

Lake lost her election by some 17,000 votes .

Maybe this early voting stuff isn't so bad after all.

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To be clear, every lawful ballot, whenever and however it's cast, should count. But there's no question that voting on Election Day is often more difficult. It's sort of like waiting until Christmas Eve to do your holiday shopping. Can you do it? Sure. But there will be long lines, and maybe the weather will be bad, and it probably would be a lot easier if you'd started a few weeks earlier.

If you're a candidate trying to get your people to vote, don't you want it to be easier for them?

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Admittedly, I used to be skeptical of early voting, though not because of any addled reasons people like Lake, Lindell, or Trump oppose it. I had these notions about the symbolism of exercising one's franchise. Personally, I've always liked voting on Election Day. I like standing in line with my wife and hearing people talk about how they're voting, and why. Besides, voting is a heavy responsibility, and I thought that having to go down to a polling station and vote in person gave that responsibility the gravitas it deserved.

But in 2020 I voted absentee, because of the pandemic, and this year my wife and I went down to the Ward County Courthouse before Election Day and breezed through the process of casting our ballots, and now all that standing in line business seems like it was a waste of time.

If we can make voting easier, why shouldn't we?

Besides, North Dakotans have been casting their ballots early for a long time. I'm not just talking about early in-person voting, though we were doing that for years before the 2020 election Trump and his ilk have been claiming was stolen. Our state has long allowed for anyone to vote absentee simply by requesting a ballot. You don't need a reason outside of personal convenience. We've also had law on the books for a long time allowing counties to conduct elections by mail, though the law does require at least one in-person voting location in each county.

Our rural counties use this process, because it makes sense. Election workers can be hard to find in some of our smaller communities, and those places have a lot of long roads home which can be treacherous should we get bad weather on Election Day.

Letting people vote by mail, or vote early in other ways, just makes sense.

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Democrats have embraced this, to their benefit. Republicans, following Trump's lead, have not, and it's hurting them.

“We were completely outplayed electorally,” former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Halley, a potential 2024 candidate for the White House, said at a conference recently . “The Democrats did a full court press to vote early. We sat on our hands. Friends: Early and absentee voting are here to stay, we need to play the same game and turn out the maximum number of voters.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is also expected to launch a 2024 campaign, noted that even if Republicans don't necessarily like what the rules are, they should still play by them. “I hope some of these other people get with the program, but here's the deal,” he said. “If they have ballot harvesting, then Republicans need to do this too," referring to the process whereby campaigns have staff or volunteers pick up absentee ballots from their voters and deliver them to the polls. "You can't just let them do it.”

Ballot harvesting is a bridge too far for me — I don't like the idea of campaigns handling ballots — but DeSantis has a point. If it's the rule campaigns can play by, Republicans are stupid not to do it.

But beyond ballot harvesting, early voting, in its various forms, hasn't proved to be anything like the nefarious vehicle for vote fraud that people like Lindell and Trump claim.

It's time for Republicans to stop listening to them.

Republicans should stop listening to clowns like that, full stop, but on matters of election integrity especially.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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