From the leader of the insurrection to a billionaire-turned-governor from North Dakota, the GOP’s nine-candidate field features a wide array of figures, all of whom are antagonistic toward voting and democracy to varying degrees. No one skips out on suppressing the vote, all the way down to your average GOP voter suppression policies, like photo ID requirements.
Notably, the majority of the candidates are still supportive of their opponent and four-time indicted, former President Donald Trump, who will be skipping the first debate. Here you can find the voting rights and election denialism records of each Republican presidential candidate who has qualified for the debate stage on Wednesday, Aug. 23, the first debate of the 2024 cycle. Read the breakdown of the debate and Trump’s interview here.
Former President Donald Trump is the first U.S. president to ever be criminally indicted, let alone indicted four times. In 2020, he and his allies filed over 60 baseless lawsuits in an effort to remain in power and ignore the votes of 81 million Americans. Democracy Docket is tracking the two indictments directly related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
While in office, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed five bills that greatly restrict access to the ballot box. One of those bills prevented an estimated 774,000 Floridians with former felony convictions from registering to vote. He also intervened to further deprive Black Floridians of fair representation, dismantling the state’s 5th Congressional District, which had three decades of Black representation. Recently, DeSantis admitted that Trump lost the 2020 election. However, he railed against Trump’s indictment in Fulton County, calling it a “criminalization of politics” and pledged to go after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in retaliation.
Former Vice President Mike Pence has argued that universal mail-in voting, early voting, same-day registration and felony voting rights restoration would “exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, and further undermine the American people’s confidence in the principle of ‘one person, one vote.’” Even after Trump’s supporters threatened to kill him, Pence continued to spout conspiracies about the 2020 election, stating in a 2021 op-ed, that the election involved “significant irregularities.”
Former governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley (R) used her time in office to design and enact a strict voting law requiring photo ID to vote in the state. The law was initially deemed too discriminatory by the DOJ to go into effect, but Haley fought in court to keep it in place. Ten years later, she has the same discriminatory vision, but this time for the entire country. After kicking off her campaign, Haley pronounced, “Voter ID will be the law of the land — just like we did in South Carolina.”
In 2015, then-Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) opposed an omnibus election reform bill that experts and state representatives said would bring critical updates to the New Jersey voting system. In 2016, Christie also vetoed a bipartisan automatic voter registration bill that sponsors hoped would encourage youth turnout. He derisively called it, “The Voter Fraud Enhancement and Permission Act.” Serving as his primary differentiator — which is an unfortunately low bar to hit — Christie is one of the only candidates not defending Trump in some way. He also asserts that “the  election wasn’t stolen. He lost” and urged voters to listen to the facts of the law following Trump’s second indictment. Listen to his recent interview on Pod Save America, where he explains his breaking point.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has repeatedly advocated for voter ID laws even though research has shown that ID laws can depress voter turnout. Scott voted against the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which aims to strengthen voting rights and also objected to both omnibus pro-voting bills, the For the People Act and Freedom to Vote Act, arguing that they prohibited photo IDs. He also indulges concerns about the 2020 election and refuses to condemn Trump for Jan. 6. In response to Trump’s indictment in Fulton County, Scott stated, “the legal system being weaponized against political opponents, that is un-American and unacceptable.”
Though the youngest candidate in the GOP field himself, Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur from Ohio, wants to raise the voting age to 25 unless voters are in the military, first-responder or able to pass a citizenship test. There are over 31 million 18 to 24-year-olds that would be disenfranchised by this policy. He has also vowed to pardon Trump if elected; Ramaswamy challenged every candidate to commit to pardoning Trump after the former president’s second indictment.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) leads the only state where voters do not have to register to vote, though a valid photo ID is required. That isn’t to say, however, that Burgum hasn’t dabbled in his own fair share of voter suppression. In 2017, he signed a restrictive voter ID law that required voters to have street addresses on their photo IDs in order to vote in the state. This address requirement disenfranchised over 7,000 tribal residents, who often do not have traditional street addresses on reservations. The state was sued and ultimately had to accept tribal IDs as valid photo ID at the polls.
Asa Hutchinson, who served as governor of Arkansas from 2015 to January 2023, enacted some of the worst voting restrictions and redistricting maps in the country. Even though Arkansas already has the lowest voter registration, lowest voter turnout and highest absentee ballot rejection rate, Hutchinson allowed four contentious new restrictions, including a signature matching requirement for absentee ballots. So contentious, in fact, a judge eventually ruled that all four laws violated the right to vote as enshrined in the Arkansas Constitution. Hutchinson also supported a ban on outside funding for election administration and a rule that makes it harder for canvassers to get citizen-led initiatives on the ballot. Hutchinson’s one redeeming quality is that he has long criticized Trump.