In June, the Republican National Committee (RNC) launched its “Bank Your Vote” campaign to “encourage, educate, and activate Republican voters on when, where, and how to lock in their votes as early as possible, through in-person early voting, absentee voting, and ballot harvesting where legal.”
Those who sign up to “bank” their vote will receive digital reminders and instructions relating to early and mail-in voting, and the RNC promised to partner with state parties and campaigns to explain to voters the related laws in all 50 states and six U.S. territories.
Spearheaded by RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, the party’s national committee has launched a full-scale effort to promote the campaign, employing a litany of high profile Republicans, including staunch advocate against mail-in voting and former President Donald Trump. Ahead of the first GOP presidential debate on Aug. 23, the RNC released an ad promoting the campaign and paid to run the ad during the debate itself. The effort continued during the second Republican primary debate, which was being hosted in part by Spanish language network Univision, when the RNC also launched its Spanish version of the initiative aimed at Hispanic voters.
The campaign is a total 180 from how Republicans have treated expansive voting policies.
If this attitude sounds like the exact opposite of how Republicans have treated mail-in voting and early voting for years, it’s because it is. Trump, the undisputed party leader, was the architect of a movement spread throughout the GOP in 2020 that sought to question and attack the legitimacy and safety of mail-in ballots and early voting, which saw a heavy increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A wide swath of the Republican Party claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged because of the same expansive voting policies they now are promoting. After the 2020 election, hostile GOP rhetoric towards the policies only continued, as did restrictive legislation and litigation based on a false premise of voter fraud.
Take for example U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). In 2021, he praised legislation in Florida that restricted voting access, telling the New York Times: “I think getting rid of ballot harvesting is a great thing that we did. The other thing was that we tightened up the process of our people getting mail-in ballots.” Just two years later, Donalds is now co-chair of Bank Your Vote.
There is also former Vice President Mike Pence, who in a 2021 op-ed argued that mail-in voting and early voting, among other expansive voting policies, would “exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and further undermine the American people’s confidence in the principle of ‘one person, one vote.” He even claimed community ballot collection (what Republicans decry as ballot harvesting) would expose “our most vulnerable voters to coercion” and increase “the risk that their ballots will be tampered with.” Now, he urges Republicans to “vote early like we have never done before” and admits mail-in voting is safe.
Although many other egregious examples of hypocrisy exist, the most notable is Trump, who cut his own ad promoting Bank Your Vote. Trump, who has advocated for voting only on Election Day and in person, said in the ad that Republicans “must get tougher and fight harder to cast our votes and get our ballots in earlier.” Amazingly, in an interview with Tucker Carlson after he promoted early voting, Trump once again called for Election Day voting and falsely stated that anytime mail-in ballots are allowed, massive cheating will take place.
Bank Your Vote is no gesture of democratic goodwill.
The RNC and Republicans supporting the campaign have been honest about one part: The push for the use of the expansive policies is not about increasing turnout for all or expanding voting rights, but rather pure political gain. After underperforming in the 2022 midterms, some Republicans noted that telling their voters to vote one way, on one day, while the other party vigorously promotes all forms of voting, was not a smart political strategy. Now, after severely underutilizing expansive voting for years, it appears the RNC has finally realized that, too.
In a statement, the RNC strategized: “[t]o beat Joe Biden and the Democrats in 2024, we must ensure that Republicans bank as many pre-Election Day votes as possible.” This explanation was echoed by many Republicans pushing the campaign, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
McDaniel even compared Bank Your Vote to a football game, saying “[w]e have some voters that like to vote on Election Day, and we have to explain to them we can’t allow Democrats to get a head start,” and that “[w]e don’t want to wait till the fourth quarter to start scoring touchdowns when you have four quarters to put points on the board.”
Every time Republicans supporting the campaign explained the need for it, they rested their argument on winning elections and beating Democrats, not promoting democracy and the right to vote for all.
In courtrooms across the country, the RNC isn’t practicing what it’s preaching.
While the RNC may be saying they support their voters being able to utilize expansive voting policies, their actions in courts show the opposite. The RNC is actively involved or attempting to get involved in at least 13 voting related lawsuits across six states where they are either advocating for restrictive voting policies or against expansive ones.
Most recently, the RNC was part of a group of Republicans who filed a lawsuit challenging the New York Early Mail Voter Act, the state’s new mail-in voting law. The law would allow voters to cast a mail-in ballot without an excuse during the nine-day early voting period, but the RNC-backed lawsuit claims the law violates the New York Constitution and asks that the pro-voting law be struck down.
A pro-voting lawsuit in Wisconsin challenges the state’s mail-in ballot witness requirement, prohibition on drop boxes and Election Day deadline for voters to fix or “cure” errors on their mail-in ballots. The lawsuit, filed by pro-voting groups and a voter burdened by the law, contends that the provisions violate the Wisconsin Constitution by treating mail-in voting as a “privilege” as opposed to a “right.” The RNC has an outstanding motion to intervene in the case, which claims that the suppressive provisions “protect Wisconsin’s elections and allow voters, groups, and candidates alike to trust and navigate the democratic process.”
In Texas, the RNC asked to intervene in a lawsuit in support of Senate Bill 1, the state’s omnibus voter suppression law. The RNC claimed the committee faces a risk of “impairment” if any parts of the law were struck down. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of pro-voting groups, election officials and voters harmed by the law, challenges multiple provisions of S.B. 1 including a ballot collection ban, signature matching rules and more. Plaintiffs argue that the provisions violate the First, 14th and 15th Amendments along with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act, imposing undue burdens on the right to vote and disproportionately so for voters of color and those with disabilities.
A lawsuit in Florida filed by pro-voting groups challenges a multitude of provisions — including drop box restrictions, a mail-in ballot repeat request requirement and a volunteer assistance ban — in Florida’s voter suppression law Senate Bill 90. Once again, the RNC intervened to defend the law.
An Iowa lawsuit challenges Senate File 413 and Senate File 568, which collectively include measures that reduce the number of days a voter can request and return an absentee ballot and shorten the time polls are open on Election Day. The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa contends the laws create an undue burden on the right to vote in violation of the Iowa Constitution. In asking to intervene in the case, the RNC and others “seek to encourage full participation by voters in our election process,” yet also claimed that voters would somehow be confused and the electoral process would be undermined if the plaintiffs requests to strike down the suppressive laws were granted. Trial in the case has not yet started.
The RNC also intervened in eight lawsuits challenging Georgia’s voter suppression law Senate Bill 202, six of which were later consolidated into a single case. S.B. 202 limits drop box use, shortens the mail-in voting request window, requires voters to include their ID number on their application for a mail-in ballot as well as the ballot itself, prohibits government officials from sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications and bans third-parties from sending applications with pre-filled information. Despite these egregious limitations on the right to vote, the RNC is defending S.B. 202 in court.
Bank Your Vote promoters are two-faced in Congress, as well.
The same GOP politicians promoting Bank Your Vote in ads and statements have voted in Congress to curb the right to vote. U.S. Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Burgess Owens (R-Ohio) all voted against the For the People Act in 2021. Among a multitude of provisions, the legislation would have required all federal elections to have 15 days of early voting for at least 10 hours a day and established no-excuse mail-in voting, meaning all states would be required to allow all eligible voters to vote by mail.
Despite Republicans’ opposition, the legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March 2021, and was sent to the U.S. Senate. There, all Senate Republicans, including Sens. Cruz, Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) — all three of whom starred in a Bank Your Vote video in August — blocked the For the People Act, refusing to even vote to bring the bill up for debate.
While the RNC and Republicans promoting Bank Your Vote may be talking a good game when it comes to early and mail-in voting, their actions in the courts and in Congress show their true priorities. And by making it clear the campaign’s goal is solely to win elections, any appearance of a change in attitude towards democracy should be discarded.