Following Losses, a Few GOP Leaders Appear To Change Tone on Voting

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the week following the 2022 midterm elections, a handful of high profile Republican candidates and party leaders have made statements indicating a shifting perspective about the party’s voter suppression strategy. Since 2020, Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced and enacted restrictive voting laws, often targeting mail-in voting and early voting. Additionally, since leaving office, former President Donald Trump has spent his time complaining about a stolen election and attacking mail-in voting as a tool for voter fraud, an attitude that has impacted the views and voting choices of GOP voters. After Republicans underperformed nationwide, certain Republican leaders are reckoning with that strategy. On Nov. 14, former Trump legal advisor Jenna Ellis shared and agreed with a Washington Examiner article titled “Democrats have mastered mail balloting. Republicans will pay if they fail to step up.” Similarly, Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of the youth right-wing group Turning Point USA expressed a markedly different view than before about voting access, speaking about the “power of early voting.” Kirk notes that telling supporters to vote in person on Election Day — the go-to strategy of some GOP candidates — “opens you to traffic jams and machine malfunctions.” 

After months of undermining trust in voting and elections, election denier candidates were confronting this reality for the first time after Election Day. Arizona GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake repeatedly reminded voters that they can fix mistakes on their mail-in ballots, a process known as curing that Republican lawmakers and lawsuits have tried to undermine in recent months. The governor’s race has been called in favor of Lake’s opponent, but she has not yet conceded. David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, told the New York Times: “If you tell people that voting is hard, or voter fraud is rampant, or elections are rigged, it doesn’t make people more likely to participate…Why would you want to play a game you thought was rigged?”