EOIN LENIHAN, The Federalist
Joe Biden has announced he will seek reelection as president. This comes as he is experiencing the lowest approval ratings of his presidency — 37 percent, according to Gallup. Former President Donald Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will almost certainly be the GOP nominee. The blunt reality, however, is that regardless of who the GOP puts up against Biden, they will lose if the party isn’t prepared to get down in the mud and beat the Democratic National Committee (DNC) at their own dirty game: ballot harvesting.
The 2020 election left conservatives shellshocked. How could Trump lose to a supposedly senile candidate who spoke to tiny, lackluster crowds? The consensus for many was that it had to be cheating, which led to persistent claims that the 2020 election was stolen, resulting in a $787.5 million lawsuit against Fox News.
Raging against an illegal election is cathartic, but it doesn’t get to the root cause of Trump’s loss. While voter fraud exists, the reality is that there was no massive election fraud, the DNC simply worked harder, played dirtier, bent every rule, and didn’t care about how they looked as long as they won. It is a mentality that the Republican National Committee (RNC) will have to adopt. In politics, it is better to be a dirty winner than a gracious loser.
So what will winning require in 2024? The first step is to get meaningful voting integrity legislation passed in time.
Election Integrity Legislation
On April 27, the House Administration Committee, chaired by Bryan Steil, R-Wis., held its first hearing on the American Confidence in Elections Act (ACE Act), the key Republican election integrity bill. Among other recommendations, the ACE Act aims to prohibit voting by noncitizens, provide each state with federal data on deaths and citizenship status to better maintain voter rolls, and require a Real ID. In a bid to boost election best practices and to counter the ballot issues that plagued the 2020 election, the bill would require the bipartisan Election Assistance Commission Standards Board to release a series of recommendations by no later than Dec. 31, 2023.
While well-meaning and potentially useful for future elections, the act’s reforms to the Real ID Act will not come into effect until 2025, and the recommendations of the EAC Standards Board will be just that — recommendations for states. There will be no binding legislation. In other words, despite their best efforts, the federal government can’t protect the election process much better in 2024 than it did in 2020.
Conservatives can, however, use the information gathered by the House Administration Committee to identify how to win in 2024. To give a sense of just how dirty the fight will be, in 2020 Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson refused to purge her voter rolls of 26,000 dead registrants in the run-up to the election. Obviously, there is no legitimate reason for not purging the rolls. The GOP will need to ensure that all voter rolls are clean before 2024. Where the DNC refuses to cooperate, the GOP needs to sue in federal court and use the issue aggressively in campaign ads to highlight Democrats’ corruption. After 2020, talk of padded voter rolls was dismissed as a conspiracy theory. In 2024, there is no excuse not to have data in hand and advertising ready in every offending DNC-run state.
One of the most actionable and essential recommendations of the ACE Act is passing the End Zuckerbucks Act, which would stop tax-exempt organizations from directly funding official election groups through donations or donated services. In 2020, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $420 million to ostensibly nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations such as the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL), which in turn funneled it into funding local government elections offices under the guise of providing Covid relief. However, less than 1 percent of the money went to providing personal protective equipment to election offices. While it seems impossible that this would be legal, it was.
Zuckerberg made sure DNC activists had access to daily ballot information, were able to choose preferential voting methods, and knew exactly where to target get-out-the-vote initiatives, including doorstep ballot curing and witnessing of absentee ballot signatures. Zuckerberg’s efforts were so successful that he has been credited with winning Arizona and Georgia for Biden. As of January 2023, 24 states have banned so-called Zuckerbucks, but six DNC governors have vetoed attempted bans. Among these are the important swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina.
If the End Zuckerbucks Act isn’t passed in time for 2024, GOP donors will have to match the DNC’s billionaires dollar for dollar in funding local election offices and weaponizing poll workers in every battleground state. It goes against the spirit and impartiality of the democratic process, but that line has already been crossed.
Other Billionaires’ Election Efforts
It wasn’t just Zuckerberg who funneled hundreds of millions of private dollars into innovative get-out-the-vote initiatives in 2020. Craig Newmark and George Soros also exploited grassroots and nontraditional means of swaying the election and will do so again in 2024. Since January 2020, Soros has spent roughly half a billion dollars on DNC causes, dispersing his donations through a complex web of nonprofits to obscure its origins. Newmark spent approximately $200 million in the run-up to 2020, for example funding the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law organization, which pushes suing for expanded mail-in voting and opposing voter ID laws. This is why the ACE Act is vital.
In addition, both Soros and Newmark have spent millions of dollars targeting black and immigrant communities to get out the vote over the past two election cycles. Both understand that nonwhite ethnic minority groups in America favor the DNC, with black Americans overwhelmingly voting Democrat. Both men have invested heavily in black get-out-the-vote initiatives. Newmark has funded DoSomething, among others, while Soros donated $2.5 million to the Color of Change PAC and the same amount to Black Pac.
These DNC mega-donors understand which racial demographics are not coming out to vote. In 2020, only 63 percent of black voters turned out. The black vote is, overwhelmingly, the most monolithic bloc in U.S. politics and the backbone of DNC power, with 92 percent voting for Biden in 2020. DNC organizations have the money to pay thousands of volunteers to knock on doors, register voters, and, where legal, harvest ballots. In 2024 they will invest massive amounts of money and time in black urban districts. The RNC needs to match this.
Conservative super PACs need to spend money putting boots on the ground in battleground states. This isn’t like the good old days when the pastor or local pillar of the community drove the elderly to the polls out of his love for democracy and pride in the right to vote. Sure, do that, but PACs need to pay professional, persuasive, and well-trained individuals to go door-to-door to harvest as many ballots as legally allowed.
Laws vary from state to state. In Pennsylvania, for example, those qualifying for an absentee ballot must authorize in writing a representative to return their ballots if they don’t do it themselves. In Arizona, a designated caretaker can return absentee ballots. Therefore, in reliably red areas in these states, there needs to be a designated RNC outreach representative in every care facility, hospice, hospital, and retirement home who is registered to return ballots. An obvious solution to finding individuals to go door-to-door to register first-time voters, sway independents, and ensure strong youth turnout — only 50 percent in 2020 — is to recruit college RNC members. Weaponized local election office staff need to coordinate doorstep ballot curing and signature witnessing on absentee ballots.
While there are useful legislative steps being taken at the party level to ensure election integrity for future elections, the reality is that if the RNC wants to be competitive in 2024, it needs to get busy harvesting or get busy losing.
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