The latest numbers from the midterm elections dispel any doubt that Donald Trump‘s attacks on early voting have done nothing but harm to the Republican Party.
Voting techniques that were uncontroversial prior to Trump do not obviously favour either party, as evidenced by election data from three states that greatly expanded the capacity to vote before Election Day, either early or by mail.
In a politically diverse set of states, including Vermont, Kentucky, and Nevada, lawmakers from both major parties made it easier to vote by expanding access to early and mail balloting.
Although the states’ outcomes varied, they did have several characteristics in common. Voter fraud did not increase when early voting or voting by mail were made more accessible. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats appeared to benefit from this change.
There were six congressional districts up for grabs in Kentucky, with the Republicans keeping five of them, plus one Senate seat. The results of statewide races in both Vermont and Nevada were determined by split-ticket voters, with a much larger margin in Vermont and a much smaller one in Nevada.
Expanding access to early and mail voting does not appear to help one party over the other, and this is a general lesson for other jurisdictions that might contemplate doing the same.
This is especially true given the extreme partisanship surrounding voting techniques in recent years. When Republicans follow in Trump’s footsteps and demonise early voting, they make it more difficult for their followers to cast ballots on election day, which is counterproductive.
Expanding voting rights, however, has not been shown to benefit Democrats in elections. When asked about the new early voting window in Kentucky, Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams responded, “We’ve proved that it is bipartisan.” A mutual agreement to use it has been reached.
Vermont, a state that leans Democratic nationally but occasionally chooses Republicans at the local level, set modern-era turnout records in November after adopting universal mail-in balloting.
Despite close statewide contests, voter turnout in Nevada barely increased slightly after the state adopted automatic voter registration and sent ballots to all voters in 2022 following a pandemic trial run in 2020.
Turnout in the November midterm election was lower than in 2018 in Kentucky, a rare red state that expanded access to early voting, however, this may have been due to the dearth of competitive contests. Most voters still cast their ballots on Election Day.
In 2020, in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, many states quickly increased the number of days that voters could cast their ballots by mail or early. Trump immediately reacted negatively, falsely claiming that mail-in ballots were associated with rampant voter fraud.
Voting patterns were dramatically split along party lines as a result of his rhetoric, with Democrats being more inclined to use early and mail voting than Republicans. The disagreement was exacerbated by the sequence in which ballots were tabulated in pivotal areas like Pennsylvania, fueling further conspiracy allegations around the election.
Several states under Republican power reversed or further restricted access to voting method expansions made during the epidemic of 2021. The Democratic stronghold county of Harris was the site of a controversial voting practice that was eventually outlawed by the Republican-controlled state of Texas.
However, the widespread use of absentee and early voting during the epidemic in other parts of the world served as a model for increasing people’s ability to cast ballots. In 2021, Vermont’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, put into law a bill that received bipartisan support and would have required ballots to be mailed to all eligible voters.
Scott, a moderate, was re-elected with over 70 percent of the vote in November when Democrats swept all statewide offices in Vermont. A record 57% of eligible people voted in the election, with Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters attributing this high turnout in part to the convenience of voting by mail.
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