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Trump embraces mail-in-voting. Here's how that fits into California Republicans' playbook

Nicole Nixon, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Political News

BURLINGAME, Calif. — In a stark pivot, former President Donald Trump is embracing vote-by-mail and third-party ballot handoffs known as “ballot harvesting.”

“It turned out to be not such a bad idea,” Trump said in a video message to California Republican delegates Sunday, on the final morning of their spring convention. “We may not like the current system but we need to master the rules and beat the Democrats at their own game. Then we can make our own rules.”

It’s a reversal for the candidate who previously — and falsely claimed — that mail-in-voting contributed to voter fraud as well as a signal that Republicans see these strategies as essential to Trump’s victory in the 2024 presidential election.

Trump and his allies previously propagated false claims that mail-in-ballots are rife with fraud and less secure than traditional polls. During a 2020 presidential debate, the former president said without evidence that ballots were “being sold and dumped in rivers.”

“We have to play the game differently,” Republican National Committee co-chair Lara Trump said during an appearance at the California GOP convention. “We have to embrace things like legal ballot harvesting all across this country.”

If re-elected, however, Trump would move to implement “one day of voting, paper ballots and voter ID all across this country,” Lara Trump said.

 

The practice known as ballot harvesting is when a voter gives custody of their ballot to a designated third party to return. Mail-in-voting has been part of elections in California for roughly a decade and has become more prevalent since the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, voters in most counties receive a ballot about a month before Election Day.

Mail-in voting has also proven a secure method to vote. Out of more than 15 million ballots cast by mail in California during the last presidential election, less than 0.7% were rejected for reasons like a missing or mismatched signature or not arriving on-time, according to the California Secretary of State’s office. In most cases, counties are required to notify voters who had their ballots rejected and provide a window to “cure” the ballot.

California Republicans didn’t do ballot harvesting in 2018 “and got our butts handed to us,” said state Republican party chair Jessica Millan Patterson. “Then I got in trouble in 2020 for ballot boxes because we put them in churches and conservative businesses.”

After legal threats from state officials, the party agreed to ensure staff or volunteers were present to monitor the boxes.

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