Republican opposition to mail-in ballots is a departure from traditional conservatism — and could backfire: GOP activist

Republican opposition to mail-in ballots is a departure from traditional conservatism — and could backfire: GOP activist
Royalty-free stock photo ID: 735158137 Election in United States of America - voting at the ballot box. The hand of woman putting her vote in the ballot box. Flag of USA on background.
Election '20

During the coronavirus pandemic, many Democrats have been arguing in favor of mail-in ballots, while President Donald Trump and other Republicans have been arguing against them and asserting that in-person voting is preferable. But GOP activist Tyler Deaton, in an article for The Bulwark, stresses that conservatives have a long history of favoring mail-in ballots and absentee ballots and that the Trumpian opposition to them is a departure from conservatism of the past.

“A small but vocal group of Republicans continues to oppose voting by mail on the grounds that it’s somehow bad for the GOP,” Deaton explains. “As a Republican operative myself, I hope they will soon realize their assumption is dead wrong.”

Deaton, founder of the organization Allegiance Strategies, argues that mail-in ballots and absentee ballots are quite compatible with conservative psychology — as conservatives are more likely than liberals to value spacious environments and personal space. Moreover, Deaton writes, conservative voters tend to be older and more fearful of germs, and opposition to mail-in ballots could end up hurting Republicans more than Democrats — especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“How might conservatives’ concern with cleanliness and ‘avoiding contamination’ impact GOP turnout in 2020?,” Deaton asserts. “If people can vote by mail from the safety of their homes, it won’t hurt turnout at all. But if a few misguided Republicans succeed in making it harder to vote by mail, expect a net decrease in ballots for Trump.”

As much as Trump was in denial about the deadly potential of coronavirus back in January and February — and even though he has recently expressed his opposition to mail-in ballots — he has a reputation for being a major germaphobe. And as Deaton sees it, the Trumpista opposition to mail-in ballots is not traditionally conservative.

“It might seem odd that so many ‘conservatives’ are protesting in the streets right now if they’re more prone to disgust,” Deaton writes. “But their whole message is that they don’t believe in the virus. They think it’s fake news. Trump told them so for weeks.”

In an article published by Politico on April 28, journalist Carla Marinucci reports that in California, some Republican leaders are flip-flopping when it comes to mail-in ballots — which the California GOP supported until recently. Jessica Millan Patterson, chair of the California Republican Party, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are among the Republicans who have recently come out against “ballot harvesting” — a practice that, Marinucci explains, “allows (GOP) volunteers to collect mail-in ballots and submit them in groups to polling places or election offices. Republicans blame the Democrats’ ballot collecting as one factor for their 2018 midterm woes.”

Deaton, in his Bulwark article, argues that opposition to mail-in ballots could backfire on Republicans in 2020 and help former Vice President Joe Biden (the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee).

“Wise up, fellow Republicans,” Deaton warns. “If you insist on viewing the issue of ballot access through the cynical lens of partisan advantage, then you should support vote-by-mail…. We need to make it easy for people to vote from their safe, clean, sanitized homes. Otherwise, it’s likely fewer Republican voters will cast ballots this fall.”

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