The Republican National Committee’s effort to pivot from spreading false conspiracy theories about mailed ballots, “ballot harvesting” and early voting to encouraging supporters to use these very techniques got a boost from the biggest election conspiracist of them all on Wednesday.
Former President Donald Trump released a video promoting the RNC’s “Bank Your Vote” initiative where he simultaneously cast these voting methods in sinister terms as he urged Republicans to participate in them.
“For too long radical Democrats have abused and taken advantage of absentee and early voting laws to build a big lead over Republicans before election day,” Trump said. “While Republicans have worked to share our beautiful values with voters, Democrats and dangerous groups funded by the far left have simply focused on collecting ballots. That’s all they wanted to do, collecting ballots. But you know what? It turned out to be not such a bad idea.”
In the clip, Trump alluded to the drive behind Republicans’ one-hundred-and-eighty degree shift: Evidence indicates the false conspiracy theories about voting that Trump and others on the right used to fight his loss in the 2020 presidential race has suppressed Republican turnout. The RNC’s “Bank Your Vote” initiative, which was launched in June, appears to be an attempt to address this by enlisting the party’s supporters to vote early, by mail, and even engage in “ballot harvesting,” a term for having teams compile mail-in or absentee ballots from voters. In the promotion of the effort, Republicans have tried to walk a tightrope between the party’s newfound embrace of these voting techniques and a vow to continue working to “secure” elections amid the baseless concerns about fraud that they helped fuel in 2020.
But not all 2020 truthers have been swayed. The delicate balancing act has not stopped more dedicated election conspiracists like MyPillow entrepreneur Mike Lindell from opposing the plan. Trump himself previously waffled in his comments about the initiative. In his new video, the former president unequivocally urged Republicans to sign up for the program, which will send voters materials alerting them about options to vote ahead of election day. Even as Trump promoted the voting methods that he and other Republicans previously demonized, he still clung to the past. Trump’s pitch was peppered with conspiracy theories including the “Big Lie” that his loss in the 2020 presidential race was “rigged,” which has been debunked by officials at every level of government including members of his own administration.
“We may not like the current system, but we need to master the rules and beat the Democrats at their own game, and then, we can make our own rules,” Trump said, before adding, “Republicans must get tougher and fight harder to cast our votes and get our ballots turned in earlier so Democrats can’t rig the polls against us on election day. … They rigged the election in 2020. We cannot let that happen in 2024.”
With the clip, Trump joined a long list of Republican officials at every level who are now explicitly promoting the exact voting techniques they previously attacked. In yet another example of just how dramatic this flip has been for the GOP, Trump’s clip was promoted by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), who is a co-chair of the “Bank Your Vote” initiative.
“As Co-Chair of the @GOP’s Bank Your Vote initiative, I am grateful for President Trump’s support of our efforts to secure every vote in our fight to take back the White House, flip the Senate, and expand our majority in the House,” Donalds wrote in a tweet on Wednesday where he shared a news article about Trump’s video.
Donalds’ support of the plan is a long way off from where he stood in May 2021 when he published an op-ed that warned of “fraud concerns with mail-in ballots” and declared “Ballot harvesting—really ballot trafficking—is a crime.” TPM reached out to Donalds’ office to ask how the practice is not criminal now that it is endorsed by the RNC. As of this writing, they did not respond.