RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Republicans on Friday announced new details about North Carolina’s role in their national initiative aimed at convincing GOP voters to take advantage of early voting, as they try to compete with Democrats’ efforts to turn out voters before Election Day.
“We need a culture change with our Republican voters,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to get Republicans elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Republican National Committee launched the “Bank Your Vote” campaign earlier this year, which encourages voters to utilize whatever methods are available in the state where they live to vote early instead of waiting for Election Day.
It marks a significant shift for the party after former President Donald Trump repeatedly tried to sow mistrust about mail-in voting in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During an appearance in North Carolina that year he even suggested voters should attempt to vote twice both by mail and in person to try to prove the system was susceptible to fraud.
Trump is publicly backing the Bank Your Vote effort but has continued to make unproven claims that the 2020 election results were fraudulent.
Along with Rep. Hudson, Sen. Ted Budd and other Republican members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation are leading the Bank Your Vote effort in the state, the RNC announced Friday. Click here to view.
“They recognize the fact that if we don’t play the same game the Democrats are playing, we will not win. So, we need to see unity and we need to see early voting. Those are two of the things we’re very focused on going into November,” said Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, a spokesperson for the RNC.
While Republicans won every statewide race in North Carolina in 2022, Democrats took greater advantage of early voting that year.
According to the NC State Board of Elections, registered Democrats cast 38% of early votes while registered Republicans comprised 31% of the early voting electorate. Unaffiliated and third-party voters made up the rest.
“There’s been a stigma for a very long time in the Republican Party among a lot of our voters that we don’t like early voting and we only vote on Election Day. But, the very harsh reality is we have to start liking early voting until it goes away,” said Gesiotto Gilbert.
When asked if the party is advocating for states to reduce early voting options, she said, “I think every single state is different. The voters in every state have to have their voices be heard throughout their legislative process in their state legislatures.”
Republicans pointed to close races in 2022 where the party failed to turn out enough voters on Election Day itself to counteract the advantage Democrats had built by leveraging early voting.
State Sen. Graig Meyer (D-Orange) said, “Given how much Republicans have put effort into discrediting the voting process, they’re now recognizing that, ‘Oh, we should actually be encouraging people to vote and to use as much opportunity to vote as possible,’ just shows how much they’ve hurt their chances to win elections because of all the negative stuff they’ve said about them.”
The Republican-led General Assembly voted this year to move up the deadline for mail-in ballots to Election Day. That eliminates the three-day grace period that’s currently in place in case the postal service is late delivering mail.
Republicans said the change will help boost voter confidence in election results and to know the outcomes of more races the night of the election. Democrats who voted against the bill said it would lead to some legitimate ballots not counting.
The push for early voting also helps campaigns decide how to use limited resources in the final days leading up to the election. By having more people vote early, it allows those campaigns to spend their time and money focusing on people who are less likely to vote or less likely to vote.
“We can then use those resources that we would have used to chase them all the way up until Election Day, to then chase other voters that we may not have those votes for otherwise,” said Gesiotto Gilbert.
NC Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley said the state will be in “the eye of the hurricane” in 2024 as one of several swing states that will play a significant role in the presidential race and feature a variety of competitive statewide elections.