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    Trump wants Republicans to vote early. In California, that’s a message the GOP has pushed for years
    • July 5, 2024

    Former President Donald Trump has instructions for GOP voters this fall: Cast those ballots early.

    The Trump campaign recently launched what it’s calling the “Swamp the Vote” effort, encouraging Republicans to vote early or submit an absentee ballot, ensure registration status and encourage other Trump supporters to vote as well. That’s a reversal for the former president, who has long decried mail voting as “corrupt.”

    For California Republicans, that plan may sound a little familiar.

    Over multiple cycles now, the California Republican Party has implored voters to drop off ballots as soon as possible

    In California, registered voters are mailed ballots about a month before Election Day. Voters can fill them out as soon as they receive them and return them by posting in the mail, by sliding them through the slot of a ballot drop box or by delivering them in person at a vote center.

    “We may not agree with all the means that Democrats have made legal here in California, but until we elect more Republicans, we have to make sure we’re playing by the same rules,” said CAGOP Chair Jessica Millan Patterson.

    “If we allow Democrats to run up the score on us for three-quarters of the game, it’s going to be very difficult to make that all up in one day,” she said.

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    A benefit to voters casting ballots early: The party will know who it needs to target and encourage to vote.

    “Part of it is a benefit to the voter,” said Patterson. “You will stop getting mail from me. You’ll stop getting phone calls. You’ll stop getting door knocks … all of the ways that we utilize to turn out a voter, you’ll stop getting that, and you can go about your day knowing that your vote is in.”

    But for the party, it’s also economics.

    “When we are spending time and resources turning out a voter who will likely vote but has not voted yet, we cannot move on to new universes, people who are less likely to vote,” said Patterson, who was elected to helm the CAGOP in 2019.

    She pointed to Assemblymember Greg Wallis, who won his 47th district seat in Riverside and San Bernardino counties by just 85 votes.

    Republicans who voted early in that race allowed the party to target those who may not have otherwise voters, she said.

    The CAGOP has embraced early voting for several years now — the party also adopted ballot harvesting in recent elections, where people can turn in a ballot for someone else, under certain conditions — and Patterson said this year’s primary showed success.

    More than 300,000 Republicans (about 14% of all Republicans who voted) returned a ballot earlier this year than they traditionally did, according to CAGOP figures. And more than 200,000 (8% of Republicans who voted) had never returned a ballot early but did so in the primary, said Patterson.

    “We’re seeing the work that we’re doing pay off,” she said.

    Still, it hasn’t been easy to convince Republicans to relinquish their ballots early or to someone else, party leaders said.

    “The natural reaction was, ‘Hell no, I’m not giving you my ballot,’” said Randall Avila, the executive director of the Orange County GOP.

    The former president changing his position on early voting has helped assuage concerns for some, Avila said, but the party has also worked for the last two cycles on building trust in neighborhoods.

    OCGOP, for example, assigns volunteers to be “neighborhood precinct captains” in their own neighborhoods. They’d go door-to-door and talk to voters, their neighbors and friends, about upcoming elections.

    It’s a lot easier to hand over your ballot to or receive voting information from someone you trust, Avila said.

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    This year, the OCGOP’s main focus is targeting former Republican voters who changed their registration to no party preference or libertarian, bringing them back under the GOP umbrella. And they want to encourage voters who may not cast a ballot every election cycle to do so this year “in whatever method they’re willing to do,” said Avila.

    While pushing Republicans to vote early this year, Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, continued to peddle falsehoods about his 2020 election loss.

    He also vowed to institute same-day voting, voter ID requirements and paper ballots for future elections if he wins a second term in the White House.

    “We’re going to do it properly. We’re going to have good, secure, beautiful elections,” Trump said.

    Multiple investigations following the 2020 election found very few cases of voter fraud — not to a scale that could have impacted the outcome of that contest.

    Trump, however, was convicted in May of 34 felony counts related to a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through a hush money payment to a porn actress.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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    ​ Orange County Register 

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