As the 2020 presidential election approached, then-President Donald Trump warned all Americans — especially Republicans — of the dangers he saw in early voting, voting by mail, and voting by mail.
“As far as ballots go, it’s a disaster,” he said during a September 2020 presidential debate, echoing the same a totally debunked, totally untrue argument that such ballot papers lead to electoral fraud.
But Trump, who lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden, was right about one thing. Mail voting was a disaster — for Maryland Republicans in 2022.
In at least five major races in the state, Republican candidates led on election night, only to see their lead dwindle over the next few days as absentee ballots were tallied. Five Conservatives also lost their lead in bipartisan races for state school board seats.
Given what happened, many Republicans are now saying they need to adopt absentee voting to stand a better chance in future elections.
“I’m not aware of any efforts to help Republicans vote by mail, but there’s been a lot of effort on the Democrat side — and I think we’re seeing that in the results,” Del said. Neil Parrott, a Republican who led his race for the US House seat in District 6 on election night, only to lose to incumbent Democrat Rep. David Trone when the absentee ballots were tallied.
flipping the results
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, early voting and mail-in ballots have become common methods of voting in recent elections, including in Maryland.
A little over two million ballots were cast in Maryland in the November general election, and over 900,000 were either cast during early voting or mailed in, state election records show.
But in Maryland, absentee ballots could not be counted until after Election Day. That’s because Governor Larry Hogan in May vetoed a bill that the state legislature passed, which would have allowed postal ballots to be counted before Election Day. Hogan said the Electoral Reform Act, which would have allowed postal ballots to be tallied earlier, did not go far enough to prevent voter fraud.
The requirement that ballot-by-mail votes be counted after Election Day, coupled with the Democrats’ adoption of ballot-by-mail, produced some misleading preliminary results on election night. For example:
- In the Anne Arundel County executive election, Republican Circuit Councilwoman Jessica Haire led by 10,863 votes on election night ahead of incumbent Democrat Steuart Pittman. But once all the mail-in ballots were counted, Pittman was declared the winner — as 42,156 of the 58,504 mail-in ballots went the Democrat route.
- In the race to represent District 6 as a member of the US House of Representatives, Parrott led by over 11,000 votes shortly after Election Day. But Trone won by 24,524 votes — because the Democratic incumbent received about 33,000 more mail-in ballots.
- In the election to represent District 33 in the Maryland Senate, Republican Del. Sid Saab prior to counting the mail-in ballots with 1,636 votes ahead of Democrat Dawn Gile. But Gile received 7,328 more absentee ballots than Saab, meaning the Democrat won by just over 6,000 votes.
- Republican Senator Michael Hough led the Frederick County executive race shortly after Election Day by just over 11,000 votes ahead of Democrat Jessica Fitzwater. But Fitzwater received 10,868 more mail-in votes than her opponent. Coupled with a 1,201 vote lead in preliminary votes, Fitzwater defeated Hough by just 989 votes.
- Four candidates fought for two seats in the election to represent District 9A in the Maryland House of Delegates. Incumbent Republican Del. Trent Kittleman ended election night in the lead. However, underperforming in mail-in ballots dropped her to third place in the race and narrowly missed reelection by 113 votes. Her closest opponent, Democrat Chao Wu, received 2,482 more mail-in ballots.
Ben Smith, Pittman’s campaign manager, said the election results showed how Democrats were using mail-in voting to their advantage.
“Ensuring broad turnout was important to us, and voting by mail is an incredible asset in that regard, as it removes many of the barriers to participation that a voter might otherwise face due to issues with transportation, childcare, work or other responsibilities could,” said Schmid.
How the Democrats used mail-in voting
Yvette Lewis, leader of the Maryland Democratic Party, said the party “spent a lot of time educating voters about how easy it was to conduct absentee ballots.”
She said the state-run Democratic Party sent out digital ads asking voters to vote by mail. Meanwhile, Democratic volunteers were calling and texting voters and knocking on doors to say voting by mail was easy and convenient.
As a result, Democrats “recognize the importance and ease of voting by mail and early, because all sorts of unforeseen things can happen on Election Day,” Lewis said.
Individual Democrat campaigns reinforced the message that early voting or absentee voting would be good options.
“We have used contact methods such as calling, texting, door knocking, digital contacting and mail to ensure voters know how to vote by mail or in person during early voting and on Election Day,” Smith said. “For absentee ballots, when voters have requested ballots, we have gone to great lengths to make sure they send their ballots back.”
Given the efforts Democrats have made to speed up voting by mail, Trone didn’t panic and didn’t back down on election night.
“We always knew this race was going to be close,” said Trone, who was running in a newly drawn more Republican district. said SuThe Porters in Frederick, as the early election night count showed them trailing Parrott by about six percentage points. “The borough is different, and it will take a few days for election officials to count the tens — and tens of thousands — of votes that are still outstanding across the borough.”
Trone, who was running for his third term, added: “I am confident that we will return to Congress.”
His trust was justified. Trone took the lead when the absentee ballot was tallied, and three days after Election Day, the Associated Press declared him the winner. Tron is ready about 10 percentage points before Parrott.
What the Republicans say now
While Democratic officials have made early voting a priority for their constituents, the same cannot be said of Republicans. Republicans weren’t using mail-in voting to their advantage, said Parrott, the losing GOP congressional nominee.
“I think going forward in Maryland the Republican Party just needs to recognize, and voters need to recognize, that this is the law,” Parrott said. “This is how elections are held”
Parrott’s thoughts on voting by mail for his party mirror those of the Republican National Committee chairman.
“Our constituents need to vote early,” said Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said Fox News The beginning of December. “There were many [people] saying in 2020, “Don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early,” and we need to stop doing that and understand that if Democrats get ballots for a month, we can’t expect to get it all done someday. ”
Angered by the close result in her race, Kittleman linked her failed re-election bid to the GOP’s demonization of mail-in voting.
“There may have been a number of people who would have liked to vote but couldn’t get out on election day because they were prevented from using absentee voting,” she said. “I think it was a very bad move on our part.”
That bad move stemmed from what Trump has consistently said about absentee voting for more than two years, Kittleman said.
“President Trump, along with other Republicans [that] are urging Republicans not to vote by mail, which frankly is really, really stupid,” Kittleman said.
Noting that mail-in voting now seems to be an integral and important part of any election, she added, “If you’re not using it, cut off your nose to annoy your face.”