Conservatives push to increase early voting

Wake County early voting site. photo by Donna King, Carolina Journal

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  • "It is a losing game for conservatives to believe their vote doesn't count and they're going to get cheated. That is a that is way to lose elections and you can't let what other people may do somewhere else affect what you do, that's a losing strategy.” Dallas Woodhouse, American Majority NC.

At this year’s Carolina Liberty Conference in downtown Raleigh, Dallas Woodhouse, state director of American Majority, hosted a breakout session called “Winning the Absentee Ballot War.” Woodhouse explained the importance of early voting, recent changes to state voting laws, and common fears surrounding the absentee voting process.

The State Board of Elections opened the absentee ballot portal earlier in January, ahead of the March 5 primary.

“There’s only one point to an election, and that is winning, and politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. You don’t get your ballots in, you can’t win,” said Woodhouse. “Politics is not about being comfortable. I’ve seen it a lot through county parties and state parties. They often use the same techniques over and over and over and don’t change with the times. They do what’s comfortable, not what’s effective and what wins elections. Politics is about growth.”

“North Carolina is huge in 2024. The Biden administration has already put their sights on North Carolina,” Woodhouse said, citing a major news outlet’s report that North Carolina will be a key state in the 2024 presidential election.

“I have a lot of confidence in our voting systems and our checks and our procedures in North Carolina, and one reason is the legislature has helped make it better. Voting early helps conservative candidates win,” said Woodhouse.

Conservatives often have concerns when it comes to early voting, especially absentee voting.

“Ballot harvesting is the third-party collection of ballots. That is a crime in North Carolina. … We don’t do it, and that makes it harder to cheat … We scared people off from voting early in states where it was safe and secure,” said Woodhouse.

With the legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 747, Election Law Changes, some election security concerns are addressed, like the deadline of Election Day for mail-in ballots. Earlier this month a federal judge blocked a small provision in the bill dealing with same-day voter registration.

“We don’t have machines changing votes; we’re not stuffing ballot boxes,” Woodhouse said. “They cheat right in front of you like they did in 2020 by moving deadlines back by changing absentee ballot requirements, or having county boards of elections go accept ballots that the law doesn’t allow them to do. It’s not hidden. It’s the administration of the election, it’s the changing of the rules, it’s that kind of thing. So that is why that was the most important thing the legislature did.”

Election integrity is a major concern among Republican voters. According to a 2023 poll, only 22% of Republicans are highly confident that votes in the upcoming presidential election will be accurately counted.

“We have strong procedures to audit and check the results. We have a voter history audit, which is that’s the first thing people go through. Are they registered? That’s the paper you sign when you go to the registration,” said Woodhouse. “You know on Election Day we go through a data validation audit that just makes sure numbers weren’t transcribed. We do sample audits of hand machine counts to make sure you know they’re right, and all presidential elections audited.”

Dallas Woodhouse speaking at 2024 Carolina Liberty Conference. Source: Jacob Emmons, Carolina Journal

According to get-out-the-vote organizers, the vote of someone who votes in person on Election Day costs much more than someone who votes early. As soon as a ballot is counted, campaigns remove that voter from a target list and stop calls, emails, and flyers. Those dollars are directed to a less likely voter.

“Once you vote, you’re off the list,” said Woodhouse. “We know you voted, so the mail stops, the phone calls stop, the door knocking stops, and then those resources get sent down the line to a less likely voter. Quite frankly, in North Carolina and in 2024 that resource is likely to go down the line to Hispanics and African Americans that are coming into the conservative coalition that haven’t been there before.”

According to Carolina Demography, since 2013 there has been an increase of over 210,000 new Republican voters in North Carolina, a decrease of over 350,000 Democrats, and an increase of over 960,000 unaffiliated voters.

“I believe we ought to have confidence in our system,” he added. “It is a losing game for conservatives to believe their vote doesn’t count and they’re going to get cheated. That is a way to lose elections, and you can’t let what other people may do somewhere else affect what you do. That’s a losing strategy.”

In the days leading up to an election, early voting performance is often reported by the media as a measurement of enthusiasm for the candidates or parties. Woodhouse says that perception can hurt or help the turnout of other voters.

“If you go out and say — ‘I vote by mail, I always vote early’ — then you can help more conservatives be comfortable with it. Remind your voters that the organized left is chasing their votes early. Big early voting helps conservatives when our candidates are starting weeks late bringing their voters to the ballot box,” said Woodhouse.

Campaigns and voter outreach groups can track absentee ballots through the State Board of Elections.

“We have to adapt or die. The Declaration of Independence says that just powers are derived from the consent of the governed,” he added. “The Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution talk about how that consent is to be acquired. With the current temperature of the regime, we have to use all legal ability to get the vote out and get it early to turn that into victory in 2024.”