Just days before Pennsylvania’s 2023 municipal election this month, Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Lawrence Tabas struck a confident tone on mail-in ballots.

“We looked at all the different methods that were being used for voting by mail and how to promote it. And then we unveiled our campaign and I met with the counties and we’ve met with each one individually and we’ve been working very closely with them. And it’s been, as I said, it’s gone far better than I had expected,” Tabas told Battleground Politics reporter Lauren Mayk.

“Our numbers are much better than they were in ‘21 in a municipal year, and our numbers are probably going to maybe exceed ‘22 as well, which is a general election year with a higher turnout,” Tabas also said.

Whatever Tabas’s expectations were, the 2023 election results plainly showed that Republicans in the Commonwealth are still so far behind Democrats in using mail-in ballots that catching up may take years.

A spreadsheet from the Department of State shows that by election day 2022, Democrats returned 718,744 mail-in ballots, compared to 178,609 for Republicans, exactly four times as many.

In 2023, Democrats returned 550,456 mail-in ballots, compared to 142,921 for Republicans — 3.8 times as many.

Whether Tabas and the state party’s “task force” were up to the challenge of radically altering Republicans’ adoption of mail-in voting is debatable, but what is certain is that Tabas knows that utilizing the new voting method is not a theoretical exercise, it’s existential.

“There are a lot of people who can’t get to the polls either because of maybe health or weather or job or family duties. This is a great way in order to be able to vote and participate in the process. We have a lot of people who have not been voting for a while who find this to be very convenient and supportive of this effort that we’re making here,” he told Mayk.

A request for comment to the state GOP seeking details on its “Bank the Vote” task force was not returned.

Voting by mail wasn’t an option for Pennsylvanians until the General Assembly passed Act 77 in 2019, ushering in some of the largest changes to voting the commonwealth has seen in generations.

When the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, the expanded use of “no excuse absentee voting” quickly became a de facto full fledged vote-by-mail system, as both parties sought to win a turnout war while hundreds of thousands of voters still had concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in public places — like local voting locations.

Grassroots Republicans have largely lashed out at their own party’s elected officials who passed Act 77. 

But rarely discussed is that the Trump White House and the Republican National Committee were urging passage of the bill for strategic reasons of their own.

“In the communications that were taking place between our leadership and the White House and the RNC, the brass ring for them, in their opinion, was getting straight-party voting eliminated,” state Representative Jim Gregory (Blair County) said in 2021.

“In states that had, had [straight-ticket voting] previously and got rid of it, you saw an opportunity for President Trump to be re-elected by a range of four to eight percent. They did not concern themselves with mail-in balloting, and they were fine with that, in the communications that I’ve been told,” Gregory added.

In the run-up to the 2020 election, President Trump pilloried voting by mail.

“Mail ballots, they cheat,” Trump said at the White House in September 2020. “Mail ballots are very dangerous for this country because of cheaters. They go collect them. They are fraudulent in many cases. They have to vote. They should have voter ID, by the way.”

Most political strategists and observers still credit Republicans’ reluctance to use mail voting to Trump’s continual disparagement in 2020, although he has since shown a change of heart — somewhat.

“In December [of 2022], Mr. Trump told Breitbart News that the GOP has no choice but to ‘live with the system that stinks,’ while maintaining ‘a mail-in ballot will always be corrupt’ and that Republicans should seek to change laws,” a Wall Street Journal report from March noted.

And Pennsylvania’s Republican leadership seems to be of a similar mind.

At a statewide February meeting in Hershey, Republicans adopted two measures related to Act 77, and mail-in voting.

“The first says the party will encourage more of its members to avail themselves of the mail-in voting Act 77 created in order to be more competitive,” Broad + Liberty previously reported. “The second measure affirms the party will try to undo the law when it has the necessary levers of power in state government — circumstances that couldn’t even possibly materialize for another four years.”

Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd@broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports@protonmail.com. @shepherdreports

8 thoughts on “Pennsylvania GOP still struggling with mail-in ballots”

  1. Until the Pennsylvania Republican party gets its head out of its collective—- with regard to mail-in voting they will continue to lose elections. Nearly 600,000 mail ballots were cast before the Senate debate between Fetterman and Oz. How many would have voted for Fetterman if mail-in wasn’t available? The Democrats have figured it out and it continues to pay them dividends. The Republicans have screwed themselves in Pennsylvania by not embracing the times and recognizing that voting has changed. Indications are that nearly two million registered Republicans didn’t vote in the recent state-wide elections. How many of those would have if someone in the Republican party got their —- and asked them to solicit a mail-in ballot.

  2. Mail-in ballots have given us centralized tabulation with democrats doing the counting, with no traceable chain of custody. In Delco there is no post-election, pre-certification audit for mail-in ballots, as required by PA statutes. We also have a whopping 38 drop boxes that are not properly watched and are open 24/7, an election management system and software that are not not properly tested as required for certification. With the fox guarding the henhouse republicans will never get a fair and honest result, yet we keep trying to out-harvest the democrat machine. Take an Occam’s razor to this situation. We are being robbed blind and our elected leaders are complicit in our own destruction. Investigate, expose, and fight it in the courts including the court of public opinion. If we don’t have an honest ballot box, we need to turn to the soap box and jury box, to avoid having to resort to the powder box.

    1. Joy Schwartz – Spot on! Disorganized violence is not the answer as it only benefits tyrants, and we need to win via voting these criminals stealing our tax money out of office. What organization do you suggest that people can give of their time and treasure to implement the steps you suggest? Website info? I heard a great suggestion from a caller on 1210 AM that Republican (presume all) ballots should be tracked like FedEx packages are tracked.

      1. They are tracked. You can go to the state website. They let you know when your ballot is received and then they let you know when it’s counted.
        Try it in the next election. You will be amazed

        1. Why would the fact that my vote can be “tracked” on a website mean anything. In fact – it makes me think the whole thing is kabuki theater.

  3. Mail in voter – They said the same thing in CT: https://san.com/cc/connecticut-ballot-stuffing-scandal-prompts-a-mayoral-election-revote/

    Joy Schwartz points out the same problems are likely happening in PA. Then all the very polite people and talking heads squirm, because it is obviously happening here in PA too but they like the results, so they shout, “But you have no proof!”

    “The videos are shocking to the court and should be shocking to all the parties,” wrote Superior Court Judge William Clark. Guess what? It is not shocking to anyone who’s ever played the Monopoly board game with their friends and family. And the stakes are much higher here. Keep your head in the sand, Mail in voter.

    1. Where is the outrage regarding Utah? Utah has been using mail in voting for over 10 years. Conspiracy theories would say Utah is actually a blue state turned red by mail in votes. But…. Since it is a red state no need to investigate. Only look at the pickups (blue states), sow doubt in the system, and continue to underperform with republican mail in votes. Then blame the system not the campaigns.

  4. Utah Saints,
    The actual facts about Utah are quite different than your oversimplification suggests. Voting by mail (no-excuse absentee voting) began in Utah in 2004 – almost no one used it. In 2012, the Utah Legislature enacted a law allowing counties to administer elections entirely by mail and one county (Duchesne) chose to do so – again, almost no one used it. Lastly, in 2020, Utah enacted a law that changed the default voting method for registered voters to VBM by automatically mailing a ballot to them for every election in which they are eligible to vote unless they request otherwise. So… those three actual facts are all entirely different concepts. And earlier this year, Utah skeptics of mail-in voting tried to end it, but their initiative failed to garner enough signatures to put it on the ballot. Utah… where they elected Mitt Romney, former Gov of Massachusetts and basically the architect of Obamacare, as their junior senator and he admitted to having a secret Twitter account named Pierre Delecto. Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner (R, perhaps another R.I.N.O?) is quoted: ““Utah is very different than New York, very different from Florida…if someone screws up in New York or Florida or Ohio, it doesn’t affect your vote here in Utah. And that’s the beauty of our system.” So, when you have a judge in CT reluctantly deciding the Dems were cheating against themselves, it is very ignorant to have a default stance that the new VBM since 2020 process is safe and secure. Voter fraud is not rare, it is just rarely prosecuted.

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