Election 2024 /

Daily Caller: ‘They Are Miles Ahead’: Despite ‘Election Integrity’ Hype, GOP Could Be Walking Into 2024 Legal Buzzsaw

  |   By Polling+ Staff

(Photo by Cécile Clocheret / AFP) (Photo by CECILE CLOCHERET/AFP via Getty Images)

‘They Are Miles Ahead’: Despite ‘Election Integrity’ Hype, GOP Could Be Walking Into 2024 Legal Buzzsaw

The GOP walking into a 2024 legal buzzsaw?  The Daily Caller reports:

“Republicans are walking a tightrope heading into the 2024 election.

They must show their base that they are fighting hard on the issue of election integrity, which many conservatives believe cost former President Donald Trump his 2020 re-election bid.

Simultaneously, they must operate in the reality that they now live in the world of ballot harvesting and drop-boxes.

That dichotomy is why the Republican National Committee (RNC) told the Daily Caller they are committed to prioritizing election integrity efforts between now and November. They are waging lawsuits on issues ranging from ballot access to voting rules. Yet the party is also heavily pushing its “Bank Your Vote” initiative, encouraging Republicans to vote early.

Other elements of the party seem more resigned to playing by Democrats’ rules rather than trying to change them. The Caller also reached out to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which the RNC said is helping bankroll the party’s legal fights.

After sending the Daily Caller a link to an Axios article about get out the vote efforts, and then ignoring multiple follow-up requests for an interview about election integrity, NRCC spokesperson Will Reinert sent the Caller the following: “We’ve complained about your coverage several times to editors, so to tell you the truth, we really don’t care to engage on pieces we don’t care about to help you guys out.”

A prominent conservative pundit read the Reinert email and told the Daily Caller, “‘pieces we don’t care about’ is the giveaway. They’re mailing it in on election prep, in other words.”

Election integrity is, however, an issue Republican voters care deeply about: coming out of the last presidential election, nearly two-thirds of Republicans and Trump voters said they had little faith votes were counted accurately, according to one poll

In 2020, a number of election laws were changed, and others were straight up ignored, in key states due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona, voters had expanded access to methods of voting including ballot drop-boxes, mail-in voting and early voting thanks to Democratic Party legal efforts led by Marc Elias. (RELATED: Key Swing State Election Laws Under Fire Over Voter Integrity Provisions)

Elias is a high-powered attorney who has played a leading role in hundreds of lawsuits seeking to make it easier to vote and undo Republican efforts to make elections more secure.

A Daily Caller review of current election laws found that the situation on the ground remains dire for election integrity hawks. A number of key battleground states, including those that delivered Biden the presidency, are still slated to use many of the election procedures in 2024 that outraged Republicans in 2020.

At least seven are slated to deploy ballot drop-boxes. Nearly all are likely to have no-excuse absentee voting. Five are on track to have more than two weeks of early voting, and Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina will mail out absentee ballots more than six weeks before election day.

“As we’ve talked about, the damage done by Democrats to change laws during COVID was unprecedented. There’s still a lot of work to do, not everything is where we want to be right now. But that’s why we’re scaling up this massive program and filing all this litigation because we’re actively trying to fix it up,” an RNC official told the Daily Caller. “We understand that there are still issues, especially in swing states with key stuff we need to fix. That’s why this exists.”

There is still time for some of these laws to change before election day, but the clock is ticking for Republicans to make inroads toward changing them.

After media outlets began calling the election for President Joe Biden in 2020, Republicans across the spectrum of the party concluded that those changes to how America votes played at least some role in his loss. Certain conservatives will tell you it was the single biggest factor in President Joe Biden’s victory.  

With eight months to go, Republicans are mobilizing operatives across the country and spending millions of dollars to avoid a lawfare wipeout akin to what they suffered in 2020 — but the climb is uphill, and progress has been marginal. 

Now, heading into 2024, some conservatives find themselves concerned about the state of the election and whether the party is doing enough to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself. (RELATED: ‘There Was Lawfare’: Sol Wisenberg Says Democrats ‘Outgunned And Outclassed’ Trump Lawyers)

“I have no idea what the Republicans are doing. But I can tell you what we did in 2020 when we were watching the Republicans stay on the sidelines,” Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True The Vote, told the Daily Caller.  

The Daily Caller began its investigation into Republicans’ election integrity efforts at the beginning of 2024, conducting an interview with members of the RNC’s election integrity staff in the beginning of February.

Since the interview, new leadership has taken over at the RNC and the Trump campaign has merged with the organization and made several staff shakeups.

National Review reported that the election integrity department had been a part of widespread layoffs that saw dozens of RNC staffers cast aside. However, an RNC official with direct knowledge told the Caller that reports the election integrity staff were asked to re-apply for their jobs was false. A source with the Trump campaign confirmed the same reality, stating that the staffers had not been let go.

Christina Bobb, a former Trump administration staffer who went on to be Trump’s attorney and a One America News Network anchor, has been appointed as the RNC’s election integrity senior counsel, a source told the Daily Caller. The Trump campaign source said the previous election integrity staff at the RNC would be sitting down with Bobb in the future.

When it comes to election integrity, the RNC and its partners are working, but they are playing catch up to Democrats’ nearly 40-year head start. The RNC was subjected to a consent decree in 1982 after a Democratic National Committee (DNC) lawsuit, neutering the party’s ability to engage in election integrity lawsuits until the decree was lifted in 2018.

The DNC sued the RNC in the 1980s, alleging that the party had sought to discourage African-Americans from voting through targeted mailings warning about penalties for violating election laws. The consent decree largely limited how the RNC could participate in election lawsuits.

“Early voting and GOTV effort is like the Space Race or the Arms Race of the Cold War. We defeated the Russians essentially by spending them into oblivion,” Andrew Kolvet, a spokesperson for Turning Point USA, told the Daily Caller. “The Democrats are spending us into oblivion. They are miles ahead. They’ve already landed on the moon a few times and we haven’t even gotten the ship off the ground.” 

The RNC told the Daily Caller that the party first dove into the election integrity sphere in 2022. It was the first time the RNC had the opportunity to work with other campaign committees, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the NRCC. The effort was “loose,” a member of the RNC’s election integrity department told the Daily Caller. 

The party did not offer clarification on the timeline of its election integrity efforts prior to 2022 after the Daily Caller followed up.

Following the 2022 election, then-RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel moved to make the RNC’s election integrity efforts an actual department of the party. That allowed the operation to pull resources from all departments such as communications, politics and legal.

Now, in addition to its legal department, the RNC has three election integrity counsels based at its headquarters and 13 election integrity counsels in key states including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“These counsels work around the clock to identify and act on opportunities for election integrity litigation, in addition to coordinating with local law firms and stakeholders in their respective states,” Josh Helton, an RNC election integrity official, told the Daily Caller. 

By the end of February, the RNC told the Daily Caller that it planned to have deputy election integrity directors in each of the 13 states where it has an election integrity counsel. Regional directors will also join the election integrity effort to oversee a specific geographic territory and oversee how the party liaised with stakeholders in the area.

In addition to the legal counsels, the RNC has “boots on the ground” as a part of their “recruitment training and shifting of poll workers and poll watchers.”

“These are folks that are going to be in those in those polling locations and they’re going to be our eyes and ears on the ground. That will be reporting back to our our election day headquarters, which happens all during early voting and Election Day,” Helton told the Daily Caller.

“Where we have volunteer and paid attorneys they are going to be taking in those calls triaging the information that comes in and taking the appropriate action,” Helton continued.

With 79 election integrity lawsuits filed in 23 states ahead of the 2024 election, the RNC told the Daily Caller that it has plans to reach at least 100. The party is also in “constant contact” with all 56 Republican state and territory parties to collaborate on election integrity litigation — even transferring money to them as needed, the RNC told the Daily Caller.

“The RNC from what I’ve seen, is an intervener you know, it’s liberal groups that file these lawsuits. In some some of these cases, the RNC is intervening to try to help defend the state statute. That’s basically what’s going on all across the country,” Hans Von Spakovsky, the manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, told the Daily Caller. Von Spakovsky added that he thought the state of election integrity was in a better position than 2020, and does not expect a repeat of 2024.  

Others disagreed.

“From what I have seen and what I haven’t, we definitely are,” conservative attorney and pundit Kurt Schlicter said about whether he thought the GOP would end up in a similar situation to 2020.

“And I would love to be wrong. I hear ‘we’ve filed 78 lawsuits’ that’s like saying if I’m a commander, ‘oh I’ve fired 78 shells,’” Schlicter added.

“They should be getting insurance. They should be filing lawsuits, and getting injunctions in place to make sure that all the state legislatures, election rules are being followed strictly. And that they’re not being waived because of COVID or Chinese flu or Chinese pneumonia or whatever the next bullshit pandemic is going to be,” Mike Davis, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and founder of the Article 3 Project, told the Daily Caller. 

“You need to get injunctions early so the Democrats can’t change the rules at the last minute. If they change the rules, they’ll be in contempt of court,” Davis continued.

Count Marc Elias himself among those who are skeptical of Republican efforts. For years, dating back to 2009, Elias was the lawyer for the Democratic party. Elias is most prominently known for his work during the 2020 presidential election cycle, when he spearheaded the Democratic Party’s efforts to expand voting access and loosen election integrity provisions.

“It seems nearly certain that Republicans at all levels will continue to file frivolous post-election lawsuits and will suffer similar results in 2024,” Elias wrote in a recent report.

Ahead of the election, Elias has begun to track his own and other “pro-voting” suits. Over the last year, Elias and other “pro-voting” lawsuits saw 83 victories for voters across 26 states, according to his report.

According to Elias’ report, Republican and their election integrity forces prevailed a mere 20% of the time in 2022 and 27% of the time in 2023. The same report noted that there were 51 “pro-voting” lawsuits in 2023 to just 22 election integrity lawsuits.

Despite the improvement, Elias has predicted that Republicans will once again watch the rug be pulled out from underneath them and suffer the same fate as 2020.

For their part, the RNC dismissed Elias’ claims that 2024 will be a repeat of 2020.

The Daily Caller provided the RNC with the same report and cited specific stats from it, asking for a response to Elias’ data which portrays Republicans as behind in its legal fight. The RNC dismissed Elias’ report and concerns entirely.

“We don’t put much stock into how Elias tracks lawsuits,” an RNC spokesperson told the Daily Caller.

Results have been mixed so far for the RNC — the organization sent the Caller a list of 17 “selected litigation wins” from 2022 until now. Some were significant, such as protecting New Hampshire’s voter ID requirement or banning expanded ballot harvesting in Arizona. In Florida, the RNC strengthened Florida’s voter ID requirements.

But others were cases still in progress, or only resulted in marginal changes unlikely to significantly affect the election.

There are notable instances were Republican lawfare has failed. In 2020, ballot curing was a key issue in Pennsylvania. The state secretary of state’s office issued guidance right before election day telling counties they could inform voters of improperly filled out absentee ballots, allowing them to turn in a provisional ballot on election day to ensure they got counted.

But a number of Republican-leaning counties ignored this guidance, believing it to be a violation of state law. The Trump campaign sued after the election to discount the cured ballots from Democratic-leaning counties, but lost at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 7-0.

Republicans, including the RNC, have since sued again to overturn the ballot curing rules. But those efforts culminated last year with a state judge dismissing the RNC’s lawsuit, leaving in place the patchwork set of ballot curing policies from county to county.

The RNC’s election integrity blitz has also seemingly left party allies, as well as most voters, in the dark.

“The first thing I look for is a chain of command. I’m just a military guy. Who is the person whose lapels I grab, look in the eye and say, what is going on? And there isn’t one, to my knowledge,” Schlicter said. “I don’t see the kind of coordinated planned operation that I would look for that would memorialize best practices.”

McDaniel sat down at the end of February with the head of the RNC’s election integrity project for her podcast “Real America.” 

The RNC’s Election Integrity Twitter account tweeted out a clip of the podcast to its less than 2,000 followers. The pair talked about the GOP’s efforts to make elections “FAST – Fair, Accurate, Secure, and Transparent” ahead of November. 

By the party’s own measures of success, the interview was a failure — because hardly anyone actually saw it. Just over 12,000 people viewed the video where McDaniel touted their efforts to recruit poll watchers, use volunteer lawyers and the building of a war room.

Just 37 social media users liked the tweet. The podcast currently has 1,200 views on YouTube. Comments are turned off on the video. 

“When I go and speak to folks around the country, a lot of folks after I do my presentation, they said ‘we didn’t know the RNC was doing all that. We had no idea.’ If people don’t know, if the tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, like if people don’t know how hard the RNC and the NRSC and NRCC are fighting to secure these elections, we’re not gonna accomplish one of our primary goals, which is to restore that faith and confidence in the electoral process,” Helton said.(RELATED: Daily Caller Columnist Mary Rooke Explains Why ‘Rigged’ Is Essential To Voters Understanding Elections)

The RNC isn’t working alone. It’s partnering with the NRCC and the NRSC to equally fund the election integrity operation.

After the NRCC ignored multiple interview requests from the Caller to talk about this issue, the Caller told Reinert his initial one-sentence response with an Axios link was some of the “laziest shit [I’d] ever seen,” prompting Reinert’s reply that the organization doesn’t care about this election integrity story. 

Jack Pandol, NRCC communications director, followed up with the Daily Caller about the interaction with Reinert, telling the outlet that the parties were making a historic committee investment, funding the RNC’s election integrity program and “getting better at it than the Democrats.”

Pandol added that the NRCC’s legal teams are in regular communication with the RNC and NRSC as they work “jointly on the project.” 

During the NRCC’s brief interaction with the Daily Caller, Pandol noted that the party’s legal team was in regular communication with the RNC. Despite the frequent conversation, however, the NRCC was unable to explain which election integrity organizations have been in communication with the RNC to work on litigation ahead of the election.

“I have no idea what local groups have or haven’t heard from the RNC, I’m not a spokesman for them so I’d suggest you talk to them about it,” Pandol told the Daily Caller.

The NRSC, the other arm of Republicans election integrity effort, painted a more candid picture about the party’s coordination with other election integrity focused groups. 

“We’re getting our ass kicked in that realm. Excuse my language but like, the Dems have the Arabella, that whole network. They have so much more money than us. You haven’t seen an equivalent on our side,” a member of the NRSC election integrity effort told the Caller.

“RITE has been involved somewhat. You see a funding discrepancy across the board, not just with legal right-wing. They have more money than we do. That’s kind of the problem,” they added.

Outside of the official party apparatus, independent organizations focused on election integrity are bustling.

Some, such as Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections (RITE), have had the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the RNC in a battle for election integrity.

“The main thing that we see is, first of all, wherever Marc Elias has been active and running, everywhere he is, the ecosystem of the election integrity world is there to meet him and confront him,” Derek Lyons, the president of RITE, told the Daily Caller. Because of how the election integrity ecosystem has confronted Elias, Lyons told the Daily Caller that the democratic lawyer has not had much success. 

It is evident from dozens of operatives working on election integrity within the Republican sphere that there is no Marc Elias of the right. The effort appears more balkanized than that of the Democrats, for better or worse.

RITE is currently involved in 17 states such as Colorado, Ohio, Montana, Kansas and Florida where the organization is working to protect drop box safe guards, mail-in ballot rules, signature matching, voter identification and ballot harvesting rules, the organization told the Daily Caller.

In New York, Georgia, Arizona and Vermont, the group is going “on offense” and trying to enact laws around citizenship requirements, no-excuse absentee voting, invalid signature matching and double voting.

Other election integrity organizations are non-partisan, which prohibits them from working with political organizations such as the RNC. But for the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), the group finds its non-partisan nature more beneficial than if it was to work with the GOP.

“When Republicans file cases, they run into a buzzsaw,” J. Christian Adams, the president of PILF, told the Daily Caller.

“To go on offense, you really needed to do it last year. And instead of suing on behalf of Republicans, we’re suing on behalf of a county election official who has to accept the ballots,” he continued. 

“You see the difference? Because if you bring a case under the brand Republican versus I’m just this poor schlub, who has to make a decision, the courts are more likely to rule in favor of the poor schlub than they are in favor of a Republican Party,” Adams added.

But within what the RNC described as a “robust” ecosystem, some groups have felt abandoned. True the Vote, one of the many nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations working within the election integrity sphere, noted that they had no clue what the GOP was doing legally ahead of the election. 

“We just won a huge legal victory in Georgia against Stacey Abrams. That’s a great example of a place that the RNC or NRCC or so many that claim that they’re supportive of election integrity, could have made some kind of an overture. We fought that alone for three years and I think speaks to the distance,” Engelbrecht told the Daily Caller. (RELATED: Stacey Abrams’ Nonprofit Implodes After Shelling Out Millions In Failed Election Fights)

“They’re going to do what they’re going to do. We’re here on the ground, seeing things fall apart and knowing that action needs to be taken and we just are assuming that we’ll do what we can and pray that others join in the fight,” she continued. 

The RNC noted to the Daily Caller that the party never heard from True the Vote regarding any possible assistance in its legal battle.

“One thing you want to avoid is doing duplicative work. So if like there’s one group, that is you know, deep in the trenches on specific Georgia litigation, maybe that frees us up to get really into a court battle in Arizona, so on and so forth,” the RNC told the Daily Caller, adding that the party has to be very careful with how it works with and communicates with nonprofits.

True the Vote later told the Daily Caller that they cannot reach out to the RNC because of their nonpartisan nature, but expressed optimism that the party would engage in their litigation in the future.

“True the Vote is very happy to hear about the RNC’s election integrity efforts. Must be a stealth campaign,” Engelbrecht hit back.

The landscape could shift with former President Donald Trump securing the GOP nomination for 2024 and integrating his campaign with the RNC.

Trump Secures Enough Delegates To Clinch Republican Nomination

Former President Donald Trump won enough delegates from nominating contests Tuesday evening to secure the 2024 R…

“Securing our elections is a top priority,” Chris LaCivita, a Trump campaign senior adviser told the Daily Caller in a statement. “Across the country, we will be aggressive in addressing issues related to the way elections are conducted because we must restore the integrity of the election process and Republican voters’ trust in the system. Otherwise, we risk losing future elections and losing our country.

With the new leadership in place, some organizations previously snubbed out of partnership have already seen improvement. Turning Point Action, a 501(c)4 partner of Turning Point USA, is one of those groups that has felt an increase of optimism as it has begun its “Chase the Vote” effort.

“Before with the old leadership, we heard nothing. There was no willingness or coordination to work with us.” Kolvet told the Caller. “With the new leadership we are very hopeful. We are very optimistic, there is a new vibe.”

Still, no centralized agenda seems to exist. And in the meantime, some Republicans are focused not on overturning Democrats’ election rules, but simply beating them at their own game.

To some degree, that includes the RNC itself, which is putting major juice behind its “Bank Your Vote” initiative encouraging conservatives to vote early in 2024. 

Turning Point Action’s “Chase the Vote” initiative focuses on getting in touch with voters who have received mail-in ballots and encouraging them to fill it out and cast their vote. The initiative currently focuses on Arizona and Wisconsin where the organization plans to hire hundreds of full-time staffers devoted to the effort, Kolvet told the Daily Caller.

“Our ultimate goal is, I don’t think that we’re looking to set a blanket regime of election laws across the country. I don’t think that that’s realistic. We as conservatives and Republicans have a very strong belief that elections are to be left to the states to make up their minds on how to run those,” Helton said.

Regardless, time remains, and the parties leading the effort are remaining optimistic about their chances.

“You asked the question, are we in this position where we’re going to be told it’s too late to challenge things, like again in 2020. Hopefully not,” Lyons told the Daily Caller.”

In short, as this very long article attests in detail, the 2024 election situation that is now the priority of the new RNC leadership is decidedly in need of attention.