September 4, 2021
By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) -California Republicans will launch a campaign on Friday to convince conservatives to trust the state’s mail-in balloting system, hoping to boost turnout in the election to recall Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, party officials said.
The party will roll out videos on its digital platforms showing Republican Party officials mailing their ballots and urging supporters to vote early in the Sept. 14 election, according to footage seen exclusively by Reuters and interviews with party leaders.
Polls show Republicans are highly motivated to vote in the election to recall Newsom, a liberal Democrat who has faced criticism over his policies on COVID-19, immigration and crime. But they have been turning in early ballots at half the rate of Democrats, who outnumber Republicans in California more than two-to-one.
In addition to mail-in voting, voters can return their ballots to drop boxes or vote in person on Sept. 14. Many Republicans are expected to wait until election day.
Privately, Republican leaders acknowledged that false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election by former President Donald Trump and others in large part created the reticence about mail-in voting.
The state party’s new campaign will acknowledge concerns about election integrity while also seeking to convince Republican voters they can trust the system, party leaders said. U.S. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy will be featured in an upcoming video urging people to vote.
“It’s a trust but verify strategy,” California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said in an interview. “We want to make sure that they have confidence in the election process, and we want to make sure that they know there are different ways that they can vote.”
Patterson said she planned to mail her ballot.
The first two videos emphasize the party’s election integrity plan, which involves increasing poll watchers, hiring election lawyers and asking voters to report any irregularities. Then the speakers pivot to urging voters to cast their ballots.
Another video, to be released next week, features Harmeet Dhillon, a top state party official, casting her ballot by mail and later receiving a text message that it was received, said one party official who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The state’s Republicans find themselves in “a very odd and ironic situation,” said Raphael Sonenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.
“Republicans are facing the problem that vote by mail was one of the principal targets of the argument that something had gone wrong in 2020,” he said.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman)
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