Activists Say Ballot Harvesting, Once Shunned by GOP, Now Key to Winning in 2024

Activists Say Ballot Harvesting, Once Shunned by GOP, Now Key to Winning in 2024
A voter holds her child as she casts her ballot at a polling station in Rose Hill Elementary School during the midterm primary election in Alexandria, Va., on June 21, 2022. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Janice Hisle
Nathan Worcester

Scott Presler, though unfailingly polite in conversation, isn’t afraid to speak bluntly about the massive threat conservatives face in 2024.

“It’s my contention that, currently, Joe Biden is cruising to reelection if we don’t have the infrastructure necessary, with things such as voter registration, early voting, legal ballot harvesting,” the Millennial Republican activist told The Epoch Times earlier this month.

“If we don’t have those things, then a Republican is simply not able to win.”

Although Republican former President Donald Trump has recently pulled ahead of Democrat President Joe Biden in national polls, his edge is only about 2.4 percent, according to the RealClear Politics average as of June 22.

Presler is among the political insiders and analysts who told The Epoch Times that Republican Party leaders and candidates need to change course now if they want to win the presidency and other coveted political prizes in the 2024 election.

Conservative activist Scott Presler. (Facebook/Scott Presler)
Conservative activist Scott Presler. (Facebook/Scott Presler)
Traditionally, the GOP’s mantra had been: Vote in person on Election Day only. Republicans frowned upon early voting and mail-in ballots. They also have eschewed ballot harvesting, which is legal in some states. Ballot harvesting involves surrogates collecting voters’ absentee ballots and delivering them to election officials.

Many conservatives expressed distrust of those methods, believing they could be vulnerable to manipulation and cheating. But ballot harvesting can also be seen as a safeguard against sometimes inevitable life circumstances that prevent people from making it to the ballot box on Election Day: a broken down car, a medical emergency, death in the family, or something as simple as a memory lapse on a busy day.

To avoid some of such attrition, groups and campaigns have employed “ballot chasing,” a practice of following up with likely voters to make sure they cast ballots.

Recently, Republican attitudes about pursuing votes and voters have begun to shift, especially after the GOP’s lackluster showing in the 2022 midterm elections. A predicted “red wave” of Republican victories didn’t materialize. Analysts cited many reasons for the disappointing results, including Big Tech’s manipulation of online information and influence. But another concern, high on the list of factors, was the failure of  Republicans to alter their voter-engagement tactics.
FreedomWorks, a grassroots organization with millions of activists nationwide, recently produced a video explaining the significance of ballot harvesting and ballot chasing.

“The Left has built a well-oiled machine to absentee ballot harvest and chase. The Right has fallen behind significantly. And if this strategic gap isn’t filled quickly, our future is bleak,” the video says.

“The political battlefield has changed drastically since 2016,” says FreedomWorks, noting that more than 70 percent of ballots cast during the 2020 election were cast before Election Day. “We may not like this trend, but it’s accelerating.”

In recent months, many leading Republicans, including Trump, have changed their tune; they recognize that to beat Democrats, they need to take advantage of every legal means to pump up Republicans’ vote tallies. Former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who continues contesting her 2022 election loss to Democrat Katie Hobbs, recently announced a ballot-chasing operation.
However, some conservative advocates see signs that the national GOP may lack the will, the apparatus, and the focus to set up the Party for success. So, grassroots activists are stepping up. But they worry that Republicans may once again find themselves outplayed and outgunned.

Mobilizer Ignored?

Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, a nonprofit group for young conservatives, dislikes seeing Republican candidates spending lots of money on negative TV advertisements. He thinks the money would be more wisely spent to help inspirational mobilizers such as Presler.
“We need 1,000 Scott Preslers ... not Ron DeSantis-versus-Donald Trump television advertisements,” Kirk said during a recent podcast. “We’re gonna waste $1 billion on a primary, where $100 million, $50 million, whatever, could make the difference.”
Presler, known as #ThePersistence on social media, recently received a $5 million pledge from Kirk’s organization for “GOTV [get-out-the-vote], early voting, and other ballot-chasing initiatives in the state of Wisconsin ahead of the 2024 presidential election.”
Wisconsin ranks among four states that “are at the epicenter of the fight for the White House,” according to Nathan Gonzales, editor of The other “toss-up” states are Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona.
Election officials wait as procedural issues are argued during the process of recounting ballots from the Nov. 3 election at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, on Nov. 20, 2020. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Election officials wait as procedural issues are argued during the process of recounting ballots from the Nov. 3 election at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, on Nov. 20, 2020. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

With more than a million followers on Twitter, Presler delivers a popular, uplifting message for the Republican base. He’s the type of grassroots activist you’d assume that Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman, would be eager to know.

Yet Presler says McDaniel has not responded to his repeated and ongoing attempts to contact her. For more than two months, he has sent messages to McDaniel via social media, text, and email—to no avail.

“There’s been no communication from the chairwoman or the RNC,” he told The Epoch Times. “I’m a team player, and I’m a collaborator. And look, at the end of the day, I’m here to win and make Joe Biden a one-term president. If the chairwoman were to call me, I would immediately take the call.”

The Epoch Times sought comment from McDaniel without success.

After considerable pressure from Presler and other prominent Republican voices, McDaniel and the RNC recently announced a program to secure more Republican votes. will encourage voters to pledge to ‘bank’ their vote, which will activate digital reminders from the RNC on all applicable pre-Election Day voting options,” the RNC’s announcement on the initiative states.

‘Machinery’ Needed

With Republican infighting over 2024 heating up, Presler is calling for unity.

“The enemy is not amongst us. And really, the enemy isn’t even the Democrats,” he said. “But what we do know is that Joe Biden has been a reckless president who’s putting national and global security at risk.”

Decisive steps must be taken now, Presler said.

As Kirk recently wrote on Twitter, the Republican field of presidential hopefuls has grown. But, he said, “It won’t matter who the nominee is unless we make the investments today in ballot chasing, harvesting, voter reg[istration], and signature verification.”
Charlie Kirk speaks at the Young Women’s Leadership Summit at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, on June 10, 2023. (Bobby Sanchez/The Epoch Times)
Charlie Kirk speaks at the Young Women’s Leadership Summit at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, on June 10, 2023. (Bobby Sanchez/The Epoch Times)

“2024 is being decided now by the community organizers,” Kirk wrote. “We can beat them if we invest early in the machinery that will make the difference. Ignore the noise. Build the machine to win.”

Presler, Kirk, and others argue that the Republican Party’s problems with reaching and activating supporters are symptomatic of more profound deficiencies. Democrats seem to have a more organized, solidified network of support.

“They have these nonprofit organizations,” Presler said. “And they’re all working in solidarity with the same message of either voter registration or data collection, and then ultimately mobilizing those people based on that data.”

In his view, the RNC needs to do the same.

“If the RNC is not getting the job done, then the job simply isn’t going to get done, because we don’t have the infrastructure as a conservative movement to be able to fill the voids necessary,” Presler said.

Not a Lost Cause

Across the nation, disconnected from the RNC, many individuals and small groups are pitching in, hoping their work to educate, register, and activate voters will move the needle for Republicans.

Some of these efforts are concentrated in states that conservatives have largely “written off.”

Ian Camacho, director of research for Look Ahead America (LAA), told The Epoch Times: “I think Virginia is one of the states that we think could be ‘flippable,’ but a lot of people on the Right have given up on it.” Virginia has become a focal point for Camacho’s organization, which calls itself “the nation’s leading America First community organizer.”

Trump, who touts an “America First” agenda, lost Virginia to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, but won the presidency; in 2020, he lost the state and the presidency to Biden.

Ian Camacho, director of research for (Courtesy of Ian Camacho)
Ian Camacho, director of research for (Courtesy of Ian Camacho)

“We were founded with the twin missions of ensuring election integrity and registering and turning out to vote disaffected patriotic Americans of rural and blue-collar backgrounds,” LAA’s founder, Matt Braynard, wrote in a May memo outlining the group’s voter turnout project in Virginia.

While much attention is devoted to the 2024 presidential race, LAA is spotlighting state and local contests. The state senate is two seats shy of securing a Republican majority.

“There’s a lot at stake in Virginia this year,” said Camacho. “It’s very possible that the Senate could be flipped ... and it’s kind of a ’swingy' state.”

If that “flip” happens, it would give Republicans full control of the state government—and the Republican presidential nominee might benefit from that additional clout and attention in the 2024 election.

Started in 2017, LAA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, a type of group that the Left has long used to increase voter turnout, Camacho said. He noted that such organizations have many built-in advantages, including “the ability to raise unlimited tax-deductible money from any source...without having to disclose information about donors.”

Too many people waste too much time and effort complaining about the Left’s tactics rather than responding with countermeasures, Camacho said, underscoring points made by Presler, Kirk, and other insiders.

Negative vs. Positive Gain

LAA is working on not only registering voters but “getting them to vote, whether it’s going early, whether it’s going by mail, whether it’s voting in person,” Camacho said.

It’s a tough sell lately, as people remain concerned about election improprieties making their votes moot.  “Many people feel that their vote does not matter and it doesn’t make a difference­—and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.

LAA also supports election-integrity efforts, including one in North Carolina, a state that Trump narrowly won in 2020.

“You hear so many people talking about voter fraud and voter integrity, voter cheating and all this kind of stuff. And yes, it does happen. And working on that and cleaning that up absolutely does need to happen,” Camacho said. “But I would say that’s ‘negative gain.’”

It’s important to also concentrate on “positive gain,” adding new voters to the rolls, he said.

Sign used to recruit election integrity volunteers, at a Loudoun County Virginia Republican election event on June 8, 2023. (Masooma Haq/The Epoch Times)
Sign used to recruit election integrity volunteers, at a Loudoun County Virginia Republican election event on June 8, 2023. (Masooma Haq/The Epoch Times)

A private donor has contributed funds for the Virginia turnout effort as a pilot project. “If we can show an effective model in 2023 in Virginia, then we can, ideally, raise funds to expand across the country for the 2024 general election,” Camacho said.

LAA’s campaign is multifaceted. The group intends to hit disengaged voters with repeated messages about the importance of voting. They will contact voters via door-to-door canvassing, direct mail, live phone calls, texting, and social media.

“Because our efforts include registering these voters for the state’s permanent absentee list, we believe many of them will continue voting for many elections to come,” Braynard’s plan states.

After the 2023 election, LAA will use public records to find out whether the targeted voters showed up at the polls. That data will measure the voter-activation program’s success.

‘Sick of Failing’

Columnist Kurt Schlichter is one of the well-known conservatives putting pressure on McDaniel and other Republican leaders to step up their game.

In a June 1 article on, Schlichter said Republicans are “sick of failing, exhausted by defeat, and looking back longingly to the time not so long ago when we were tired of all the winning.”

He said he has yet to see any plan from the RNC for correcting its course and harnessing workhorses such as Presler.

“This guy [Presler] is busting his hump doing the hard, tiring work of exactly the kind that Ronna should be organizing, and she’s ignoring him. Which means she is ignoring us,” Schlichter wrote.

“We have to win in 2024—have to. The left is not the moderate (in today’s terms) liberals of yesteryear but a collection of hardcore, commie-curious aspiring tyrants who want us, at best, defeated, disarmed, and disenfranchised,” Schlichter wrote, adding, “the more aggressive of them want us dead.”

He said the next election “is serious business, not merely some notional competition between Beltway teams ... It’s a big deal, and we need a serious effort to fix the administrative and logistical problems that plague our party.”

“Maybe there is a plan,” Schlichter wrote. But, so far, he hasn’t heard of one. “And I’m paying attention,” he said. “Failing to plan for victory is planning for defeat.”

Lessons From Democrats

Academics with expertise in American politics say Republicans should have learned from their past mistakes.

Democratic consultant David Carlucci said the 2022 election should have been a wake-up call for Republicans when it comes to capturing voters—and votes.

“Major political events like the Mar-a-Lago raid did little to change public opinion for either end of the political spectrum,” Carlucci said, referring to the FBI’s search of Trump’s Florida home on Aug. 8, 2022, two months before the November general election.

“This means that the only factor that could change the outcome of the 2022 midterms was which party got their base to get out and vote,” he told The Epoch Times.

"I Voted By Mail" stickers sit on a table waiting to be stuffed into envelopes by absentee ballot workers at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4, 2020. (Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images)
"I Voted By Mail" stickers sit on a table waiting to be stuffed into envelopes by absentee ballot workers at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4, 2020. (Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images)

“The Republicans’ greatest weakness this cycle was the blatant hostility toward the modern voting system,” Carlucci said. “Skepticism about ’stolen elections,' early voting, and mail-in ballots, in turn, demobilized the Republican base.”

“On the other hand, Democrats ran with the modern reality of voting to bring in a higher turnout than expected,“ he said. ”It might seem obvious, but a candidate only wins an election by getting more votes than their opponent.”

Writing for RealClearPolitics, James Campbell of the University at Buffalo found that Democrats’ strong performance in the 2022 midterms could be chalked up to “easy mail-in voting provisions, effective mobilization programs, and massive campaign spending.”
Also, Campbell told The Epoch Times in a recent email interview: “Republicans have no realistic option but to try to match the mobilization operations the Democrats so successfully used in recent elections.”

How 2024 Differs From 2022

He said the “obvious” plan for Republicans, post-2022, is twofold: First, to ensure strict adherence to election rules with “squadrons of lawyers.” Second, to assemble “extensive mobilization organizations, especially in swing states, to get out the vote of those leaning or likely leaning toward the Republicans, but might not otherwise bother to vote,” he said.

“I don’t know what McDaniel is doing about this, but I cannot imagine anything more important for the Republicans—especially after they were caught flat-footed in the midterm,” Campbell added.

Going into the 2024 contest, “Republicans need to raise a ton of money, allocate it to the right states (follow the Democrats), and spend it wisely to track down those who are inclined towards them,” Campbell wrote.

He thinks Democrats still have an advantage because “they have organizational structures that might be adapted to mobilization campaigns (unions, government workers, teachers, etc.).” Republicans are appealing to working-class and non-college-educated voters, segments of the population that are harder to reach en masse.

But at least some elements of the 2024 picture look more favorable for the GOP than they did in 2022, Campbell said.

“Democrats will be defending about twice as many [Senate] seats as Republicans,” he said.

“At this point, the Republican nomination seems likely to be the more divisive,” Campbell said, “but President Biden’s age and controversies may shake up that nomination process as well.”

Janice Hisle reports on former President Donald Trump's campaign for the 2024 general election ballot and related issues. Before joining The Epoch Times, she worked for more than two decades as a reporter for newspapers in Ohio and authored several books. She is a graduate of Kent State University's journalism program. You can reach Janice at: [email protected]
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