RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel repeatedly voted by mail before suing California for expanding the practice

Records show McDaniel voted by mail. Sound familiar? So did Kayleigh McEnany. So did Kellyanne Conway. So did Trump

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published May 29, 2020 3:21PM (EDT)

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel frequently voted by mail before leading a lawsuit against California over the state's mail voting expansion, according to voting records.

McDaniel announced on Sunday that the RNC, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the California Republican Party had sued Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom after he announced that all registered voters in the state would receive mail-in ballots for the upcoming elections.

"Newsom's illegal power grab is a recipe for disaster that would destroy the confidence Californians deserve to have in the security of their vote," she said in a statement.

But voting records provided to Salon by the advocacy group Progress Michigan show that McDaniel has voted absentee in Michigan's elections for years, including earlier this year.

"Voting by mail is safe and secure, and Ronna Romney McDaniel knows that because she's used the process herself several times over the years," Lonnie Scott, the executive director of Progress Michigan, said. "The fact she and the Republican Party infrastructure are suing California to try and stop them from keeping their electorate healthy and safe using mail-in voting is rank with hypocrisy."

Along with McDaniel, Trump himself voted using an absentee ballot earlier this year, even though he was fully able to vote in person multiple times. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany voted by mail 11 times in 10 years. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who argued Wednesday that Americans should wait in line to vote in spite of the pandemic, voted by mail in the 2018 midterms.

The RNC disputed that it opposes all absentee voting.

"We do not oppose lawful absentee voting. What we oppose are Democrats' demands to automatically mail millions of ballots to voters while simultaneously suing to eliminate safeguards like ballot signature verification and state bans on ballot harvesting," RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens told Salon. "Only five states have all-mail elections, and none of them send ballots to inactive voters like Newsom's executive order would have initially ordered. Those states are actually warning that it took them years, not mere months, to make that transition. Americans want confidence in their elections, but Democrats' proposals would actually undermine it."

Scott argued that records show Republicans are "embarking on a brazen attempt to cut off access to voting for people around the country while utilizing the very processes they seek to vilify."

The RNC pointed to statements made by Kim Wyman, the Republican secretary of state of Washington, which is one of five states that hold all-mail elections.

"You can't just flip a switch and go from real low absentee ballots to 100% vote-by-mail. I mean, as we sit here right now, in April, with a November election deadline, I'm not sure you could do it in states across the country," told The New York Times last month said. "Our state wanted to move to vote-by-mail in 2005. It took five years to get all 39 of our counties to move to vote-by-mail. I don't think it's a realistic goal to think that you could get 50 states to all be vote-by-mail by even the November election just because the states are in such wildly different places."

California does not plan to move to an "all-mail" election however, making clear that polling locations would still be open on Election Day.

"Mail-in voting is important, but it is not an exclusive substitute to physical locations," Newsom said last week.

In the same Times interview highlighted by the RNC, Wyman rejected false claims made by President Donald Trump and Republicans that mail-in ballots were vulnerable to fraud.

"My response has always been that actually vote-by-mail has a lot of security measures you can build into it, and we have done that here in Washington," she said. "And then we have measures on the back end to prosecute that criminal activity, so you hope to deter it. And you hope it doesn't happen. But, if it does, you have ways to deal with it."

"I would say, President Trump, right now and in this pandemic, we are having to consider every option to be able to keep the public safe and keep the voters safe, keep our election workers safe and not have to make people choose between their personal safety and casting a ballot in one of the most historic elections of our lifetime," she added.

Trump lashed out over California's decision with a series of entirely made-up false claims about mail-in voting, which drew a rare fact-check from Twitter citing concerns that the tweets could be misleading to voters.

The RNC's lawsuit alleges that California's decision to send ballots to inactive registered voters "invites fraud, coercion, theft and otherwise illegitimate voting."

Studies have repeatedly found neither evidence of widespread main ballot fraud nor standard voter fraud, for that matter.

"Let's be clear about what's happening: The GOP will stop at nothing to put up hurdles between people across this country and the ballot box and that's the real reason they have filed this suit," Scott said. "It's not at all about the safety or security of elections. It's about protecting their power by disenfranchising voters during a global pandemic. "

California Democrats vowed to fight the lawsuit to protect voters' health.

"California will not force voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said earlier this month. "We are meeting our obligation to provide an accessible, secure and safe election this November. Sending every registered voter a ballot by mail is smart policy and absolutely the right thing to do during this COVID-19 pandemic."

Some Republicans have taken issue with the attacks on mail voting, as well.

"In my state, I'll bet 90% of us vote by mail. It works very, very well, and it's a very Republican state," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who is McDaniel's uncle, told reporters last week.

Stuart Stevens, a longtime Republican consultant who worked on Romney's and George W. Bush's presidential campaigns, suggested that Trump's attacks have little to do with protecting the integrity of the vote.

"This all comes from fear by Trump and like Republicans that more people voting means more non-white voters," he told HuffPost. "Data doesn't support that, but data doesn't support hydroxychloroquine, either."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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