As Republican leaders attempt to pass new state voting laws around the country, they must also reassure their voters that mail voting is a secure option, attorneys said Saturday at a panel on the new legislation at the California GOP Fall Convention in San Diego.

Titled “Republican Lawyers Assoc: Jim Crow 2.0 or Common Sense: The National Debate Over Election Integrity Laws,” it considered the legality and effects of recent laws in Texas and elsewhere.

The panel was one of many events at the downtown convention, held this weekend at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. There were sessions on leadership, fundraising, political consulting, faith engagement, data, campaign management and other topics.

Although speakers expressed disappointment at the results of the recent California gubernatorial recall election, they said the GOP strengthened its organization in California through the effort and aims to win congressional seats in 2022.

“The road to taking back the country by taking back Congress goes directly through California,” Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson, who formerly served as White House physician, said in a speech over lunch.

Attorneys speaking at the election integrity panel said they believe it’s important to purge voter rolls of outdated registrations, fight for voter identification and oppose “ballot harvesting,” in which third-party groups of individuals collect and submit ballots for voters.

Nonetheless, they said myths about the security of mail ballots have hurt their cause.

“In the 2020 election cycle there was presidential leadership saying, ‘Don’t trust the mail,’” said Fred Whitaker, chair of the Orange County GOP.

During the run-up to that election, former President Donald Trump and his advisers broadcast doubts about potential fraud from widespread mail voting during the pandemic. Those warnings were amplified on social media and may have discouraged some voters from casting ballots, speakers said.

“We don’t have any evidence of systemic fraud,” Whitaker said. “We used to do a great job getting our voters out to vote using the absentee ballot method, and we dropped it two years ago, to our detriment.”

Restoring Republican confidence in mail ballots is key to ensuring voter turnout for their candidates and getting ballots cast early, speakers said.

They also plan to fight Democratic efforts to revise state voting procedures through sweeping federal legislation. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, HR 4, would restore federal authority to regulate state voting laws to prevent discrimination against Black voters or other minorities.

Speakers on the panel said the law would limit states’ abilities to ensure the accuracy of voter roles.

“There are huge problems with the cleanliness of California’s voter registration rolls, and I think that’s going to be the subject of litigation,” said Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon.

New laws in Georgia and Texas require regular review of voter rolls, add identification requirements for mail ballots and regulate the use of ballot drop boxes, they said.

“What got Democrats incensed is that they required ID on mail-in ballots,” said moderator Garrett Fahy, of the Republican National Lawyers Association of Orange County. “They think any requirement of ID anywhere is unconscionable.”

He argued that provision makes it harder to steal ballots or submit them fraudulently, since it is easier to forge a signature than to obtain a voter’s driver’s license or other ID number.

Recommended for you