Conway Urges Pennsylvania Republicans to Play by ‘New Rules’ on Absentee Voting

Camp Hill, Pennsylvania — Kellyanne Conway, a nationally renowned pollster and senior counselor in the Trump White House, called upon movement conservatives in Pennsylvania on Friday to adjust to mass absentee voting if they want to win tough elections.

“My theme tonight is about winning, not whining,” she told attendees of the annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (PLC) at the Penn Harris Hotel just across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg. 

She implored right-leaning activists to face a new atmosphere wherein mail-in voting has skyrocketed in the Keystone State. Before the 2020 primary, voters had to cast their ballots at the polls unless they could provide a health-related or travel-related excuse. Bipartisan legislation enacted in 2019 allows anyone registered to vote by mail, irrespective of their circumstances.

“We depress our own turnout… especially if we’re not voting early the way the left is, if we’re not ballot harvesting where it’s legal, if we’re not getting people to the polls early, banking the votes early,” she said. “We’re not just in a war for votes anymore. We’re in a battle for ballots.” 

“Ballot harvesting” refers to one voter collecting multiple persons’ ballots and delivering them to a dropbox or an election office. The practice is legal in some states like California and restricted or banned in many others. 

In Pennsylvania, a person can ballot harvest if he or she collects vote sheets only from people living at the same residence. This has occasionally led to confusion where long-term care centers are concerned: The Pennsylvania Department of State does not consider such places residences while Montgomery County, for instance, has treated them as residences where a person can collect multiple ballots if he or she gets proper authorization from the voters. 

As difficult as some of these matters may be to navigate, and as reluctant as Republicans may be to embrace absentee voting, Conway said doing so is the only way the GOP can remain competitive — in Pennsylvania and nationally. 

“We’re not going to win again unless we start to play ball by the new rules,” she said. “I hate the new rules… [but] much to my tremendous dismay and consternation, frankly, those rules have been codified, institutionalized and made permanently legal. If those are the rules, we need to learn them — not just to play by them, but to bring other people in, be a resource for those rules, tell people where they can vote, when they can vote, how they can vote.” 

To stress her point, she recalled that 2022 Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz beat then-Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman on Election Day, but not by nearly enough. The Democrat surpassed Mehmet Oz’s pre-Election Day votes by more than four to one.

“Four to one,” she reiterated. “You can’t catch up in one day. You can’t.” 

She said she feels confident her fellow Republicans can master the absentee campaign process — and that they have no choice. 

“We’re taking a big chance that grandpa can get out of the bathroom let alone the house that day,” she said. “Can’t we just get his [absentee vote]? We can do this…. If not, we’re gonna keep losing.” 

Some evidence suggests Conway and those who agree with her are persuading the party base. A new Political Action Committee called Win Again, focused on absentee-vote campaigning in Pennsylvania, launched at this year’s PLC. 

“In race after race, Democrats have successfully exploited mail-in ballots to turn out enough low-propensity voters to win tight elections,” read a statement from Win Again. “Republicans have to close this gap if we want to start winning again in Pennsylvania.”

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kellyanne Conway” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Ballot Drop Box” by Paul Sableman. CC BY 2.0.


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