Heritage Action for America is building a multimillion-dollar nationwide campaign to assist Republican state legislators and governors trying to tighten election laws.
The effort initially will focus on eight states, leading with a $1 million ad buy in Georgia where Heritage Action’s grassroots network is working to help pass new election legislation.
As a national conservative group, Heritage Action is leading its first-ever state advocacy campaign because it knows its agenda cannot afford to lose voters who distrust the institutions responsible for securing the vote. In Georgia, Heritage Action has gathered 20,000 activists to help muster support for laws requiring photo ID for absentee voting and other measures.
“Our activists are really involved in their communities, they are well-connected, they are engaged locally and at the state level, and just because this is the first time that our organization has stepped into the state policymaking arena, our activists have been there all along,” said James Quarles, the group’s southern regional coordinator.
Conservatives’ confidence in elections has plummeted since former President Donald Trump’s loss in November.
Heritage Action responded with a three-faceted approach to win back trust in elections: working with lawmakers and governors to enact new voting laws; issue-advocacy campaigns to inform voters about the rules; and large-dollar ad buys to hammer home their message.
Democrats decry the Republicans’ efforts as attempts to limit access to the ballot box and suppress voting by people of color.
In Congress, Democrats are pushing a massive overhaul of election laws in legislation known as the For the People Act. It would block most of the Republican-backed measures in the states. The bill passed the Democrat-run House but is all but doomed in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans sith Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote.
The political landscape in the targeted states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin — will determine how Heritage Action marshals its resources.
In Georgia, voters must show an ID to vote in person but not if they vote by mail. Heritage Action is pushing legislation that requires photo identification for absentee voting and alleviates other conservative concerns such as ensuring ballots are counted without pause until all votes are tabulated.
Pauses in the vote count in November spurred fears of shenanigans at the polls.
If Georgia Republicans enact Heritage Action’s desired overhaul, the state can expect a bevy of litigation, particularly from liberal activist Stacey Abrams and her advocacy group Fair Fight.
Fair Fight refused to comment for this article.
Ms. Abrams, who is considering running for governor next year, opposes changes to voting rules and has called proposals from Georgia Republicans “a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie.”
Georgia voted for a Democratic president for the first time since 1992 in November and then sent two Democrats to the U.S. Senate, helping flip the chamber to Democrat control.
The issues contributing to diminishing voter confidence are not unique to Georgia. In Wisconsin, Republican legislators have pushed for an end to the automatic mailing of absentee ballots. In Arizona, Republican lawmakers have pushed to prevent private money from use in conducting elections, such as in equipment purchases.
At the national level, Heritage Action is coordinating with Ken Cuccinelli, former Virginia attorney general, who now leads the Election Transparency Initiative for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and the American Principles Project.
On the advertising front, Heritage Action plans to spend $10 million initially on television and digital ads. The group has no ceiling on how much it is willing to spend on ads and wants to do whatever it takes to get the laws passed, said spokesman Noah Weinrich.
“We expect the bulk of the work will be this year, but it is a long-term effort,” he said. “Obviously, we’d like to have people have a higher degree of confidence in voting integrity before the mid-terms, but if it doesn’t happen in the states before the mid-terms, we’re going to keep working after.”
• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at email@example.com.
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