ATLANTA — After years of criticizing mail voting and so-called ballot harvesting as ripe for fraud, Republicans at the top of the party want to change course.
They are poised to launch aggressive get-out-the-vote campaigns for 2024 that employ just those strategies, attempting to match the emphasis on early voting Democrats have used for years to lock in many of their supporters well ahead of Election Day. The goal is to persuade voters who support GOP candidates that early voting techniques are secure and to make sure they are able to return their ballots in time to be counted, thus putting less pressure on Election Day turnout efforts.
It marks a notable shift from the party’s rhetoric since 2020, when then-president Donald Trump was routinely sowing doubt about mail voting and encouraging his voters to wait and vote in-person on Election Day. As recently as last year, Republican activists peddling the stolen election narrative were telling GOP voters who received mail ballots to hold onto them and turn them in at their polling place on Election Day rather than use mail or drop boxes.
Now Trump is asking donors to chip in for his “ballot harvesting fund” — saying in a fundraising e-mail, “Either we ballot harvest where we can, or you can say goodbye to America!”
Republicans say the shift is needed to ensure GOP victories up and down the 2024 ballot, arguing they cannot afford to give Democrats any advantage. At the same time, they acknowledge skepticism from many of their own voters conditioned by false claims of widespread voter fraud from Trump and others.
Across the country, Republican-controlled legislatures have acted against early voting — shortening windows for returning mail ballots, banning or limiting the use of drop boxes, and criminalizing third-party ballot collection.
Former labor secretary joining White House as adviser
WASHINGTON — Tom Perez, a former secretary of labor and chair of the Democratic National Committee, will join the White House as a senior adviser and director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, according to two people familiar with the move.
Perez will replace Julie Chavez Rodriguez who left the White House last month to run President Biden’s reelection campaign.
In his new role, Perez will serve as the White House’s main liaison to governors, mayors, and other elected officials outside of Washington. As a senior adviser, he is also expected to advise Biden on issues including labor and immigration, the people said, requesting anonymity to discuss a personnel move that was not yet public.
The White House declined to comment, and Perez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Perez, 61, served as secretary of labor in the Obama administration and worked with Biden, then the vice president, on workforce development issues. He also did a stint as assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Department of Justice.
Perez had been floated for other jobs in the Biden administration, including head of the Domestic Policy Council, a job that went to Neera Tanden, and secretary of labor after Marty Walsh stepped down. Biden has nominated Julie Su, currently the deputy labor secretary, to replace Walsh, though she has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.
During Donald Trump’s presidency, Perez chaired the DNC and oversaw the competitive 2020 Democratic primary. Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, was the first Latino to lead the Democratic Party and became a vocal critic of Trump and his policies.
Last year Perez ran for governor of Maryland, finishing second in the Democratic primary to now-Governor Wes Moore. Earlier in his career, Perez served on the Montgomery County Council.
Thomas, Alito want more time to file financial forms
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has asked for more time to file annual financial disclosures after criticism that he did not report luxury travel and real estate deals with a Texas billionaire and Republican donor.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. also asked for an extension as he has done in previous years. Both requests were confirmed by the Administrative Office of the US Courts on Wednesday, the same day that disclosure reports filed by their court colleagues were posted on the court system’s website.
The reports, covering activity in 2022 and detailed below, show that the justices earned thousands of dollars from teaching; received payments for books they wrote; and accepted free travel to lecture at legal conferences, including in Italy and Scotland.
Only one justice reported gifts: Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who joined the court last June, disclosed a $1,200 congratulatory flower arrangement from Oprah Winfrey and a $6,580 designer outfit she wore in photos for a Vogue magazine piece.
The Supreme Court is under increasing pressure from Democratic lawmakers and transparency advocates to strengthen disclosure rules and adopt ethics guidelines specific to the justices after news reports revealed Thomas’s undisclosed real estate deals and private jet travel, and raised questions about the recusal practices of both conservative and liberal justices.
Thomas’s 2022 filing was highly anticipated after ProPublica reported on the justice’s financial dealings with his close friend and benefactor, Texas business executive Harlan Crow. Instead, Thomas will have up to 90 additional days to submit his filing, which could include updates related to his finances from past years.
Revised ethics rules adopted in March require the justices — and all federal judges — to provide a fuller public accounting of the free trips and other gifts they accept. The changes make clear, for instance, that judges must report travel by private jet. The revised rules were also designed to clarify which gifts can be counted as “personal hospitality” from a close friend and exempt from disclosure.
Biden vetoes plan to block student loan relief
WASHINGTON — President Biden on Wednesday vetoed a Republican-led resolution that would have struck down his controversial plan to forgive more than $400 billion in student loans.
In a statement on Wednesday, the president said the resolution — which the Senate approved on a 52-46 vote under the Congressional Review Act, a week after the House passed the measure — would have kept millions of Americans from receiving “the essential relief they need as they recover from the economic strains associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” The resolution called for a restart of loan payments for millions of borrowers that have been on pause since early in the coronavirus pandemic. It also would have prevented the Education Department from pursuing similar policies in the future.
In his statement, the president said it is “a shame for working families across the country that lawmakers continue to pursue this unprecedented attempt to deny critical relief to millions of their own constituents, even as several of these same lawmakers have had tens of thousands of dollars of their own business loans forgiven by the Federal Government.”
(It wasn’t the first time the White House has highlighted that lawmakers received financial relief from the government during the pandemic through the Payment Protection Program loans.)
The student loan forgiveness program has faced legal challenges, and the Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling on its legality before the end of June.
“I remain committed to continuing to make college affordable and providing this critical relief to borrowers as they work to recover from a once-in-a-century pandemic,” Biden said in his statement Wednesday.
Two Democrats and an independent — Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, and Kyrsten Sinema, Independent of Arizona — joined with Republicans to approve the resolution in the Senate, showing the divisiveness of the student loan policy and the difficulty of getting any future plan through Congress. In the House, the 218-203 vote fell largely along party lines, with two Democrats — Representatives Jared Golden of Maine and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington — voting with Republicans.