Republican group to spend millions boosting absentee and early voting in Michigan

Republicans want to get those least likely to cast a ballot in Michigan to vote in the upcoming general election.

But to do that, they'll be venturing into territory that conservative voters have historically rejected: mail-in voting.

During recent election cycles, it's been Democrats who have seen more success in getting supporters to cast their votes ahead of election day. An even greater focus on the voting method took hold during the pandemic in 2020.

But the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) PAC hopes to reverse that trend in the summer months.

"We're starting to address the hole we've found ourselves in with early voting," Max Docksey, the PAC's political director told FOX 2. 

The RSLC is collaborating with the Michigan Freedom Network by investing millions of dollars aimed at encouraging low-propensity voters to use the method in the next election. The campaign is focused on competitive races in the Michigan legislature.

Republicans saw a 5.5% increase in absentee and early voting in Virginia after rolling out a similar program in 2023. They hope to replicate that same success in Michigan this year.

"If we take advantage, the GOP will be more successful," Docksey said.

One barrier to increasing voting rates is that conservatives have been more resistant to mail-in voting than Democrats. Concerns of fraud have made it a hard sell to some voters. Docksey hopes launching a new website called with education on how safe and effective absentee voting is will turn some minds. 

There will also be resources for requesting an absentee ballot, as well as planned digital advertising, and possibly a field component.

"The program will be helpful at the legislative level, but also up and down the ticket," Docksey said. "If you bring them (low-propensity voters) in, it's going to help everybody."

Another ingredient that could complicate the message? The nominee at the top of the ticket. Donald Trump has both encouraged voters to use mail-in ballots, and railed against them. At times, he's supported early voting, including in videos shared by the GOP on the social media platform X.

At other times, he's admonished the process. During a rally in Michigan last February, he said "mail-in voting is totally corrupt."

Docksey said Trump has still encouraged people to vote early on his Truth Social page and at his rallies. 

"He's had great things to say about absentee voting, the campaign they're running is one of the greatest we've seen run in a long time," he said.

In a news release announcing the absentee voter outreach, the RSLC said it expects the 2024 election in Michigan to be decided by a "razor-thin margin,"

"If Republicans are going to win up-and-down the ballot in November it is imperative that Michiganders take advantage of early and absentee voting so that we know the score heading into Election Day and can strategically target voters down the final stretch heading into November 5th," said RSLC PAC President Dee Duncan.

Rates of early voting have grown in Michigan after a proposal offering no-reason absentee ballots was approved by residents in 2018. Democrats have been more likely than Republicans to use the method since then.

For example, Oakland County residents who voted for Joe Biden in 2020 cast 339,041 ballots via absentee, but only 167,262 people used the same method when voting for Donald Trump. Meanwhile, 158,709 Trump supporters voted in-person on election day, while only 96,107 did so for Biden.

That trend has continued in the years since.

An analysis by Bridge Magazine following the 2022 Midterms found those who voted for Gretchen Whitmer in metro Detroit counties were much more likely to vote absentee than supporters of Tudor Dixon in the race for governor.

Meanwhile, Dixon scored higher totals among in-person voters on election day, which narrowed the gap in Monroe and Oakland counties, while helping her win in Macomb and Livingston counties.