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ATLANTA (AP) — Republican activists who believe the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump have hatched a plan they say will thwart fraud in this year’s midterm elections.

The strategy: Vote in person on election day or, for voters who receive a postal ballot, keep it and hand it in at a polling station or polling station on November 8th.

The plan is based on unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that once they see how many Republican votes are returned early, scammers will manipulate voting systems to rig results for Democrats. There was no evidence of such widespread fraud.

Discouraging enough voters from casting ballots early could result in long lines on Election Day and slow down the processing of those late-arriving mail-in ballots. Those ballots would probably not be counted until the next day or later.

“It just slows everything down,” said Noah Praetz, the former Cook County, Illinois polling clerk who now advises local polling stations on best practices and safety. “In many places, if you don’t get your hands on mail-in ballots by Election Day, don’t count them until after Election Day.”

There is no evidence of widespread fraud, deception, or tampering with voting machines in the 2020 election. Extensive reviews in states contested by Trump confirmed Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, and legal challenges to the former president and his allies have been heard by numerous judges, including also rejected by Republicans.

That hasn’t stopped the conspiracy theories that have circulated over the past two years, fueled by Trump, allies like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, and a slew of Republican candidates seeking office this year. According to a review of social media accounts by The Associated Press, calls to save ballots until the last minute have grown louder in recent weeks.

“It’s a lot easier to catch fraud,” Lindell, who has promoted the last-minute voting strategy on podcasts, said in a recent interview with the AP. Lindell has tried to prove through various events that voting machines were rigged to favor Biden in 2020.

Trump also chimed in, saying at a recent rally that Election Day voting is best because “it’s a lot harder for them to cheat that way.”

The Conservatives’ strategy push comes after the use of mail-in ballots surged during the 2020 election amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The end of pandemic restrictions, Trump’s attacks on mail-in ballots, and new voting restrictions in some Republican-led states have caused the use of mail-in ballots to decline this year, but it remains a popular option for many voters.

Experts say a last-minute ballot rush could create delays that can be used by a bad actor to undermine confidence in the election.

“It’s an opportunity for people to question and fuel distrust and distrust,” said Chris Piper, former commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections.

Discouraging early voting and encouraging voters to keep their mailed ballots until Election Day goes against the efforts of most campaigns. Both Republican and Democratic candidates typically want to have as many ballots in hand as possible before Election Day so they can focus their efforts on getting laggards to the polls and convincing undecided voters.

The dueling approaches have resulted in a confusing array of messages for Republican voters.

In Georgia, a recent online flyer from a grassroots group stated, “Voting in person and on Election Day is the only way to overwhelm the system.” A conservative group in the state, VoterGA, urged its members to “protect” their votes. by applying for a postal vote early and waiting until election day to submit it.

State Republican Party Chairman David Shafer recently tweeted on the party’s official account, “Voting early in person is just as safe as voting in person on Election Day!”

The cross-messaging is also hitting Republican voters in Arizona, where high-stakes races for the US Senate, governor and secretary of state are taking place this year. Postal voting has been popular with voters from both parties for years.

Sen. Wendy Rogers, a Republican who supported a partisan review of Maricopa County’s 2020 ballots, told One America News Network viewers earlier this month that “we have to vote on the last day, the day of Election Day, so pull it.” an I don’t know how much to cheat for.”

But her party’s front runners – who have also embraced false claims about the 2020 election – have recently attempted to counter that strategy.

“If you have a mail-in ballot, I think you should send it in. I want people to vote,” Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for governor, told reporters this month. “And vote how you want to vote, but vote.”

Lake was among those calling for withdrawal of mail ballots and early voting, instead advocating a single day of in-person voting. Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for the Arizona Senate who also has Trump’s support, said it’s okay to vote by mail if a voter prefers it.

“I want to know the results on election night,” Masters told reporters earlier this month. “I’m telling people, vote in person if you can. If not, vote early and send it back in the mail. And let us know the result.”

It’s unclear whether the message to Republicans to hold onto their mailed ballots is having any effect. In two politically important states, the return rate for mail-in ballots is slower than in previous elections – although it could also mean voters there remain undecided.

In Georgia, about 23% of ballots mailed were returned just over two weeks before Election Day, compared to about 35% around the same time in 2020 and almost 37% in 2018. As of Oct. 19, Wisconsin had 45 % mail-in ballots were returned, compared to 56% at the same time in 2020 and 2018.

Some Democrats have also spoken out in favor of submitting last-minute ballots — but on a political strategy rather than allegations of fraud.

Pam Keith, an attorney, Democratic activist and former Florida congressional candidate, said she believes the predictability that Democrats will vote by mail gives Republicans an early indication of turnout. So she pleads for a last-minute ballot spate and catches Republicans off guard.

“By voting early, we’re showing our hand,” Keith said. “We show how high our voter turnout will be. And when they know that the overwhelming majority of absentee ballots came in, then they know what they need to do to win.”

Keith’s advice differs from that of many Democratic candidates, who have encouraged their supporters to vote early and by mail.

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Swenson reported from New York. Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix and Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the election at: And learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm election.

https://news.yahoo.com/gop-voters-told-hold-onto-043251463.html GOP voters urged them to stick to mail-in ballots until Election Day