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GOP backtracks on closing community centers and sidetracking early-vote program

The Republican Party’s new chairman, Michael Whatley, declared in a Thursday memo that the party would keep open its early-voting program, called Bank Your Vote, and not shutter any of its bricks-and-mortar community centers, contradicting comments by top party officials earlier in the week.

“Despite what you may have heard, we are not closing community centers,” Whatley wrote. “Our Bank Your Vote program will continue educating and empowering voters to feel confident in early voting and voting by mail.”

The statement marked a shift from Tuesday, when party officials told The Washington Post that in addition to repurposing some community centers, they would shutter others. Officials had also said that Bank Your Vote, a program aimed at getting core GOP members to vote early, would shift to a “Grow the Vote” program focused on less-likely voters. In his memo, Whatley described Grow the Vote as a new and separate effort that will still be launched.

Party officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations, said Friday that the shift in announced plans was a result of the fast pace of the takeover of the Republican National Committee at the start of the week.

Much of the senior leadership has either left in recent weeks or been fired, and dozens of lower-level staffers were asked to reapply for their jobs. The team of former president Donald Trump hired new legal advisers, including veteran GOP attorney Charlie Spies and former One America News host Christina Bobb, who repeatedly challenged the 2020 presidential election result and pushed for audits of the vote in Arizona, a state that Joe Biden won.

Leading the charge to change the RNC has been Chris LaCivita, a combative strategist who is working as a senior adviser to both the Trump presidential campaign and the party. Some other Republican leaders have called for less-disruptive changes inside the party.

“We’ve spent the past week laser-focused on streamlining our joint operations and will continue to do so, in order to build the most effective, efficient election machine in history,” RNC spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez said in a statement when asked about the shift.

The initial reports that community centers would close and Bank Your Vote would transition sparked concerns inside the party. It also triggered attacks by President Biden’s campaign, which painted the move in a news release Wednesday as an example of the RNC abandoning its minority outreach program, since many of the community centers are in Black and Latino communities. Republican Party officials have consistently maintained they would continue aggressive outreach to those communities.

“Donald Trump is officially building the RNC in his own image, and gutting the party’s outreach to voters of color is just the tip of the spear,” said Biden-Harris 2024 spokeswomen Maca Casado and Jasmine Harris in a joint statement on reports of the planned closures of community centers.

RNC officials said Thursday that efforts to refocus the mission at the existing community centers would continue, aimed more at traditional get-out-the-vote drives as the election approaches. The Trump campaign, as is traditional for the presumptive winner of the nomination, is expected to oversee much of the decision-making by the national party.

“We are now a united campaign, and a united front,” Whatley said in his memo.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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