Opinion

NY Times Does About-Face on Potential for Fraud Created by Absentee Ballots

The New York Times has shifted its narrative regarding the security of absentee ballot voting in recent reporting compared to how it addressed the subject in years past.

RealClearInvestigations reported the change came amid the move to mass absentee ballot voting during the COVID-19 pandemic and Georgia’s new requirement for voters to provide a driver’s license or state ID number to obtain an absentee ballot.

“The New York Times now insists through its designated arbiter of verified facts that absentee voting is the ‘gold standard’; the opinion page denounces any concern about the practice as not just wrong, but a myth used to suppress voting by the poor and minorities,” according to RealClearInvestigations.

“And yet for more than 20 years the Times has been making the not-unreasonable case that absentee ballots are more susceptible to fraud than in-person voting.”

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An example of this change in The Times is a January “fact check” story finding then-President Donald Trump’s claims that absentee ballots facilitated voter fraud as “false.”

“There have been numerous independent studies and government reviews finding voter fraud extremely rare in all forms, including mail-in voting,” reporter Linda Qiu wrote.

“The president is making these claims to lay the groundwork for possibly not accepting the voting results, going so far as refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.”

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In September, The Times headlined, “Trump Is Pushing a False Argument on Vote-by-Mail Fraud. Here Are the Facts.”

However, even in that article, reporters Stephanie Saul and Reid J. Epstein quoted University of California, Irvine law school professor Richard Hasen, an elections expert, saying that “[e]lection fraud in the United States is very rare, but the most common type of such fraud in the United States involves absentee ballots.”

“Sensible rules for handling of absentee ballots make sense, not only to minimize the risk of ballot tampering but to ensure that voters cast valid ballots.”

In 2019, when a Republican was found to have won a North Carolina congressional race due to absentee ballot fraud, The Times’ Alan Blinder reported, “The Ninth District controversy ranks among the highest-profile examples of modern election fraud.”

The reporter added the race “underscores how absentee ballots remain susceptible to abuse.”

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Times reporter Adam Liptak was even more forthright in addressing the potential problems with absentee ballots in a 2012 piece titled, “Error and Fraud at Issue as Absentee Voting Rises.”

“Yet votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth, statistics show,” Liptak wrote.

“While fraud in voting by mail is far less common than innocent errors, it is vastly more prevalent than the in-person voting fraud that has attracted far more attention, election administrators say,” he added.

“Voting by mail is now common enough and problematic enough that election experts say there have been multiple elections in which no one can say with confidence which candidate was the deserved winner.”

Liptak pointed out that there was a bipartisan consensus that vote by mail can be more easily abused.

He cited the 2005 report on federal election reform chaired by former Democratic President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, which concluded, “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”

It also called for banning so-called absentee “ballot harvesting.”

“State and local jurisdictions should prohibit a person from handling absentee ballots other than the voter, an acknowledged family member, the U.S. Postal Service, or other legitimate shipper, or election officials,” the report said.

“The practice in some states of allowing candidates or party workers to pick up and deliver absentee ballots should be eliminated.”

As a side note: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carter distanced himself from the report’s concerns about absentee ballots in a statement released in May 2020 saying as long as safeguards were in place, vote by mail could be done without major fraud.

Finally, in 2000, The Times’ Leslie Wayne wrote, “Yet as absentee ballots and early voting become more popular, so do concerns over them.”

“Some experts also feared that the alternatives to traditional voting are more susceptible to fraud. Absentee ballots can be more easily sold or shown to others before they are cast, they said.”

The Times clearly has changed its narrative from its plain and truthful reporting in the past about absentee ballot concerns to fit the current political climate in which voter integrity measures are no longer in vogue.

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