Today, The New York Times is a vigorous upholder of the notion that the 2020 election was the most secure in history and that the chances of fraud arising out of absentee ballots or mail-in ballots is simply a “false” Republican allegation.
This consistent message from the NY Times has a clear objective. It seeks to remove all debate over the question of whether making it easier for people to vote, through absentee ballots and mail-in ballots, also raises legitimate problems of voter fraud. According to the NY Times, this is a bogus problem. The real problem is the malevolence of the GOP in seeking to repress poor people and racial minorities from casting their ballots.
Absentee and mail-in ballots, writes Liptak, “make it much easier to buy and sell votes.” Liptak provides examples of elections in Illinois and Indiana. He also describes a process he calls “granny farming” in which campaign workers supposedly assist voters in nursing homes. These voters are easily “subjected to subtle pressure, outright intimidation, or fraud. The secrecy of their voting is easily compromised. And their ballots can be intercepted both coming and going.”
Liptak quotes Heather Gerken, now the dean of Yale Law School, fretting that “you could steal some absentee ballots or stuff a ballot box or bribe an election administrator,” adding that the ease of such practices shows “why all the evidence of stolen elections involves absentee ballots and the like.” Gerken, like the NY Times, now seems to have conveniently forgotten what she said just a few years ago.
So let’s see where we are on this. For years, when absentee and mail-in ballots were relatively scarce, the NY Times was insistent that they posed serious problems of fraud and manipulation. This wasn't merely the newspaper’s view—it marshaled a wide range of studies and experts to support the point.
Now that mail-in ballots have expanded enormously, largely justified by the limitations on in-person voting caused by COVID-19, one might expect the anxiety of the NY Times to increase. One might expect the NY Times to warn of far greater threats to election integrity. One might look for the NY Times to demand the imposition of new safeguards to ensure the integrity of democracy.
But no. Instead, the NY Times, once cautious and somber about the prospects for election fraud as a result of absentee and mail-in ballots, has now completely reversed its position and insists, not merely that there's a good case to be made for the security of absentee and mail-in ballots, but also that there's no legitimate debate on the subject of whether such ballots open up opportunities for voter fraud.
What, then, explains the NY Times’ abrupt reversal? The answer, of course, is election outcomes. By and large, the earlier NY Times articles worried that absentee ballots might put Bush over the top in 2000 or 2004. Or the NY Times was concerned that absentee ballots might cost Obama his reelection. In 2020, however, the NY Times recognized that the Democrats had aggressively pushed for expanded mail-in balloting in the expectation that this would give the party a decisive advantage, as seems to have been the case. Consequently, the NY Times reversed its position because it wanted a different political outcome.