The New York Times Can’t Get Basic Facts Right on Election Reform

COMMENTARY Election Integrity

The New York Times Can’t Get Basic Facts Right on Election Reform

Mar 29, 2021 5 min read

Commentary By

Hans A. von Spakovsky @HvonSpakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative Manager, Senior Legal Fellow

Jessica Anderson @JessAnderson2

Executive Director of Heritage Action for America

A sign notifies voters that a photo ID is required at the Clarke County Schools office polling location in Berryville, VA, on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018. Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

Key Takeaways

Trying to guarantee the fairness and integrity of the election process isn’t “rolling back access to voting,” as the Times put it.

The Times can’t admit that voter ID requirements are overwhelmingly supported by voters, no matter their race or the political party with which they are affiliated.

Transparency is essential to guaranteeing the democratic process and maintaining public confidence in the fairness of our elections.

Not surprisingly, The New York Times is pushing liberal talking points when it falsely asserts in an article from Tuesday that reforms by state legislatures to remedy the vulnerabilities in their election laws are “voting restrictions.”

Trying to guarantee the fairness and integrity of the election process, when polling shows a large number of Americans have lost confidence in the security of our system, isn’t “rolling back access to voting,” as the Times put it. It is ensuring that every eligible voter is able to vote, and that their vote isn’t stolen or diluted due to errors or fraud.

What does The New York Times categorize as a “voting restriction” that is “rolling back access to voting”? One example, according to the Times, is a new Arizona law just signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey that “requires the secretary of state to compare death records with voter registrations.”

If you want to make sure that fraudsters can take advantage of a registered voter who is deceased in order to submit a counterfeit ballot in that voter’s name, you could, we suppose, call this a “voting restriction.” But we bet that most people would think that “rolling back access to voting” by dead people is probably a good idea. 

Examples of this and other types of fraud, which the Times asserts is just “voter fraud dogma,” as if it doesn’t exist, can be found in The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database, which contains over 1,300 proven cases of fraud.

In 2020 in Paterson, New Jersey, and in 2018 in the 9th Congressional District of North Carolina, political operatives committed such massive voter fraud that judges ordered new elections. We doubt voters there believe election fraud is just “dogma.”

The Times credits our two organizations, The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action, and our list of election integrity best practices published Feb. 1, for some of the changes that Arizona adopted. This list of recommendations was based on years of research and experience in the administration of elections.

If Arizona followed our recommendation that states complete “monthly comparisons of the statewide voter registration list with … state vital records” to identify voters who are deceased, we are happy that they did so.

In fact, we hope Arizona and other states that are pursuing election reforms follow all of our recommendations, which are intended to ensure accurate, up-to-date voter registration lists.

That includes not just verifying and comparing voter registration lists with state death records. It also means doing the same thing with the databases maintained by state motor vehicle departments; state corrections departments (to check for felons whose ability to vote has been taken away); and state welfare and public assistance agencies, to find information relevant to registration, such as address changes, deaths, citizenship status, or other factors affecting eligibility.

When it comes to voter ID laws, the Times just can’t help itself in pushing the false and insulting liberal canard that such laws restrict access and prevent members of the public, particularly minority voters, from being able to vote. The Times can’t admit that voter ID requirements are overwhelmingly supported by voters, no matter their race or the political party with which they are affiliated.

Every state, including Georgia, that has put in a voter ID requirement provides a free ID to anyone who doesn’t already have one. Numerous studies, such as one released in 2019 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, have shown that ID laws do not “suppress” turnout, which is supported by more than 10 years of actual turnout data from states that have these laws in place.

That includes Georgia, where turnout—including of black and Hispanic voters—went up dramatically after a photo ID law became effective.

Of course, you wouldn’t know that, since The New York Times story claims that Georgia’s voter ID law was “ruled discriminatory in 2005.” What the paper of record fails to explain is that the only provision of Georgia’s ID law that a court didn’t like was a requirement that a voter sign a form declaring he was “indigent” in order to get the free ID.

The state quickly changed that so a voter can now simply request a free ID, a minor blip that made no substantive change in the ID law. 

The court then dismissed the claim that the ID law was discriminatory, pointing out that in two years of litigation pursued by Common Cause and the American Civil Liberties Union, were unable to produce a single Georgian who would “be prevented from voting” due to the ID requirement.

That is why it is dishonest for the Times—and other outlets such as CNN, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and a host of others—to keep pushing the false claim that requiring an ID for voting in-person or absentee, one of our basic recommendations that Georgia took up, is somehow “restrictive” or will prevent “access to voting.” 

Average Americans agree with us on this issue, no doubt because they need an ID almost every day to buy a beer, cash a check, buy a cold remedy at the pharmacy, board an airplane, and get vaccinated for COVID-19. 

The Times mischaracterizes many of our other recommendations, trying to cast them in a sinister light. It says our proposals include “preventing ballot collection.” The Times doesn’t want to explain that we seek only to prevent the collection of absentee ballots by political operatives, campaign staffers, and other strangers who have a stake in the outcome of the election.

Giving political operatives access to ballots puts them in a position to coerce and pressure voters and to change, alter, or fail to deliver a ballot. We fully support allowing family members and caregivers helping voters deliver their absentee ballots, but giving third-party strangers—vote traffickers—that ability is a reckless, dangerous policy.

It is true that we want to give greater access to election observers, but why in the world would the Times think that is somehow a “restriction” or a “rollback” of voting rights?

The Times says we want to give greater access to “partisan” election observers. But the reporters must have missed the sentence where we say states should provide complete access to observers from “political parties, candidates, and third-party organizations”—that includes supposedly non-partisan “news” organizations such as the Times.

Transparency is essential to guaranteeing the democratic process and maintaining public confidence in the fairness of our elections. That is why our State Department is constantly sending observer teams to countries all around the world and why every state has laws allowing observers.

Apparently, the Times disagrees with that and thinks elections should be conducted under a veil of secrecy. While that may be true with regard to the secrecy of the ballot, it should not be true of any other part of an election.

The goal of our best practices recommendations is to ensure access to the polls for every eligible citizen, and a fair and secure voting and counting process that minimizes errors, mistakes, and fraud. We want a system in which the public trusts the outcome of every election, even when the favored candidate loses.

It is unfortunate that The New York Times doesn’t seem to have the same goal.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal.