A steady stream of last-minute voters put ballots into the dropbox in Pioneer Square in downtown Portland. (Photo by John Rudoff/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

On Tuesday morning, The New York Times ran a story detailing how Republican bad-mouthing of voting by mail may have cost the party several key close races. In Arizona, for instance, the election-denying gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake trashed early voting, including voting from home and depositing ballots at dropboxes, and encouraged her supporters to vote on Election Day. When lines grew at polling places because of technical glitches, some conservative voters refused to place their ballots in dropboxes. Democratic voters, by contrast, were urged by their party to vote early by mail, which they did in droves. That allowed Democratic campaigns to focus their get-out-the-vote efforts on a much smaller universe of potential voters. The Times reports that a similar dynamic played out in other states and may have made a difference in the crucial, razor-thin Senate race in Nevada and the GOP’s narrow loss of the Michigan state legislature. 

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I’m glad the Times published this important story, but the paper should have seen it coming. The Monthly has been arguing for years that while mail voting is a tool that doesn’t necessarily help one party or the other, the party that utilizes it fully will likely have an advantage over one that doesn’t. “It is increasingly clear that vote by mail boosts election participation and that whichever party does the most to convince its voters to utilize mail ballots will have an edge in November,” the Monthly’s editor in chief, Paul Glastris, wrote in August. “This idea that vote by mail is a form of voting that inherently advantages Democrats is just flat wrong … It is a mode of voting that creates opportunities for political parties to mobilize their supporters,” the political scientist Charles Mann told the Monthly’s Will Norris in September. Norris added, “In 2022, it’s Democrats who are seizing those opportunities.” Last Friday on SiriusXM radio, before the Arizona races were called, Glastris made precisely the argument that the Times hesitated to make until after the results were known. I can appreciate why the Times thought it needed to wait for more evidence. But it’s not like Times reporters never indulge in speculation—see their recent “coming red wave” stories that turned out to be wrong. And in the case of vote by mail, they failed to alert readers to a hugely important and quite plausible scenario that turned out—as far as we can tell—to be true. 

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Matthew Cooper 

Executive Editor, Digital

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Follow Matthew on Twitter @mattizcoop. Matthew Cooper is Executive Editor Digital at the Washington Monthly. He is also a contributing editor of the magazine and a veteran reporter who has covered politics and the White House for Time, The New Republic, Washingtonian, National Journal and many other publications.