Liptak suggests the potential for litigation if an election is close:
If the contests next month are close enough to be within what election lawyers call the margin of litigation, the grounds on which they will be fought will not be hanging chads but ballots cast away from the voting booth.The beginning of the article nudges us to think that the problem is that honest people are tripped up and disenfranchised and that states are somehow causing more people to take the absentee approach to voting and are therefore responsible for these mistakes. Liptak doesn't sketch out any legal argument that would go with that problem. And if you read far enough down in the article, you see that the real problem is fraud:
Election administrators have a shorthand name for a central weakness of voting by mail. They call it granny farming.In the end, Liptak shifts to the much-discussed topic of voter ID laws, which are aimed at in-person voter fraud — the less likely type of fraud. If voting in person becomes more difficult, more people may switch to absentee form of voting, and there will be more fraud, Liptak tells us, the opposite of what is supposedly intended.
“The problem,” said Murray A. Greenberg, a former county attorney in Miami, “is really with the collection of absentee ballots at the senior citizen centers.” In Florida, people affiliated with political campaigns “help people vote absentee,” he said. “And help is in quotation marks.”
Voters in nursing homes can be 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.
The problem is not limited to the elderly, of course. Absentee ballots also make it much easier to buy and sell votes. In recent years, courts have invalidated mayoral elections in Illinois and Indiana because of fraudulent absentee ballots.
I don't know if Liptak is going to change anyone's mind about voter ID laws — which I suspect is the main purpose of this article. But he did make me feel terrible about absentee voter fraud. Let's crack down on it! Making in-person voting easier isn't going to help much. Those nursing home targets aren't going to stop voting absentee.