Froomkin, who recently wrote that he felt “there is a limit” to impartiality when it comes to reporting on voter ID laws, gleefully reported that this new study by News21 — a journalist-in-training program funded by liberal foundations — proves that a desire to protect against identity theft at the ballot box is “utterly baseless.”
Reading past the big claim that the group allegedly found only ten cases of “voter impersonation” since 2000 the effort put forth by News21 in compiling the report seems like something that one would expect from a bunch of college students. That’s technically OK because it was compiled by a bunch of college students.
The problem that remains is that the News21 report is still being trumpeted by others who should know better as a justification for the Obama Administration and its leftist supporters to try to lay waste to very popular and democratically-enacted polling place protections in 37 states.
In Froomkin’s assault on objective journalism, he claimed that “[f]or reporters to treat this issue like just another political squabble is journalistic malpractice” and “failing to call out the voter ID push is like covering the civil rights movements and treating ‘separate but equal’ as if it was said with sincerity.”
While it would be nice to think of Froomkin as a member of the radical fringe whose rant is well outside the journalistic mainstream, it would instead seem that he’s one of the few in his profession who is willing to play it straight with readers.
Consider how the Washington Post reported the study in its August 12 edition. There is no challenge to the validity of the report itself or even defense of voter ID laws in general. What is the reason for the one-sided reporting? Perhaps it was because the article about the New21 report is written by the authors of the report! It’s essentially a press release for News21 on page A3 of the biggest newspaper in the nation’s capital.
Yes, the Post is a “media partner” with News21. Yes, former Post executive editor Len Downie is now a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University where News21 is headquartered. But that hardly means that the Post should become a giant national refrigerator upon which C-level work is prominently posted.
Also, shouldn’t the Post, as a courtesy to its readers, fully disclosure Downie’s ties to News21?
How did News21 create what the authors call an “exhaustive” and “comprehensive” database? How did they construct an apparently infallible case that opponents of showing an ID at the polls can now claim proves that the same practice of showing ID that is common and accepted while traveling, banking, going to will call, entering a government building, buying certain age-restricted items and many everyday activities should not be applied to something as important as voting?
News21 sent out letters. Essentially, they politely asked for public officials to send them all of their examples they had of election fraud.
News21 reportedly spent $1,800 sending out over 2,000 public records requests to various state and local election boards. So they got over 2,000 replies for the database, right? “No.” Many states — including Massachusetts, South Dakota and Oklahoma — sent back nothing at all.
Additionally, the “sidebar” included with the News21 report noted many barriers to establishing a truly complete study:
[I]t is possible that some jurisdictions which did respond failed to include some cases.
Despite the huge News21 public-records request effort, the team received no useful responses from several states.
Hundreds of officials responded with short notes — some handwritten, even coffee-stained — saying they had no cases of fraud.
Some jurisdictions insisted that their computer system lacked the capability to search for election fraud cases.
Dozens of jurisdictions flatly refused the requests.
For nearly all the data News21 received, there would be some vital piece of information that had been requested specifically but that was missing.
[T]here are cases in the database that contain so little detail that they cannot be properly categorized as one kind of fraud or another.
Beyond that, it’s still “comprehensive,” “exhaustive” and “the most extensive collection of U.S. election fraud cases ever compiled.”
And they used what replies they did receive and could use and all of the Googling and Lexis/Nexising they could handle to claim with confidence that “[w]ith 146 million registered voters in the United States… those ten cases represent one out of every 15 million prospective voters” who were disfranchised.
So they have a database that is riddled with incomplete and bad data, but they can apparently say with certainty that there were only ten real cases of ghost voters stealing away other people’s votes nationwide?
Wow. These are supposed to be among the best journalism students in America.
Then again, the George Soros-funded Brennan Center, another oft-cited opponent of voter ID protections, is supposed to have some of the best legal minds in America on it’s staff. However, other legal scholars such as Hans von Spakovsky and Alex Ingram of the Heritage Foundation fault the Brennan Center for pursuing research against voter ID protections “that advance a particular political agenda rather than the truth about voter identification” and Christian Schneider of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute said Brennan Center research “doesn’t even withstand even the most cursory scrutiny.”
To little surprise, News21 sought out a Brennan Center lawyer as an expert to comment on voter ID issues — in particular, to downplay the effects of absentee ballot fraud.
And media, such as the Huffington Post, were happy to cite the News21 study as a way of backing up Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin’s wild on-line assertions that voter ID proponents are “oligarchs and racists” with “scant regard for our republic and its values.” (A new Washington Post poll found 74 percent of Americans apparently don’t share Martin’s perceived values of our republic.)
To the opponents of voter ID, which seems to be many in the media, it all seems to be a matter of what — right or wrong — one brings to the table that raises one’s prominence and validity the end justifies the means.
Consider another whopping generality that can be found in the News21 report. Authors Natasha Khan and Corbin Carson swallow a previously-told big conjecture about voter ID in Pennsylvania. In their report, they write:
According to Pennsylvania’s Department of State and the Department of Transportation, as many as 758,000 people, about 9 percent of the state’s 8.2 million registered voters currently don’t have the identification that now will be required at the polling place.
What they fail to point out is that the release of the figures from the Pennsylvania Department of State came with a few qualifiers, namely:
This list also does not take into account voters without PennDOT identification who have other acceptable forms of identification. Such other acceptable forms include identification from accredited Pennsylvania colleges or universities, Pennsylvania care facilities, military identification, valid U.S. passports, other photo identification issued by the federal or Pennsylvania government or employee identification issued by the federal, Pennsylvania or a county or municipal government.
There are also 167,566 “inactive voters” on the Pennsylvania voter list who have not voted since 2007 and may have moved or died. Furthermore, “an individual who is registered to vote as Jon Smith but whose driver’s license name is Jonathan Smith, would not show as a match, and be reported as not having a PennDOT ID number.”
Once again, there are more big buts in the News21 claim than in a Sir Mix-a-Lot video. However, using the qualifier “as much as” makes it sound much more ominous and allows News21 to use the larger and scarier number. It’s just like if supporters of voter ID were to add up the millions of voters in states without voter ID protections and claim that “as many as” that number are at risk of having their votes stolen.
It’s doubtful, however, that the Froomkins or the Downies of the American journalism establishment would allow that assertion to go unchallenged.
To the group’s credit, News21 does cite problems related to abuse of the voter registration process and the problem of fraudulent votes being cast through absentee ballots. While it is true that voter ID laws do not deal with these particular problems, the News21 report goes beyond objectivity by making excuses for actual and improper polling place behavior that could be remedied by voter ID protections.
For example, the report mentions an Ohio voter named Claudel Gilbert who voted at two polling places in 2006 because he had moved and thought the two voter registration cards he had meant that he needed to vote at those two separate polling places. Had voter lists been “cleaned” of those who died and moved (something the left is also against) and Gilbert was required to show an ID at his legitimate polling place, there might not have been this incident of illegal double-voting.
People convicted of felonies who vote despite the fact they have lost their voting privileges is also considered an honest mistake by News21 rather than a violation. In Virginia, a three-and-a-half year Virginia State Police investigation involving over 400 allegations of election fraud in 62 localities involving felon voting led to 38 people charged as of this past April. Many of the felons charged — and it was reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the majority of the cases ended in convictions — said they were solicited to vote by other people related to shadowy voter advocacy groups.
So illegal ballots were cast. But they seem to have gotten a pass by the comprehensive News21 analysis because they were snookered into it by someone else (and the status of most of the 20 “registration fraud, casting ineligible vote” entries in the News21 database were listed as “unknown”).
Curiously, the most recent and most persuasive case for voter ID protections was not mentioned at all.
While the News21 report did mention conservative activist James O’Keefe for his hidden-camera sting of ACORN (in the context that ACORN — which is now defunct — was involved in several voter registration fraud convictions), it was not mentioned that later hidden-camera videos uploaded by O’Keefe’s Project Veritas show how easy it is to obtain ballots when ID requirements are not in place.
During this year’s New Hampshire presidential primary, Project Veritas activists obtained access to the ballots of at least nine recently-deceased residents. When the issue of a lack of ID was raised by the cameraman, poll workers explained no ID was needed and continued to offer the ballots (the cameraman would then leave without the ballot). Last year, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch (D) vetoed a photo ID bill. Overriding another Lynch veto this past June, the New Hampshire legislature passed photo ID protections for voting (enforcement of the law is still under a “preclearance” hold by the U.S. Department of Justice).
In Washington, D.C., a Project Veritas activist similarly walked into a polling place on the day of the D.C. presidential primary and was offered the ballot of Obama Administration Attorney General Eric Holder — a strong opponent of photo ID — by simply giving the name and address for Holder. And they did not send in an Eric Holder impersonator. The activist was white, and Holder is black!
News21 mentions neither instance. Technically, the Project Veritas activists never violated the law (despite the cries of the left that there is no voter fraud, however, they did want O’Keefe prosecuted for breaking the law), but it was clearly an attempt at “voter impersonation” that would have succeeded but for the fact that those perpetrating it never intended to fully follow-through on their ruse.
Therein lies the inherent flaw with the leftist campaign against polling place protections. Stealing a vote at the polls is perhaps the hardest form of voter fraud to find: what’s suspicious about a person who politely walks into a busy polling place, calmly votes and leaves? With hundreds or thousands of people waiting to vote on a busy Election Day, not much time is afforded to processing voters.
With the left protesting the cleaning of voter lists of those who no longer live at addresses to which they are registered or living at all presents a big temptation to those who might want to commit voter identity theft. Voting the ballot of someone known to not have voted yet is another temptation.
Asking someone to present an ID to say they are who they say they are is a very simple way to prove one’s identity and relieves the strain on harried poll workers. But, according to people such as Dan Froomkin, that’s like giving “separate but equal” discrimination a fair shake.
Is every voter verified after the election? Of course not. The fact that News21 got handwritten, coffee-stained replies from election officials and an incomplete database is proof of that. So consider News21’s bombshell finding a dud.