The sky still isn't falling: Doocy and Hillyer push right-wing conspiracy theory about Illinois military votes
Blog ››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN
Fox & Friends wants to know: Man, why does Illinois hate our soldiers so much that they want to disenfranchise their vote? And, could it be that they love prisoners more?
No, Steve Doocy and guest Quin Hillyer. They don't, and they don't.
In an especially misleading chapter of the ongoing saga of several states' failure to send out all military ballots on time, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy today brought Washington Times editorial writer Quin Hillyer on to the show to push one of the most outrageous "voter fraud" conspiracy theories yet. Seizing on the story that 35 Illinois counties failed to mail absentee ballots to service members overseas on time, Doocy and Hillyer suggest that Cook County officials, the Illinois Board of Elections, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Obama administration are in some kind of conspiracy to steal the election by robbing soldiers of their votes and giving them to felons instead. Grab the popcorn, cause this will take a few minutes.
From the October 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
DOOCY: In the state of Illinois, 35 counties -- 35 -- have missed a deadline to deliver ballots overseas to our soldiers who are currently serving. But guess who did get their ballots in on time? Inmates. That's right. The Chicago Board of Elections hand-delivered ballots and applications to Cook County jail inmates. So, are inmates taking priority over American soldiers? Quin Hillyer is a senior editorial writer at the Washington Times. Good morning to you, Quin.
HILLYER: Good morning, Steve. How you doing?
DOOCY: I'm doing okay. But you gotta be kidding me. This is crazy.
HILLYER: It's awful, but what it comes down to is felons vote, soldiers don't. At least, that seems to be the attitude in Cook County Illinois, and also, frankly, from the U.S. Justice Department.
DOOCY: I understand that the Chicago Board of Elections hand-delivered 2600 ballots to Cook County jail inmates, which is -- coincidentally, 2600, the same number of ballots that are supposed to be delivered to men and women serving overseas.
HILLYER: From -- just from that area, yes indeed.
Doocy and Hillyer then discuss electronic voting for overseas soldiers. Doocy suggests that, due to how Illinois processes online votes, "somebody is going to look at [the soldier's ballot], a local official, and they are going to have to manually write it down on a ballot, and if crazy anything happens it could be right there." Hillyer agrees, saying, "The military might not actually have their preferences correctly identified." Doocy concludes sarcastically, "I'm sure the Cook County officials would not -- 'Ooo, woo, there's one for the D.'"
Finally, Doocy asks Hillyer, "Do you think there's a political thing here going on with the Department of Justice in the Obama administration because generally a lot of military personnel vote for Republicans rather than Democrats?" Hillyer responds, "Whereas felons tend to vote for Democrats, apparently."
Okay. Let's tackle this one claim at a time, since there's a lot that's wrong here.
First: what's with giving criminals ballots? Well, in the state of Illinois, it's not illegal for a person in a jail cell to vote. It is, however, illegal for incarcerated felons to vote, according to a March 2010 report from the Sentencing Project. So those casting ballots from the Cook County jail have either been convicted of misdemeanors or haven't been convicted of any crime yet, as they're awaiting trial. Hillyer's claim that "felons vote" just isn't true.
As to the fact that Cook County election officials had fewer logistical problems distributing ballots to a group of individuals located in Cook County, as compared to those thousands of miles away, that's not conspiracy -- it's self-explanatory.
Now, let's move on to the story of the delay in sending military ballots. Doocy is correct that 35 counties in Illinois failed to mail their military ballots on time.
But he and Hillyer are not correct that the Department of Justice is doing little or nothing to protect soldiers' votes, and there's no evidence that any of these soldiers won't have a chance to cast their ballots in time to be counted. In fact, the Department of Justice reviewed the cases in Illinois and gave an extension to soldiers overseas whose ballots were mailed over 16 days late, according to an October 22 article in the Chicago Tribune. An October 25 article about the DoJ decision on FoxNews.com complains that the Department of Justice didn't do enough, stating that the decision "gave voters from six of those counties a few extra days" but "did not specifically address the other 29 counties."
But, if you read past the article's misleading headline and first few paragraphs, the FoxNews.com article actually tells the reader exactly why the other 29 counties didn't get an extension. From the article (emphasis added):
The deadline to send out ballots, which 35 counties missed, was Sept. 18. For six counties where ballots were sent out between 16 and 20 days late, the agreement extends the deadline to receive ballots from Nov. 16 by two to three days. For those counties, the deadline to postmark the ballots moves from Nov. 1 to Nov. 2.
But the agreement does not offer a specific remedy for the 29 counties where ballots were mailed out between two and 12 days late. It instead includes a section that says election officials must mail out, either electronically or by express mail, "properly and timely requested" ballots they learn were not transmitted -- and then accept Nov. 2-postmarked ballots until Nov. 19. The decree also orders officials to make sure all requested electronic ballots are sent out.
Justice spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said the 29 counties did not get extra time because they already have 14 extra days after the election for their ballots to be received. She said the ballots will get to them in time and if any voter's on-time ballot is not counted, "we can file a lawsuit."
In other words, the 29 counties that sent their ballots out between two and 12 days late won't get an extension because the Illinois Board of Elections will already count ballots they receive up to 14 days after the election, which is Nov. 16. And, as per the Fox article, any ballots not already sent by these counties must be mailed to overseas soldiers by express mail, and these must be accepted up until Nov. 19. Finally, the MOVE Act, which had bipartisan support and was passed as part of the Defense Authorization Act of 2010, allows service members to request and receive ballots over the Internet, which can then be submitted through either regular mail or email, depending on the state. According to an October 20 article from the Army's website, the MOVE Act "requires all states to provide blank absentee ballots in at least one electronic format -- email, an online ballot delivery system or fax -- at least 45 days before an election."
As for Doocy and Hillyer's claims that electronic voting will be hijacked by election officials, this is completely baseless. It's fair to raise concerns about Internet voting in general -- as many have -- but it's simply fearmongering for Doocy and Hillyer to preemptively suggest ballot tampering by election officials.
So, to conclude, felons aren't voting, and Illinois military members who received their ballots more than 14 days late can submit them several days later, as compared to all other military members, whose votes will be counted as long as they are received by the Board of Elections within 14 days of the election, and who, in every state, can either vote online or request a ballot online.
Nobody wants our men and women in uniform to be disenfranchised. That's why we're glad the Department of Justice is making their best effort to make sure it's not happening.