From October 6 through October 15, CNN aired at least 54 segments mentioning allegations that ACORN submitted allegedly false or duplicate voter registration applications this year in a number of states. However, only one of those segments mentioned both of the following two relevant points: 1) that the statutes of most of those states require third parties registering prospective voters to submit all registration forms they receive; and 2) that actual instances of illegal votes being cast as a result of registration fraud are extremely rare. Of the 54 CNN segments addressing the allegations against ACORN, two mentioned only the former of those two points, while one mentioned just the latter.
The headline reads, "Experts warn of Nov. 4 voting meltdowns," and the article is about all the new voters being put on the rolls and whether states, especially Ohio and Florida will be able to handle the stress on Election Day.
But it turns out the only ones warning about a "meltdown" are editors at Politico. Because none of the experts quoted in the story use that kind of doomsday language.
Instead, most sound like Kimball Brace, from Election Data Services, which advises local government on election administration. Brace told Politico, "There's still reason to be concerned in terms of what's going to take place in November."
That's a long way from "meltdown" talk. This seems to be a case of editors pushing a provocative theme that reporters haven't quite nailed down.
Media outlets have revived the cyclical practice of highlighting allegations by conservatives of voter fraud, and the primary target of most recent allegations appears to be ACORN, over reports that some people hired by ACORN have submitted false or redundant registration forms. The media are devoting great attention to these charges, even though in past election cycles, charges of voter fraud have largely proven empty.
On World News, Jake Tapper reported on "accusations of voter fraud" against ACORN workers, noting that "ACORN officials said the primary problem isn't a few phony names on voter registrations, but real voters being prevented from casting their ballots." But World News did not report on the indictment of former RNC official James Tobin and in the past two weeks has not aired any reports on the issue of voter suppression.
Fox News' Dick Morris baselessly accused ACORN of "committing voter fraud." In fact, ACORN does not stand accused of "committing voter fraud," and Morris did not point to any allegations that ACORN has engaged in voter fraud.
In a report on ACORN's voter registration drives, CNN's Drew Griffin asked an ACORN official: "[W]hy is the deputy city commissioner of Philadelphia telling me that ACORN is hiring recovering alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless people, who are so desperate to get money that they know that, if they don't make their quota, they just fill in any old name?" After the official responded, "That is not the point," Griffin asked: "But has it presented itself as a problem to ACORN? Wouldn't ACORN like to run a nice, clean, smooth voter registration drive?"
To us, the stories have the same ring as the McCain "comeback" narrative, and that the press seems more interested in injecting some missing drama into the campaign (Obama could still lose!), than advancing real news stories.
The problem, as illustrated by the ABC story, is that despite the breathless headlines, there's very little that's news to substantiate the Bradley effect narrative, which is named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American, who he ran for California governor in 1982 and lost, despite pre-Election Day polls showing him with a comfortable lead. The theory was that voters mislead pollsters about whether they would vote for a minority candidate.
The issue is a legitimate one for debate and discussion. It's just that in terms of the press presenting it as a burning news issue right now, there were few if any examples of The Bradley effect during the very long primary season. Polling pro's say there hasn't been a clear example of the Bradley effect in decades. And the Obama campaign claims the notion is absurd:
"I think this is a completely overblown story," said Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, saying concerns about hidden racism skewing polling data are "ridiculous."
Despite the lack of empirical evidence, the Bradley effect lives on, fueling anxiety and nervousness among many Democrats that Obama's lead will disappear on Election Day.
Updating our earlier tally, since Friday, Fox News had mentioned the community organizing group at least 556 times, according to TVeyes.com.
Let's put that in perspective and help illustrate just how obsessively over-the-top the Fox News coverage has become.
*Number of times CNN has mentioned ACORN since Friday: 67
*Number of times Fox News has mentioned Joe Biden since Friday: 130
*Number of times Fox News has mentioned Sarah Palin since Friday: 541
*Number of times Fox News has mentioned ACORN since Friday: 556
The relatively straight-forward question seems to be alluding lots or reporters this week. Especially ones employed by Rupert Murdoch.
In a lengthy media analysis, the Brad Blog looks at how conservatives online are whipping themselves into a frenzy over a story that may be less than what it appears:
Those who wish to believe in the hoax, however, attempt to link to article after article about allegations of voter fraud carried out by ACORN. And yet, the articles themselves
if one bothers to actually read them
reveal that either 1) They describe allegations and investigations brought by Republican agents, with little or no evidence of any wrong doing, and certainly no "voter fraud" 2) Where voter registration fraud has occurred it has been by rogue ACORN employees, originally reported to authorities by ACORN themselves (who are the actual victims of any such fraud by their employees), or 3) Smoke and mirrors are used to cloud the fact that not a single fraudulent vote has actually been cast by anyone.
The AP and CNN reported that Sen. Barack Obama represented ACORN in a 1995 lawsuit against the state of Illinois but did not mention that the Justice Department was also a plaintiff in the case, along with the League of Women Voters of Illinois and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The lawsuit sought to require that Illinois implement federal law on voter registration.
The Wall Street Journal asserted that Sen. Barack Obama's "kind of organizers work at Acorn, the militant advocacy group that is turning up in reports about voter fraud across the country." The editorial cited as evidence reports that ACORN submitted allegedly false or duplicate voter registration applications this year in Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Connecticut, and Texas. But the editorial did not note that the statutes of at least nine of those 11 states require third parties registering prospective voters to submit to election officials all registration forms they received -- even those they believed to be false or duplicate applications.
Matt Drudge is hyping a report that Orange County, Florida rejected a voter registration form filled out in the name of "Mickey Mouse":
Drudge's sensationalist headlines aside, this isn't evidence of a problem with ACORN; it is evidence of the system working. Elections officials rejected an apparently illegitimate registration form.
Drudge suggests ACORN did something wrong in submitting the registration form in the first place. But ACORN shouldn't be in the position of deciding which registrations are legitimate and which are not; that's why we have elections officials. There are two clear problems with placing that burden on a private organization.
First, private organizations shouldn't make decisions about which forms are submitted because there would be too much potential for wrongdoing in such a scenario - an organization shredding voter registration forms for people attempting to register in the "wrong" party, for example.
Second, it may seem obvious that some forms are illegitimate. That's Drudge's point here - Hahahaha, they tried to register Mickey Mouse! Fools! But here's the thing: there are 32 people named "Mickey Mouse" listed in the White Pages nationwide, including two in Florida:
Now, that doesn't mean the registration form in question was legitimate. It probably wasn't. After all, elections officials tossed it. (Which, again, means that the system worked, and no illegal ballot was cast.)
What it does show is that in a nation of 300 million people, there are a lot of names. Some of them might seem funny to Matt Drudge. Some of them might seem obviously fake to Matt Drudge. That doesn't mean they are. That's why election officials, not ACORN or Matt Drudge, should make that determination.
UPDATE: On MSNBC, NBC deputy political director Mark Murray just referred to "Harry Potter" and "Han Solo" as other obviously fake names. There are 77 Harry Potters in the White Pages. No Han Solos, but there is a Hans Solo. And 8 Luke Skywalkers. This is really simple: You cannot tell that a voter registration form is illegitimate based solely on the name.
Fox News' Megyn Kelly mocked ACORN's statement that it was required under Florida law to submit a voter registration form filed under the name "Mickey Mouse" to the Orange County, Florida, board of elections. In fact, Florida law calls for entities withholding voter registration forms to face a fine of $1,000 for each registration they withhold.
FNC has gone all in on the ACORN voter registration story in recent days. Since Friday, Fox News has mentioned the community organizing group 342 times, according to TVeyes.com. (That's compared to the 61 mentions on CNN.)
Here's a glimpse of what Fox News' ACORN-mania looked like on Monday.
In an interview with Sen. John McCain, Fox News' Sean Hannity misstated Sen. Barack Obama's position on defense spending, then invited McCain to criticize Obama for proposing to "slow the development of Future Combat Systems" without noting that the McCain campaign itself has said that program "should be ended."