On Special Report, correspondent Anita Vogel falsely claimed that ballot initiatives proposed by Democrats on the distribution of California's electoral votes would "protect the current process." In fact, the initiatives would change the "current process" if enacted by California and other states.
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On the August 23 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox News correspondent Anita Vogel -- reporting on a ballot initiative proposed by the Republican-backed organization Californians for Equal Representation that would "divid[e] [California's] electoral votes among the winners of the state's individual congressional districts" -- falsely described Democratic alternatives as initiatives that would "protect the current process." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, either of the alternative initiatives proposed by Democrats would also change the "current process" if enacted by California and other states.
Vogel stated that "opponents have vowed to do whatever it takes to defeat the measure, including crafting their own initiative to protect the current process." However, if California voters approve either of the two initiatives backed by Democrats (here and here), the state would enter into a "voting compact" with other states requiring members to award their electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote if "states cumulatively possessing a majority of electoral votes have enacted this agreement in substantially the same form."
This is not the first time Fox News has misrepresented the debate on the California initiative as being between those who want to change the current system and those who oppose change. As Media Matters documented, during Vogel's report on the issue on the August 23 edition of Fox News Live, on-screen text identified Californians for Equal Representation spokesman Kevin Eckery as "pro-reform" and former Democratic National Committee trustee director Ari Swiller as "anti-reform." In Vogel's segment on Special Report, Eckery and Swiller were identitifed as "initiative supporter" and "initiative opponent," respectively.
From the August 23 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: A controversial political reform plan, so called, headed for California's state ballot next June would allocate the state's electoral votes in a new way. The proposal -- excuse me -- has Republican support, but opponents say it would mean a Democrat could never be elected president. Correspondent Anita Vogel explains.
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SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): Thank you, California.
VOGEL: California is a terrific fundraising resource for presidential campaigns. But it's also rich in electoral votes, 55 to be exact, more than any other state in the nation, and one-fifth of the number needed to win the White House. Now some Californians want to drop the winner-take-all system currently in place, in favor of dividing the electoral votes among the winners of the state's individual congressional districts.
ECKERY: The main ramification is that the next presidential election is going to have a fairer outcome. I think that when you look at, "How can you get more people to the polls, how can you make people's vote count?" that this is just one terrific way to do that.
VOGEL: The campaign to put this issue on the June 2008 ballot and make it effective for November's election is being spearheaded by a group of California Republicans, and critics, mostly Democrats, say that's an important distinction.
SWILLER: This is not a fair election to just do it in one big state that's a Democratic-leaning state. It's a Republican power grab to just move 20 Electoral College votes into their column.
VOGEL: With current district divisions, 20 electoral votes is about the most a Republican candidate could expect to pick up in California, more than enough to swing an election. If this plan had been in effect in 2004, President Bush could have been awarded as many as 22 of the 55 electoral votes and would not have needed Ohio to win re-election. And if California voters buy it, the way we elect our presidents could undergo a dramatic shift.
HAL DASH (political consultant): When California does something, whether it's politics or the environment, it has a ripple effect all over the country.
VOGEL: Early polling suggests support for the idea, but backers need to collect nearly half a million signatures to get it on the ballot. And opponents have vowed to do whatever it takes to defeat the measure, including crafting their own initiative to protect the current process.
In Los Angeles, Anita Vogel, Fox News.