Conservative media raise ACORN bogeyman to baselessly cast doubt on Franken's campaign victory

››› ››› ADAM SHAH

The Fox Nation, Gateway Pundit blog, and Mickey Kaus all highlighted a Minneapolis Star Tribune column to claim or suggest that ACORN stole the 2008 Minnesota Senate election for Sen. Al Franken (D). In fact, the column -- which Gateway Pundit and Kaus falsely claimed was a Star Tribune "report" or "story" -- did not contain a single allegation of a fraudulently cast vote, and the Minnesota Supreme Court stated that counsel for Franken's 2008 opponent, Norm Coleman, "confirmed at oral argument that Coleman makes no claim of fraud on the part of either voters or election officials."

Media cite Star Tribune columnist to tie ACORN bogeyman to Franken victory

Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten: "Did ACORN folks pull some fast ones to help get their favorite son Franken elected?" Kersten wrote: "Here in Minnesota, ACORN has boasted of playing a major role in the 2008 elections. It claims to have registered 43,000 new voters, which it describes as 75 percent of the state's new registrations. Franken's margin of victory in the Senate race was razor-thin: 312 votes out of about 3 million cast. And Minnesota's laws on proof of voter eligibility are notoriously loose." Kersten added: "Did ACORN folks pull some fast ones to help get their favorite son Franken elected -- a win that handed Democrats the 60-vote, veto-proof majority that they needed to enact their liberal agenda? Secretary of State Mark Ritchie assures us that Minnesota's system of voter verification protects electoral integrity. But here's an uncomfortable fact: Ritchie himself was endorsed by the now-notorious ACORN and elected with its help." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/26/09]

Gateway Pundit: "Figures. ACORN Was Behind Franken's Stolen Senate Seat." Following Kersten's column, GatewayPundit.com posted a piece with the headline, "Figures. ACORN Was Behind Franken's Stolen Senate Seat." The post falsely claimed that Kersten's opinion piece constituted a Star Tribune "report." The post stated, "Here's a shocker. ACORN may have helped Al Franken steal the US senate seat from Minnesota." It then added, "The Minnesot [sic] Star-Tribune reported," and then quoted extensively from Kersten's piece. [GatewayPundit.com, 9/28/09]

Fox Nation: "New Questions About ACORN Role in Franken's Victory." From a Fox Nation headline linking to Kersten's column:

foxnationfranken

Mickey Kaus: "Did ACORN chicanery elect Al Franken? That's the import of this tactfully phrased Minneapolis Star Tribune story." On his Slate.com blog, Kausfiles, Mickey Kaus linked to Kersten's column, which he falsely claimed was a "Minneapolis Star Tribune story," and stated: "Did ACORN chicanery elect Al Franken? That's the import of this tactfully phrased Minneapolis Star Tribune story. Franken won by 312 votes. ACORN claimed to have registered 48,000 new Minnesota voters. If just 1% were ineligible but cast ballots, or had ballots cast for them illegally, and survived the recount process ... that's 480 votes, almost certainly overwhelmingly cast for Franken. ... Maybe in pristine Minnesota even ACORN is clean. If so, the state would apparently be an outlier." [Kausfiles, 9/28/09]

Star Tribune column does not contain a single allegation of a fraudulently cast vote

Star Tribune column contains no allegations about fraudulently cast votes in Minnesota. Kersten's column acknowledges that in Minnesota, ACORN "has so far been able to keep its nose relatively clean." Kersten does not point to any allegations that any vote was fraudulently cast in Minnesota. Indeed, she states that "Secretary of State Mark Ritchie assures us that Minnesota's system of voter verification protects electoral integrity." She then added, "But here's an uncomfortable fact: Ritchie himself was endorsed by the now-notorious ACORN and elected with its help."

Column highlights allegations of fraudulent registration in Minnesota and other states, not fraudulent votes. Rather than point to any evidence of fraudulently cast votes, Kersten highlighted allegations of voter registration fraud in Minnesota and other states. For instance, Kersten stated: "In October 2008, ACORN announced triumphantly that it had registered about 1.3 million new voters in 18 battleground states, among them Minnesota. A few weeks later, however, the director of Project Vote -- an ACORN affiliate -- acknowledged to the New York Times that election officials had rejected about 400,000 of those, for reasons including duplicate registrations, incomplete forms and (in the Times' words) 'fraudulent submissions from low-paid field workers trying to please their supervisors.' "

Justice Department statistics do not support suggestion that fraudulent registrations lead to fraudulent votes. As Media Matters for America has documented, during the 2008 election, media frequently reported Republican charges that ACORN was engaged in "voter fraud," echoing charges of voter fraud Republicans had made in previous elections. In fact, while a 2005 Senate Republican Policy Committee paper claimed, "[v]oter fraud continues to plague our nation's federal elections, diluting and canceling out the lawful votes of the vast majority of Americans," Justice Department statistics indicate that few actual instances of voter fraud have been prosecuted in recent years. According to a report by the Justice Department's Criminal Division of prosecutions between October 2002 and September 2005, the Justice Department charged 95 people with "election fraud" and convicted 55. Among those, however, just 17 individuals were convicted for casting fraudulent ballots; cases against three other individuals were pending at the time of the report. In addition, the Justice Department convicted one election official of submitting fraudulent ballots and convicted five individuals of registration fraud, with cases against 12 individuals pending at the time of the report. Thirty-two individuals were convicted of other "election fraud" issues, including people convicted of offenses arising from "a scheme to block the phone lines used by two Manchester [New Hampshire] organizations to arrange drives to the polls during the 2002 general election" -- in other words, these convictions were connected to voter suppression efforts, not voter fraud. Several other people listed in the report were convicted of vote buying.

NYU's Brennan Center: "[W]e are aware of no recent substantiated case in which registration fraud has resulted in fraudulent votes being cast." From a 2007 report by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice:

There have been several documented and widely publicized instances in which registration forms have been fraudulently completed and submitted. But it is extraordinarily difficult to find reported cases in which individuals have submitted registration forms in someone else's name in order to impersonate them at the polls. Furthermore, most reports of registration fraud do not actually claim that the fraud happens so that ineligible people can vote at the polls. Indeed, we are aware of no recent substantiated case in which registration fraud has resulted in fraudulent votes being cast.

Coleman challenged vote count but did not make a single allegation of vote fraud

Minnesota Supreme Court stated that Coleman did not make any allegations of vote fraud. In its decision rejecting Coleman's appeal of the decision declaring Franken the winner of the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, the Minnesota Supreme Court stated that "[n]o claim of fraud in the election or during the recount was made by either party" and that "Coleman's counsel confirmed at oral argument that Coleman makes no claim of fraud on the part of either voters or election officials."

St. Paul Pioneer Press: Experts said there was a "lack of crookedness in the election." The Pioneer Press reported in a June 29 article (via Nexis): "Experts said the lack of crookedness in the election, as well as a commitment to the law and not politics, allowed the five state high court justices to explore the key issues in depth." The Pioneer Press added: "Rick Hasen, an election law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the court's ruling Tuesday was so thorough that it also ruled out the possibility that either candidate -- or their lawyers -- could be accused of stealing the election."

Fox News, conservative media have repeatedly baselessly claimed MN election was stolen

Conservative media promote stolen election claims. As Media Matters has documented, Fox News personalities have repeatedly promoted baseless claims of fraud in the Minnesota race and claimed that there was a lack of impartiality in the recount process to accuse Franken of "stealing" the election. Additionally, radio host Jim Quinn has claimed the Minnesota Senate race was "stolen" and that ACORN played a role.

Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues, Government, The Senate
Network/Outlet
Fox Nation, Gateway Pundit
Person
Mickey Kaus, Katherine Kersten
Show/Publication
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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