Voter Fraud, Orwell and Chutzpah

September 27th, 2012 · 1 Comment · journalism, voting rights

By Arthur Alpert

What’s most amazing about the Albuquerque Journal is not its daily assault on journalistic decency. No, it’s the nerve – chutzpah, if you prefer – with which management crusades against fairness.

Today, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, the editors published an Op Ed criticizing certain journalists for selling out and quoting George Orwell.

To fully grasp how impossibly arrogant that is, please turn to A8, where Dan Boyd of the newspaper’s Capitol Bureau has a perfectly respectable report on how “Secretary of State Dianna Duran has aggressively pursued the possibility of voter fraud in New Mexico, but has turned up few clear-cut cases while having to scale back certain statements about illegal voting.”

That’s Boyd’s lead. Now look at the headline:

“NM Probe turns Up 19 Likely Illicit Voters”.

Now why would the headline writer ignore the reporter’s lead? And why go all the way down to paragraph six for that nugget and put it in the rubric?

Not because it’s news. It’s not news. That number goes back to last November, when Duran revised downward her March 2011 estimate of 37.

Do you think the headline writer wanted to disguise or neuter the point of Boyd’s account? Make Duran look good?

Suggest voter fraud is a major problem?

Could be, but before you make a judgment, here’s some context:

The political right has mounted a nationwide effort to impose new ID requirements for voters, ostensibly to prevent voter fraud. ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, spearheaded the effort early on. Some of ALEC’s money comes from the Koch Brothers

Under pressure, ALEC dropped its push for voter ID laws, only to be replaced by NCPPR (National Center for Public Policy Research), whose benefactors include Coors family foundations, the John M. Olin Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, as well as, per Greenpeace, Exxon Mobil. Exxon also funds ALEC and is on its board.

You have read little in the Journal about the nationwide effort at voter suppression and less – almost nothing – about ALEC, NCPPR or its financial backers.

And here’s the kicker – the Journal has totally ignored research that says voter fraud involving individual IDs is rare.

Just this past August 11, Washington Post reporters Natasha Khan and Corbin Carson wrote:

“A new nationwide analysis of more than 2,000 cases of alleged election fraud over the past dozen years shows that in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which has prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tougher voter ID laws, was virtually nonexistent.”

Their story dealt with an analysis by News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project.

Need I tell you the Journal didn’t publish it?

Also, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law (BrennanCenter.org), which has been studying the topic since 2007, recently issued a new report; this is from its summary:

“The result is plain: Voter ID laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote. They place a serious burden on a core constitutional right that should be universally available to every American citizen.

“This November, restrictive voter ID states will provide 127 electoral votes6 — nearly half of the 270 needed to win the presidency.7 Therefore, the ability of eligible citizens without photo ID to obtain one could have a major influence on the outcome of the 2012 election.”

The editors didn’t find the Brennan Center report newsworthy either. Surprised?

Right now the state of Florida is pushing to disenfranchise residents it suspects shouldn’t vote, while local activists and the federal Justice Department push back.

The Journal has ignored that ongoing tussle, too.

OK. Enough. I wanted to remind you of all that before you reached a conclusion about their headline on Boyd’s story.

Now you know you were on the right track.

But wait. Remember the story about news practices on Op Ed page? Did you notice how, about 11 graphs down, the editors associated themselves with high journalistic standards?

And, thereby, I guess, with George Orwell?

Well, he did write some fiction.

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