‘Unsupported by the facts’

‘UNSUPPORTED BY THE FACTS’…. For all the awful coverage of the Republicans’ nonsensical “voter fraud” hysteria — CNN, I’m looking in your direction — it’s probably worth praising major news outlets that get it right. ABC News’ report was actually pretty good at moving beyond reporting what the McCain campaign puts in misleading press releases.

Charges of potential vote fraud volleyed by Republicans, including Sen. John McCain himself, are out of proportion to reality, according to election experts…. McCain’s voter fraud worries — about Acorn or anyone else — are unsupported by the facts, said experts on election fraud, who recall similar concerns being raised in several previous elections, despite a near-total absence of cases.

“There’s no evidence that any of these invalid registrations lead to any invalid votes,” said David Becker, project director of the “Make Voting Work” initiative for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Becker should know: he was a lawyer for the Bush administration until 2005, in the Justice Department’s voting rights section, which was part of the administration’s aggressive anti-vote-fraud effort.

“The Justice Department really made prosecution of voter fraud of this sort a big priority in the first half of this decade, and they really didn’t come up with anything,” he said.

“We’re chasing these ghosts of voter fraud, like chickens without a head,” said Lorraine Minnite, a political science professor at Barnard College in New York who has researched voter fraud and fraud claims for most of the past decade. “I think it’s completely overblown, I think it’s meant to be a distraction.”

“This stuff does not threaten the outcome of the election,” said Minnite. “How many illegal ballots have been cast by people who are fraudulently registered to vote? By my count, it’s zero. I just don’t know of any, I’ve been looking for years for this stuff.”

The report added, “Despite the experts’ opinions, a McCain-Palin campaign spokesman reiterated that their concern was real.” But it nevertheless went on to point to assessments from a Republican governor, non-partisan academics, and a prosecutor, all of which helped to highlight how embarrassingly wrong the campaign is.

The ABC News report didn’t come right out and plainly say that the McCain-Palin campaign is lying, but it came pretty close.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.