Journalistic Responsibility and the Voter Fraud Fraud.

Today’s New York Times has a perfect example of why journalists need to evaluate what people tell them, and why objectivity can’t mean simply repeating the claims of every party large enough to get a reporter’s attention:

In the battles, Republicans are mobilizing to defend against what they say is the potential for voter fraud, and Democrats are preparing to protect against what they say are efforts to suppress voting rights.

The only way for that paragraph to be quality journalism is if it is followed immediately by an explanation of the fact — yes, fact, because that’s what it is — that there is no voter fraud problem, that the absence of a voter fraud problem is well-documented and known to anyone who takes even a mild interest in the matter, and that Republican efforts to “solve” this non-existent problem can therefore only be explained by some other motivation. It seems obvious that that motivation must be a desire to suppress turnout, since the demographics most affected by needless voter ID laws tend to vote Democratic, but hey, if you’d rather offer that as one hypothesis and let the readers draw their own conclusion, that’s fine. What’s not fine is to simply report both claims as though they’re equal on their merits and then provide no factual investigation. Why bother informing readers if you’re not going to inform readers?

(Voter registration fraud is fairly common, but is completely different from voter fraud. It has no effect on election integrity — it’s a fraud on the organization(s) conducting the registration drives, not on the electorate.)

Unfortunately, the NYT did not include these easily-verifiable facts (which are even admitted by Republicans who aren’t playing along) anywhere in the article. To read it, you’d think both sides are lawyering up because each side is likely to be guilty of some nefarious attempt to steal the election. The truth is that only one side is likely to be guilty of that. That side needs its lawyers in order to perpetrate the attempt, and the other side needs its lawyers in order to defend against it.

My side is the one defending democracy. I wish both were, but if only one side is, then that’s my side. Everything else is a distraction, when you have one side actively trying to prevent the other from voting. If you’re a U.S. citizen, I hope you’ll join us, and vote for Barack Obama and for Democrats in every national race for which you are a constituent.

The birtherism idiocy was bad enough; the refusal of most Republican elected officials to outright dismiss it when the subject comes up is unconscionable. And now attempts to commit election fraud (by preventing qualified voters from voting) in the false name of preventing voter fraud? This used to be a respectable political party; maybe someday it will be again, but the signs aren’t too promising of late :-(.

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