In these last few weeks of the 2008 election, it is apparent that John McCain’s campaign has rolled completely off the tracks. His poll numbers are mirroring the collapsing trends of the Dow Jones (a Rupert Murdoch enterprise). Desperation has set in that is represented by his pathetic attempts to tie Barack Obama to a 1960’s radical with whom he’s had little connection. McCain has apparently concluded that the race is over if he does nothing, so if he does something nasty with the potential to backfire on him, he has nothing to lose.
Fox News has seemingly come to the same conclusion and they are aggressively pursuing a strategy they hope will either reinvigorate McCain’s campaign or cast suspicion on Obama’s presumed victory. Their plan is to hype problems reported concerning the voter registration activities of ACORN, a non-profit group that seeks to increase voter participation. But worse, their plan is to foment hostile dissent.
ACORN’s problems are real and they have much for which to answer. However, the allegations of voter fraud trumpeted non-stop by Fox News are a total misrepresentation of the nature of the problems. In fact, it is ACORN that is the victim of fraud, not the election process.
What is happening is that some of the people hired by ACORN to collect voter registrations are returning paperwork that is duplicated or falsified. In some cases they register the same name multiple times or they create registrations for imaginary figures like Mickey Mouse or Colonel Sanders. Since these people are paid per registration form that they turn in (see update below), when they hand over forms that are invalid they are, in effect, ripping off ACORN. That is indeed fraud against ACORN, who claim they are insufficiently funded to catch every instance of this scam.
What it is not is voter fraud. Not a single vote has been cast unlawfully as a result of these activities. Nor is one likely to be. While the dishonest canvassers can make a few extra dollars with this scheme, no one can actually vote who is not entitled to. Certainly nobody will show up at the polls identifying themselves as Mickey Mouse and asking for a ballot. Likewise, anyone for whom multiple registrations were submitted will still only be able to vote once because after the first time, their name is checked off by precinct workers and would not be permitted to cast another vote. So the only parties harmed here are ACORN and the political parties who receive data on registrations that is inaccurate. Since ACORN focuses on low income voters, it is mostly the Democrats who will be hurt by over estimates of new Democratic voters.
In short, there is a difference between voter fraud and voter registration fraud, and this is an example of the latter. Despite the fact that ACORN is the real victim, along with the Democratic Party, Fox News has turned their network into a 24/7 broadcaster of allegations of voter fraud that is not actually occurring. This is a deliberate attempt to try to bail out McCain’s floundering election prospects. The Fox anchors never disclose the facts enumerated above. To the contrary, they repeatedly imply that the purpose of the misbehavior is to boost Obama’s vote tally, although they never explain how that could occur.
In the past couple of days it has been impossible to tune in to Fox News without hearing another of these deceitful reports every quarter hour or more. Everyone at Fox – Brit Hume, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, Megyn Kelly, etc. – is participating in the charade. It is despicable that this pseudo-news organization can so deliberately misinform their viewers, though that may be what Fox News has always done best. But what’s truly repulsive is that their covert agenda is to lay the groundwork for a disintegration of confidence in the election process.
There is actually good reason to be suspicious of election systems in this country. But not for the reasons for which Fox is obsessed. Electronic voting machines with no paper trail should cause citizens some discomfort. And voter suppression efforts by way of purging eligible voters from voting rolls, or challenging them at the polls is being uncovered everyday. But none of these threats to fair elections are covered by Fox News.
If Fox is successful, and Obama prevails on November 4th, they might well have set in motion a frightening scenario wherein Americans taken in by Fox’s lies are convinced that the election was fixed and invalid. The degree to which they may protest that imaginary outcome could conceivably escalate to violence. We have already seen the seeds of hostility sprouting at Republican rallies for McCain and Palin, with supporters expressing their disapproval with Obama by shouting “terrorist” and “kill him” and other epithets and threats.
Fox News is deliberately fueling this divisiveness, and when they aren’t spewing lies about ACORN, they are clamoring about fabricated, forty year old associations with radicals. We can only hope that the truth about these matters manages to seep through to the glassy-eyed viewers of Fox. They are a sheltered bunch who rarely venture out of the safety of the network devoted to reinforcing what they already believe. But the facts are available and it is crucial that they be disseminated, particularly to the Foxpods who are the most likely to snap.
Update: ACORN has responded to the allegations of voter fraud and have supplied facts that are enlightening and differ somewhat from what I wrote above. In particular, they state that their canvassers are paid by the hour, not by the card, so there is NO incentive for them to falsify cards. (The incentive may lie exclusively with malicious Republicans). They also reveal that they are required to turn in all cards, even those they suspect of irregularities. And when they have done so, they have flagged the problematic cards, but their alerts have often been ignored and they are then accused of further wrongdoing. The full response is worth reading.
Fox News has set up an email box for viewers to report voter fraud: firstname.lastname@example.org. Since they are so concerned about exposing and resolving this problem, it would be great if they received a torrent of email alerting them to the problems of voter caging, purged voting rolls, voter challenges, voting machine irregularities, poll and ballot access, etc.