The Right Way to Report Voter Fraud

We spend a lot of time in these news updates showing how charges of voter fraud are used to discredit voter participation efforts and prime the pump for voter suppression efforts, such as the passage of voter ID bills, pushing for proof of citizenship, engaging in draconian voter purge efforts, and imposing sever restrictions on voter registration drives. We have also spent a lot of time carefully delineating the politics behind these efforts, starting with our March 2007 report The Politics Of Voter Fraud and continuing on in these diaries to name but two venues.

What is striking about how the process of disenfranchisement and voter suppression works is how much it relies upon the media to repeat and amplify the breathless and hyperbolic accusations of so-called voter fraud against voter registration drives. If journalists were to spend any time at all investigating the sensational claims -- often made by people with a direct partisan interest in the outcome of an election -- they would find that the accusations are mostly taken out of context, are limited to a few instances, and have never, ever, been proven to have resulted in any fraudulent vote being cast.

Sadly, the history of this issue shows that it has been bereft of this kind of basic journalism, even through the 2006 mid-term elections. This is important because haphazard reporting of partisan claims of voter fraud without checking the facts is how the media helps these voter suppression efforts. These stories not only deter potential voters from getting on the rolls, but, as noted above, inspire bad election reforms aimed at disenfranchising voters, particularly those that are currently underrepresented in the electorate.

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