Accuracy in Media

A large shift in the media coverage of the 2004 Presidential Election is underway.  Focus is moving from the “horse race” to the great looming question:  will the morning of November 3rd bring with it a clear winner?

Fear of a Florida 2000 debacle has both sides scrambling in preparation.  The Kerry Campaign boasts an army of ten thousand lawyers, the Bush Camp a smaller but still impressive force of four thousand.  Senator Kerry’s campaign has, however, taken this to the extreme.  They have assembled six so called “SWAT” teams, units of lawyers and campaign officials awaiting Kerry’s orders aboard fully fueled jet airplanes all within 1 hour of each battleground state ready to contest close election results. 

A recent lead story in the Washington Post outlines how Ohio could be this year’s post-election day battleground. Republicans have already filed 35,000 challenges to voter’s eligibility and are preparing to send 8,000 recruits to polling places to challenge the eligibility of suspect voters.  “Ohio’s voter registration rolls contain more than 125,000 duplicate names and an untold number of ineligible voters,” the story reported.

All this comes from a “conflict of visions,” according to John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, author of the new book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.  Fund argues that there are two competing visions: the constrained view, and the unconstrained view.  The unconstrained view focuses on results: make sure as many vote as possible. It sometimes takes on unrealistic and idealistic things. The constrained view is committed to the rule of law. It places emphasis on the rules and procedures, in most instances the ends do not justify the means.

This “conflict of visions” has been ongoing for a long time.  It is the old argument of rights-rights-rights versus rights leading to responsibilities.  The constrained view sees voting as a right but also emphasizes voter responsibilities.  It argues that of course people have the right to vote, but inherent in that freedom is a responsibility.  Voters should go to the right polling place, provide identification, familiarize themselves with the candidates, read the instructions and make sure their ballot is properly filled out.

According to Fund, “we have a highly polar and passionate 50-50 country, we can’t rely on the honor system to ensure a clean, clear, and efficient election.”  Fund warns, “We are teetering on the brink of not having a legitimate election.”  According to a recent Time survey, 40 percent of Americans have serious concerns about their vote being counted.  With our highly polarized society, an illegitimate President Elect “would make bipartisanship impossible,” said Fund.  This election could have serious consequences.  Fund thus argues for the constrained vision.

“What we need is to have a national conversation about the rules?Let’s agree and count the votes based on that agreement.”  Fund points out that the 2000 problem in Florida was due to the State Supreme Court’s attempt to change the rules after the fact.  He urges us to “talk about the rules now.”  How valid are they?  Are they fair?  He points out the difficulty of proceeding without solid and accepted rules.  Some legitimate votes may be thrown out due to appearances of fraud; this is unfair to the respective voter.  However, an accepted illegitimate vote would cancel out a legitimate vote, which is also unfair to the respective voter.

Fund points out that 46,000 people are registered to vote in both Florida and New York City.  Of the 4,000 challenges ruled upon in Ohio so far, 1,600 have been upheld. “That is over a third!” commented Fund.  Voter fraud is rampant.  He also encourages an “open and honest discussion on whether or not we should prosecute voter fraud.”  If you have a felony that is prosecuted so leniently it will become a bigger problem, argues Fund.  He says that there are two reasons prosecutors do not like these cases.  First, because of partisanship, “50 percent of the people will be mad at you.”  The second reason is prosecutorial fear of being labeled a racist, and intimidating the minority vote.

Fund’s greatest worry is that another close election could “transfer the decision from the voters to the lawyers.”   In the words of George Will, this election appears to be well within “the margin of litigation.”

Ready to fight back against media bias?
Join us by donating to AIM today.


Comments are turned off for this article.