Issues ››› Elections
  • On Today, NBC's Cowan repeated as fact discredited rumors about ballots in Franken-Coleman race

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    In a report on NBC's Today about the Minnesota Senate race, Lee Cowan repeated the discredited rumor that "ballots have suddenly appeared out of nowhere, including some found unsecured in an election worker's car." In fact, according to election officials quoted in news reports, the ballots did not "suddenly appear[] out of nowhere," and they weren't "unsecured." Cowan also aired a statement by Fritz Knaak, a lawyer for Sen. Norm Coleman, apparently critical of the handling of the ballots in question, but he didn't report previous statements in which Knaak reportedly said he felt assured that the ballots weren't compromised.

  • WSJ, Fox News' Hume and Hannity repeated baseless "car ballot" story to suggest vote tampering by MN officials


    The Wall Street Journal, Sean Hannity, and Brit Hume advanced rumors that 32 absentee ballots in Minnesota's Senate election were left in a car and mishandled, suggesting that election officials may have tampered with votes in an effort to benefit Al Franken. The claims followed similar allegations by Coleman campaign lawyer Fritz Knaak. However, none of the three mentioned that Knaak reportedly said later, "It does not appear that there was any ballot-tampering, and that was our concern." Further, election officials have repeatedly said the ballots were sealed and held in a secure location until they were counted.

  • Politico advances GOP's communist smear against MN secretary of state

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The Politico falsely reported that "in a background document distributed by national Republicans," the National Republican Senatorial Committee "accuses" Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie "of having connections to ... the Communist Party of America." However, the NRSC "background document" to which the Politico presumably referred did not accuse Ritchie of "connections" to the Communist Party USA -- claiming only that "[t]he Communist Party USA wrote encouragingly of his candidacy" -- and insofar as the document's reference to the Communist Party USA suggested a link to Ritchie, it did not back up the suggestion with any evidence.

  • The press and the Bradley effect, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Experts confirm, post-election, that the voting phenomena doesn't exist in America, just as the experts insisted pre-election. But that didn't stop the press for producing an absolute avalanche of of non-stop stories about the Bradley effect, in what seemed to be a rather transparent attempt to inject some drama into the drama-less election during the home stretch. (Obama might lose!)

    Also, please also note that the press, when now confirming the Bradley effect didn't show itself on Election Day, insists it was voters and academics who hyped the non-story in recent weeks, not the press.

  • The Strib and Al Franken, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We've been raising questions about the hometown Minneapolis Star Tribune's coverage of the Franken/Coleman race, and today we have another.

    The two are locked in what could be, statistically based on the total number of votes cast, the closest U.S. senate race in history. A recount is underway. And it's a recount required by state law, because the vote was so close. In fact, Coleman's original margin of victory, 725 votes (out of 2.9 million cast), has already shrunk to 236 votes.

    So why this Strib headline today [emphasis added]? "Sen. Norm Coleman's Democratic challenger is vowing to push ahead with a recount".

    Why the "vowing" language, which makes it seem like Franken's just being a sore loser? Under Minnesota law, recounts are required if the final margin of victory is less than one-half of 1 percent. In the case of Franken/Coleman, the margin's .01 percent. So of course there's going to be a recount.

    Also under state law, the person trailing can request that the recount not go forward. But considering there's already been a 500 vote shift in the process, naturally Franken's not going to do that.

    Seems to us that once again, the Strib has its thumb on the scale while covering this race.

  • Fox News aired graphics featuring inaccurate poll-closing times

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News repeatedly aired graphics that purported to show "POLL CLOSINGS" in Eastern Standard Time for each state. But in states that cross time zones, the times listed in the graphics reflected the western-most time zone in the state, which could result in people watching Fox News in the eastern portion of some states being left with the impression that local polls would be open for an hour after they actually close.

  • MSNBC continually airs graphic featuring inaccurate poll closing times for multiple states


    MSNBC continually aired graphics that purported to show "POLL CLOSING[]" times for each state. But in states that cross over time zones, the times listed in the graphics reflected the western-most time zone in the state, in which polls close an hour later than the rest of the state. Thus, people watching MSNBC in the eastern portion of some states could be left with the impression that local polls would be open for an hour after they actually close.

  • Vote Supression at MSNBC?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    MSNBC continues to run graphics claiming that polls close in Florida at 8 pm EST. In fact, in the vast majority of the state, polls close at 7 pm EST. There are similar problems with MSNBC's closing times for various other states.

    Sure, every once in a while an MSNBC reporter reminds viewers that the times listed at the bottom of the screen may not be accurate in all parts of the state, and viewers should check with local officials for their closing times. That's great for the viewers who happen to be listening the one time an hour or so that MSNBC decides to tell the truth.

    But anyone who doesn't happen to hear that and relies on the graphics that have been scrolling across the screen non-stop is in danger of showing up to vote after polls have closed.

    So here's the question: At what point does the fact that MSNBC is knowingly misinforming voters about their voting hours cross the line from "irresponsible" to "illegal vote supression"?

  • MSNBC misleads voters on poll closing times

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    MSNBC is currently running a graphic along the bottom of the screen listing states in which polls close at a given time.

    MSNBC's focus seems to be on when voting in a given state is finished so that they can "call" the winner.

    The unfortunate result is that MSNBC is telling viewers that polls close in Florida at 8 pm EST. But for the majority of the state, that isn't true -- in most of the state, polls close at 7 pm EST. So Florida voters who rely on MSNBC could show up to vote after polls have already closed.

    There are likely similar problems with MSNBC's listing of closing times for other states, too.

    MSNBC should really fix this. And voters should check their local poll closing times with more reliable sources.

    UPDATE: Chuck Todd explains MSNBC's graphics: "We encourage you, if you're confused about when your polls close, to go and check with your local officials ... we want to tell our viewers when we'll start seeing vote counts, and that's why we have those final times up on our screen. So if you need to know when your polls close, check with your local officials."

    Of course, if you want to know when your polls close, you should check with local officials. But in an ideal world -- a world in which MSNBC recognized that it's a really bad thing to mislead voters about when they can vote -- you could count on news organizations like MSNBC to tell you the truth about such things.

  • CNN failed to note Dole "Godless" ad's voiceover controversy

    ››› ››› MARK BOCHKIS

    CNN anchor Kyra Phillips presented a report by correspondent Joe Johns on an ad in which Sen. Elizabeth Dole accused Democratic opponent Kay Hagan of taking money from "a leader of the Godless America PAC" at "a secret fundraiser" and that included a woman's voice saying, "There is no God," while a picture of Hagan appeared onscreen. But while Johns and Phillips noted that Hagan has indicated an intention to file a defamation lawsuit, they did not note that in accusing Dole of defamation, Hagan cites the ad's false suggestion that the voice is Hagan's.

  • WSJ's Fund reported on "fraudulent voters" in Ohio, without noting prosecutor reportedly said those in question weren't "attempting to deceive anyone"

    ››› ››› LILY YAN

    In a Politico.com piece, John Fund described "out-of-state" registrants who reportedly cast ballots in Ohio as "fraudulent voters," without noting that a Columbus Dispatch article Fund apparently cited in his piece quoted an Ohio prosecutor saying of the people: "[M]y take is that they haven't come here to deceive anyone. ... They were under the impression they were entitled to vote."

  • Votings lines: Is the press going to ask why?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Stories about early voting lines in several states that have extended four, six, and eight hours are remarkable. I've been voting for the better part of two decades and we can't remember seeing anything like the widespread phenomena that's unfolding.

    As Rachel Maddow noted in a recent commentary on MSNBC, on the one hand it makes you proud that citizens would endure that kind of hardship (and let's face it, is it) to vote. (Her other point was that the lines constitute a modern day poll tax.)

    But what I can't understand is why isn't the press drilling down on the very simple question of why? Why is this happening? Is it simply the popularity of early voting, and does the process of early voting take that much longer?

    That would seem to be journalism 101. But so far, all I've read and seen are a lot of can-you-believe-how-long-these-lines-are? reports. What I haven't seen is much insight into how and why this has suddenly became a country where, at least in some sizable pockets, it can take an entire workday to cast a single vote. (Or do political journalists only do horse race and personality-based campaign reporting?)

    I'm not suggesting there's any dark conspiracy behind the long lines. Just that the state of voting in this country sorta resembles a joke, and that the press ought to treat that as a serious news story, instead of dismissing it the way today's WSJ did. In a news article about possible snafus that may unfold at the voting place tomorrow, the Journal listed one possibility as, "The lines are long." The next line in the Journal article read, "Tough luck."

  • The Strib and Al Franken, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We mentioned earlier today that there's lot of buzz in Franken/Norm Coleman surrounding a lawsuit that suggests a wealthy Coleman donor helped the candidate's wife get $75,000.

    Still no news posted on that story by the Strib yet, but the newspaper has quickly written up a story about how Coleman, just like in his previous campaigns, is suing his opponent.

    But fear not curious Strib readers who want to learn more about the $75,000 Coleman lawsuit. You can uncover the facts in the comment section of the Strib article, where this reader update was posted:

    Breaking News: Coleman pulls a Ted Stevens

    Paul McKim, the founder and CEO of Deep Marine Technology, alleges in a civil suit that Nasser Kazeminy -- a longtime Republican donor, friend of Coleman, and DMT shareholder -- directed the company to send $75,000 to the Senator and his wife. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/30/court-docs-gop-donor-secr_n_139366.html

  • Request for David Broder

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Enough with the town hall talk, already.

    We get it. John McCain wanted to have a series of of regularly scheduled town hall forums with Barack Obama. They never happened.

    And by now we all know the WaPo's dean of centrism was deeply disappointed by that. But four months later does Broder still need to hitting that point? In today's column, it's literally one of Broder's key take-aways from the entire campaign.

    The issue has certainly been weight heavily on his mind:

    *"That is why a pair of strategy decisions made in the past two weeks could prove troublesome for him. The first was Obama's turning down McCain's invitation to join him in a series of town hall meetings where they would appear together and answer questions from real voters." [June 22]

    *On June 4, McCain proposed 10 town-hall-style debates before screened audiences of uncommitted independent voters across the country. [Aug. 7]

    *"The matchup could have come much earlier, but Obama turned down McCain's invitation to join in a series of town hall meetings during the summer." [Sept. 21]

    *"He has been condemned for small-minded partisanship, not praised for his generous and important suggestion that the major-party candidates stump the country together, conducting weekly joint town hall meetings -- an innovation Obama urned down." [Oct. 30]