Voter fraud charges fly, but NYT reporters failed to verifyNovember 1, 2004 3:27 PM EST ››› DUNCAN BLACK
An article in the November 1 edition of The New York Times passed along Republican accusations of voter fraud without making any apparent effort to verify them, even though journalists at other newspapers have raised serious doubts about the accusations.
In the article, titled "Complaints: Charges of Fraud and Voter Suppression," reporters Kate Zernike and William Yardley stated:
Florida Republicans on Thursday said they had determined that at least 925 felons had either already voted illegally in early voting or had requested absentee ballots. And Ms. [Mindy Tucker] Fletcher [adviser to the Florida Republican Party] left open the possibility that the party intended to challenge ineligible voters at the polls on Election Day.
However, as an article in the October 29 edition of the St. Petersburg Times reported, the Florida Republican Party based this conclusion on "two controversial and flawed state databases" which had been rejected by the state's Republican secretary of state, Glenda Hood. In addition, the St. Petersburg Times noted that its reporters "quickly found" two people on the list who were, in fact, eligible to vote:
Records show Neal D. Bolinger, 57, of St. Petersburg had his rights restored in 1974, two years after his conviction for grand larceny, and has been voting ever since.
He used an absentee ballot last week to vote straight Republican.
It's the second time in four years his name has been flagged. He had to convince Pinellas County election officials in 2000 that he was qualified.
"If every four years I come up on the list and have to have myself reinstated, that will become a problem, and I'll have to start shaking some trees," he said.
Tampa resident Jeffrey Arnold, 44, said he received his clemency more than a dozen years ago and has been voting ever since. The exact status of Arnold and others could not be confirmed Thursday by the Times.
The New York Times' Zernike and Yardley also uncritically passed along claims by an unnamed "official of the state Republican party" in Pennsylvania that 10,000 of 130,000 letters sent "congratulating newly registered voters" were returned. No proof was offered that 10,000 letters were actually returned; in fact, when reporters for the Philadelphia Inquirer asked for a list, Republicans provided only six names, as an October 31 article noted.
In addition, the New York Times article stated that the returned letters, assuming they exist, indicate "that the people had died or that the address was nonexistent." The article failed to note that the letters could have been returned for several other reasons, especially if, as Republican parties in other states such as Ohio have done, they were sent as registered mail; voters may not have been home when the letter was delivered, or they may have refused to receive a mailing from Republicans.