In his recent book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Democracy (Encounter Books, September 2004), Wall Street Journal op-ed columnist and author John Fund uses distortions and half-truths to impugn Democrats who, he states in his introduction, "figure prominently in the vast majority of examples of election fraud described in this [Fund's] book."
Fund has made numerous media appearances to promote his book. In October alone, he appeared on FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume, CNN Daybreak, twice on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, twice on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, and on National Public Radio's The Tavis Smiley Show. Numerous conservative columnists have promoted the book, including George F. Will, Michelle Malkin, Jonah Goldberg, and R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
Following are some of the false or unfounded claims in their order of appearance in Stealing Elections.
CLAIM: "[E]very single recount of the votes in Florida determined that George W. Bush had won the state's twenty-five electoral votes and therefore the presidency." (p. 28)
FACT: A post-election study revealed several plausible scenarios in which then-Vice President Al Gore would have won Florida.
As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted (here, here, and here), the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center (NORC) studied Florida's disputed ballots and concluded that Gore emerged the winner in at least four recount scenarios. The NORC study was sponsored by news organizations including The Associated Press, The New York Times, and CNN, as well as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post Co., and Tribune Publishing (which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel). According to a November 12, 2001, Washington Post article on the NORC's findings: "[I]f Gore had found a way to trigger a statewide recount of all disputed ballots, or if the courts had required it, the result likely would have been different. An examination of uncounted ballots throughout Florida found enough where voter intent was clear to give Gore the narrowest of margins."
CLAIM: The Palm Beach Post found "no more than 108 'law-abiding' citizens of all races who 'were purged from the voter rolls as suspected criminals, only to be cleared after the election." (p. 32)
FACT: The Palm Bach Post reported that "at least 1,100 eligible voters [were] wrongly purged from the rolls before last year's election."
In making this claim, Fund selectively quoted from a May 27, 2001, article in the Palm Beach Post. While the article did state that "[a]t least 108 law-abiding people were purged from the voter rolls as suspected criminals, only to be cleared after the election," it also stated that an additional 996 people who had been convicted of crimes in other states but were now eligible to vote were also cut from the rolls.
Fund then compared what he called the "trivial number" of 108 voters with the 1,420 military ballots that were rejected statewide, ignoring the other 996 who were eligible but were denied the right to vote.
From the May 27, 2001, article in the Palm Beach Post:
But a Palm Beach Post computer analysis has found at least 1,100 eligible voters wrongly purged from the rolls before last year's election -- the collateral damage from an aggressive and ill-conceived state plan to prevent felons from voting.
At least 108 law-abiding people were purged from the voter rolls as suspected criminals, only to be cleared after the election. DBT's computers had matched these people with felons, though in dozens of cases they did not share the same name, birthdate, gender or race. One Naples man was told he couldn't vote because he was linked with a felon still serving time in a Moore Haven prison.
Florida officials cut from the rolls 996 people convicted of crimes in other states, though they should have been allowed to vote. Before the election, state officials said felons could vote only if they had written clemency orders, although most other states automatically restore voting rights to felons when they complete their sentences. This policy conflicted with a 1998 court ruling that said Florida had "no authority" to deny civil rights to those who had them restored in other states. After the election, the state changed its policy.
CLAIM: Overvotes were fraudulent and helped Gore: "It appears that as many as 15,000 votes may have been altered and subtracted from the Bush total in Palm Beach County." (p. 35)
FACT: Overvotes hurt Gore more than Bush.
Fund claimed that "overvotes should concern us more than undervotes" and some overvotes "may have a less benign explanation." Citing "two former law enforcement officers and a poll worker [who told him] that they believe ballot tampering affected some Bush ballots," Fund made the otherwise unsupported charge that "using a nail, pencil, or other sharp device, they [Gore favoring precinct officials] would take a ballot and punch out Al Gore's name for president... Every Bush ballot would have been double-punched with Gore votes too, and possibly even straight-Republican ballots would have been punched with straight- Democratic holes too." Fund echoed the unfounded claims advanced at the right-wing online forum Free Republic that "[t]he news media is focused on the Democratic Party spin that voters were 'confused' in Palm Beach County. They are ignoring the 15,000 BUSH and 3,400 Buchanan votes [sic] were stolen by fraud in these 19,000 ballots."
But, according to a January 27, 2001, Washington Post report, it was Gore who had far more ballots invalidated because of overvoting. The Washington Post report stated: "[T]he biggest problem for Gore was in 'overvotes,' ballots invalidated because voters indicated multiple choices for president. ... Gore was by far most likely to be selected on invalid overvoted ballots, with his name punched as one of the choices on 46,000 of them. Bush, by comparison, was punched on 17,000." The St. Petersburg Times agreed in a November 12, 2001, report:
Badly designed ballots, such as the now notorious "butterfly" in Palm Beach County, cost thousands of Floridians their votes.
On about 66,000 ballots, in areas where voters complained about being confused, voters cast votes for two candidates. Who did they mean to choose? It's impossible to say. But consider: about 40,000 of the double votes included a mark for Gore; about 15,000 included a mark for Bush.
The St. Petersburg Times review included a computer analysis of five other recount scenarios using a statewide standard for counting votes. Bush wins every time a strict standard for counting votes is employed; Gore wins whenever overvotes also are included.
CLAIM: Democratic campaign workers in Wisconsin were caught on film in 2002 "handing out food and small sums of money to residents of a home for the mentally ill in Kenosha, after which the patients were shepherded into a separate room and given absentee ballots." (p. 47)
FACT: News reports directly contradict Fund's account.
As MMFA has documented, Fund's only citation for this example of voter fraud was "Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2002." The article Fund cited, titled "Chicago, Wisconsin," was a Journal editorial published while Fund was a member of the Journal's editorial board. MMFA could not verify Fund's and the Journal's description of the television broadcast, but several news articles contradict their account.
From an article in the November 1, 2002, edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
[Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim] Doyle volunteer Frank Santapoalo provided kringle to [Dayton Residential Care Facility] residents and a maximum of three quarters to the bingo winners. The television report also shows the facility's activity director reminding the residents that there were absentee ballots available "upstairs" if they wished to vote.
Kenosha City Clerk Jean Morgan said Thursday that about half the 33 ballots delivered to the facility had been returned to her office. Morgan said the ballots are not dated, making it impossible to figure out from the form whether any residents filled out the ballots the day of the party.
CLAIM: Democrats engaged in fraudulent activities in South Dakota during the 2002 election that led to Democrat Tim Johnson's win. (Chapter 6, pp. 77-94)
FACT: South Dakota's Republican attorney general dismissed the allegations, called affidavits supporting Republican charges "flat false."
Fund accused Democrats of a long list of wrongful activities during the 2002 election in South Dakota in which Democratic Senate incumbent Tim Johnson narrowly defeated Republican challenger Representative John Thune, including: fraudulent voter registration, keeping polling places open late, "improper counting of ballots," "interference with the election process" by "distributing campaign literature and organizing voter-hauling efforts in the polling places," and "inducements to vote" of cash and merchandise. Fund cites National Review White House correspondent Byron York's article in the December 23, 2002, edition of National Review to support his claims. York wrote:
The stories [of misconduct] are told in more than 40 affidavits collected by Republicans in the days after the election and obtained by National Review. That evidence, along with interviews with state and local officials, suggests that Johnson may have benefited from hundreds of votes that were the product of polling-place misconduct. Had those votes not been added to his total, it seems likely that the senator, who won by just 524 votes, would instead have lost, and John Thune would today be South Dakota's senator-elect.
But as blogger and journalist Joshua Micah Marshall pointed out in his Talking Points Memo weblog on December 16, 2002, South Dakota's Republican attorney general, Mark Barnett, stated in a December 10, 2002, article in the Rapid City Journal that "[m]any of the things alleged [in the affidavits collected by Republicans in South Dakota] simply are not crimes. ...Those affidavits simply do not give me cause to think there was an election rip-off." Barnett went on to say, "A fair number [of the allegations] could be read as complaints about how effective the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort was." As for the charge that Democrats' misconduct altered the election's outcome in favor of Johnson, Barnett stated, "None of the allegations in the affidavits would change the election outcome." Barnett did state that he would open investigations into "two or three affidavits out of 50," including allegations of vote buying. After the investigations, according to a December 13 Associated Press report, Barnett "dismissed allegations in three affidavits" and called them "perjury or forgery ... just flat false."
From the December 13, 2002, AP report, as quoted by Marshall:
Barnett dismissed allegations in three affidavits, purportedly from people who were offered rides to the polling place in a Johnson van and offered $10 to vote. One of the people could not be located, and the others said they did not vote and were not offered money to vote. One said his signature had been forged on his affidavit, and the other said she signed hers because a friend told her to.
"These affidavits are either perjury or forgery, or call them what you will. They are just flat false," Barnett said.
Since the release of Fund's book, The Rapid City Journal noted on October 10 of this year that "then-Attorney General Mark Barnett, a Republican, dismissed the majority of election irregularity complaints from his fellow Republicans as sour grapes." The paper also pointed out: "In his 2004 book, Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, Wall Street Journal editorial page writer John Fund devotes an entire chapter to South Dakota's 2002 Senate race. Fund recounts a series of improprieties -- many of which Barnett dismissed."