CNN reports leave out relevant facts on ACORN voter registration allegations

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

From October 6 through October 15, CNN aired at least 54 segments mentioning allegations that ACORN submitted allegedly false or duplicate voter registration applications this year in a number of states. However, only one of those segments mentioned both of the following two relevant points: 1) that the statutes of most of those states require third parties registering prospective voters to submit all registration forms they receive; and 2) that actual instances of illegal votes being cast as a result of registration fraud are extremely rare. Of the 54 CNN segments addressing the allegations against ACORN, two mentioned only the former of those two points, while one mentioned just the latter.

From October 6 through October 15, CNN ran at least 54 segments mentioning allegations that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now [ACORN] submitted allegedly false or duplicate voter registration applications this year in a number of states, according to a Media Matters for America search* of the Nexis database. But only one of those segments mentioned both of the following two relevant points: 1) that the statutes of most of those states require third parties registering prospective voters to submit all registration forms they receive; and 2) that actual instances of illegal votes being cast as a result of registration fraud are extremely rare. Indeed, in an October 10 press release, ACORN noted that "in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic." And in a 2007 report titled "The Truth About Voter Fraud," New York University's Brennan Center for Justice stated, "[W]e are aware of no recent substantiated case in which registration fraud has resulted in fraudulent votes being cast." Of the 54 CNN segments addressing the allegations against ACORN, two mentioned only the former of those two points, while one mentioned just the latter.

While the media have devoted great attention to charges of voter fraud, in past election cycles such charges have largely proven baseless. According to the Brennan Center:

There have been several documented and widely publicized instances in which registration forms have been fraudulently completed and submitted. But it is extraordinarily difficult to find reported cases in which individuals have submitted registration forms in someone else's name in order to impersonate them at the polls. Furthermore, most reports of registration fraud do not actually claim that the fraud happens so that ineligible people can vote at the polls. Indeed, we are aware of no recent substantiated case in which registration fraud has resulted in fraudulent votes being cast.

Additionally, an October 16 ABCNews.com article reported that Sen. John McCain's "voter fraud worries -- about ACORN or anyone else -- are unsupported by the facts, said experts on election fraud, who recall similar concerns being raised in several previous elections, despite a near-total absence of cases." The article quoted David Becker, "a lawyer for the Bush administration until 2005, in the Justice Department's voting rights section, which was part of the administration's aggressive anti-vote-fraud effort," who stated, "There's no evidence that any of these invalid registrations lead to any invalid votes" and added: "The Justice Department really made prosecution of voter fraud of this sort a big priority in the first half of this decade, and they really didn't come up with anything."

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Justice crime statistics cast doubt on the existence of widespread voter fraud. According to a report by the Justice Department's Criminal Division of prosecutions between October 2002 and September 2005, the Justice Department charged 95 people with "election fraud" and convicted 55. Among those, however, just 17 individuals were convicted for casting fraudulent ballots; cases against three other individuals were pending at the time of the report. Further, on April 12, 2007, The New York Times reported, "Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews."

During a report on the October 12 edition of CNN Sunday Morning -- the only CNN report to mention both of the above points -- anchor Betty Nguyen aired a clip from ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis's October 10 interview on CNN's Larry King Live, in which Lewis said: "First of all, in every county when you register voters, you've got to turn in every single card no matter how weird or wacko it may appear, that's the law." Later in the segment, Nguyen asked Demos.org's Steve Carbo, "I mean, are these numbers inflated here or is ACORN truly involved in voter fraud?" Carbo replied, "I think we need to be clear about what voter fraud is. The record shows that it's exceedingly rare for individuals to show up on the polls on Election Day and pretend to be other people, to vote twice, to vote illegally."

Three segments mentioned one, but not both points. Two segments mentioned that many states require ACORN to submit all registration forms it received. On the October 10 edition of Larry King Live, Lewis said, "First of all, in every county when you register voters, you've got to turn in every single card no matter how weird or wacko it may appear, that's the law." In a later segment on the same broadcast, after radio host Stephanie Miller called the allegations against ACORN "a non-story," King asked her, "Because you have to bring whatever they fill out?" Miller replied, "Yes."

One additional segment suggested that voter fraud is extremely rare. During a roundtable on the October 11 edition of CNN Newsroom, civil rights attorney Avery Friedman said, "Now in reality, when either Mr. or Ms. Turkey show up at the voting booth, today there is a built-in protective mechanism. So, although it sounds like a big deal, and I think some of the partisans are trying to paint it that, for those people who get minimum wage, who have quotas, those people are in trouble for doing these kinds of things. But the bottom line is that the system will work. I don't think Jive Turkey will be voting this November."

The following 50 CNN segments did not include either of the above relevant facts (all program times ET):

Date

Show

Anchors/Correspondents/Guests

10/15

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Host Lou Dobbs, correspondent Bill Tucker

10/15

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dobbs, correspondent Drew Griffin, Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf

10/15

CNN Newsroom 1 PM

Anchor Kyra Phillips, Griffin

10/15

CNN Newsroom 11 AM

Anchor Tony Harris, Griffin

10/15

CNN Newsroom 10 AM

Anchor Heidi Collins, correspondent Brian Todd

10/15

CNN Newsroom 9 AM

Collins, Griffin

10/15

American Morning 7 AM

Anchor Kiran Chetry, Griffin

10/15

American Morning 6 AM

Chetry

10/14

Anderson Cooper 360

Host Anderson Cooper, political analysts David Gergen, Roland Martin, Alex Castellanos

10/14

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dobbs, Tucker

10/14

Situation Room 6 PM

Host Wolf Blitzer, Todd

10/14

Situation Room 6 PM

Blitzer, Griffin

10/14

Situation Room 4 PM

Blitzer, correspondent Jessica Yellin

10/14

CNN Newsroom 3 PM

Anchor Rick Sanchez, presidential candidate Ralph Nader (I)

10/14

CNN Newsroom 3 PM

Sanchez, correspondent Joshua Levs

10/14

CNN Newsroom 2 PM

Phillips, WEWS reporter Duane Pohlman

10/14

CNN Newsroom 1 PM

Phillips, Levs

10/14

CNN Newsroom Noon

Harris, Pohlman

10/14

CNN Newsroom 11 AM

Harris, Griffin, Blitzer

10/14

CNN Newsroom 11 AM

Harris, Tucker, Levs

10/14

CNN Newsroom 10 AM

Collins, Pohlman

10/14

CNN Newsroom 9 AM

Collins, Tucker

10/14

American Morning 7 AM

Chetry, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (R)

10/13

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dobbs, Tucker

10/13

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dobbs

10/13

Situation Room 5 PM

Blitzer, Griffin

10/13

CNN Newsroom 1 PM

Phillips, Griffin

10/12

The Next President: Battlegrounds

Host John King, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner

10/12

Lou Dobbs This Week

Dobbs, Griffin

10/12

Lou Dobbs This Week

Dobbs, Tucker

10/12

Lou Dobbs This Week

Dobbs, New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis, Sheinkopf

10/12

CNN Sunday Morning 9 AM

Anchor Betty Nguyen, Griffin

10/11

The Next President: Battlegrounds

King, Brunner

10/11

Lou Dobbs This Week

Dobbs, Griffin

10/11

Lou Dobbs This Week

Dobbs, Tucker

10/11

Lou Dobbs This Week

Dobbs, Louis, Sheinkopf

10/10

Larry King Live

Host Larry King, Griffin

10/10

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dobbs, Tucker

10/10

CNN Newsroom 1 PM

Phillips, Griffin

10/10

CNN Newsroom Noon

Harris, Griffin

10/10

CNN Newsroom 9 AM

Nguyen, Griffin

10/10

American Morning 8 AM

Anchor John Roberts, Griffin

10/9

Anderson Cooper 360

Cooper, Griffin

10/9

Larry King Live

King, Democratic strategist Tanya Acker, Republican strategist Andrea Tantaros, Democratic strategist Paul Begala

10/9

CNN Election Center

Host Campbell Brown, Griffin

10/9

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dobbs, Griffin

10/9

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dobbs, Tucker

10/9

Situation Room 5 PM

Roberts, Griffin

10/9

CNN Newsroom 3 PM

Sanchez, Griffin

10/7

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dobbs

* Media Matters searched the Nexis database for CNN for "acorn" from October 6 through October 15

Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
Network/Outlet
CNN
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, 2008 Elections
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