FOX News Channel general assignment reporter Major Garrett falsely suggested that Democrats were perpetrating voter fraud in Philadelphia. On the October 21 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume, Garrett concluded a report about Republican allegations of fraudulent voter registration by echoing, without challenge, a bogus Republican concern about the rise in Philadelphia's voter registration:
GARRETT: There's been a phenomenon going on that the Republicans have found to be quite curious. For example, in 2000, Philadelphia had an astonishing rate of registration among adults: 99 percent, one of the highest rates in the country. And, Republicans note, in Philadelphia the number of registered voters keeps rising even though the population in that city keeps declining.
But there is a simple explanation that Garrett did not report: Even as Philadelphia's total population declines, thousands of new residents arrive each year and register to vote. Voters' names are removed from the rolls more slowly, however, because of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as “Motor Voter.” The act makes it more difficult for authorities to remove from the rolls the names of voters who have not voted in recent elections, most likely because they left Philadelphia. The Department of Justice website explains that Motor Voter forbids authorities from removing voters from the rolls for failing to vote and places restrictions on removal based on changes of address.
In February 2001, The Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan organization that monitors governance issues in Philadelphia, published an article addressing the phenomenon that Garrett and Republicans find so “curious.” The article explained how Motor Voter had caused Philadelphia's voter rolls to swell even as the population has shrunk:
[R]egistration is up by more than 176,000 voters while the VAP [voting age population] is down by 81,000. Looked at another way, in 1995, registration was approximately 75 percent of the VAP, while in 2000 it was almost 99 percent.
Additional registrants are only one reason. The other is that before Motor Voter, the Board of Elections could remove people from the voter registration lists for a variety of reasons. Under prior Pennsylvania election law, election officials could remove voters who had failed to vote in five consecutive elections. Motor Voter requires that inactive voters remain listed as eligible for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years after designation. In addition, under the old law, election officials would verify each and every voter's residence once every four years by mail and, when necessary, by personal investigation.
Garrett accepted Republican “curiosity” about voter registration at face value despite his opening declaration, “Democrats say Republicans are obsessed with enforcing election rules,” and his later remark that “Republicans say election rules are synonymous with fairness.” Given their apparent concern for the rules, one might expect Republicans to be familiar with Motor Voter and its implications for registration in the important swing state of Pennsylvania.