Media gave short shrift to allegations of election irregularities


News outlets gave only cursory attention to the findings in a January 5 report on election irregularities in Ohio, released by Representative John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.The report's release coincided with a January 6 joint session of Congress in which Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) formally objected to the certification of Ohio's 20 electoral votes, basing their objection on the report's findings. While the media did report on Boxer's and Tubbs Jones's objection -- only the second such objection since 1877 --and the release of the House Judiciary Committee report, they made only vague and partial reference to the extensive findings set out in the report.

The Conyers Report presented a litany of facts to support allegations of fraud and other irregularities that the report asserts "resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters." The executive summary lists 12 specific examples of fraud or other irregularities in voting or vote counting, which are further explored and explained in detail in the body of the report.*

The Democratic members of Congress who objected to President Bush receiving Ohio's electoral votes did so based upon of the findings of the Conyers report, according to a January 6 "Inside Politics" report on

In a letter to congressional leaders Wednesday, members of the group [of objecting members of Congress] said they would take the action because a new report by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee found "numerous, serious election irregularities," particularly in Ohio, that led to "a significant disenfranchisement of voters."

But despite the fact that the Conyers Report forms the basis of the objections of Boxer and Tubbs Jones, the media has given cursory attention to the actual content of the report.

A January 6 San Francisco Chronicle article addressed one of the many specific instances of fraud outlined in the Conyers Report:

During the recount, employees of the voting machine company Triad GSI gave some county officials "cheat sheets" on how to count the vote to avoid a full hand recount, according to the report, which quotes an affidavit from an election official in Hocking County, Ohio.

Each county was required to hand count 3 percent of the vote and run those same ballots through a tallying machine. If the totals matched, all ballots could be counted by machine. If they were off, the whole county had to be counted by hand.

While the Chronicle article gave only this brief report on one allegation, making no effort to delve into its merits, most other papers gave even less attention to the Conyers Report, merely glossing over the allegations within the report, referring to the "long lines" and "confusion over ballots." A January 5 Associated Press (AP) article addressed the content of the Conyers Report in this manner, omitting specifics on alleged fault, the scope of the alleged irregularities, or their possible impact:

The 102-page report titled "Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio?" lists such problems as unusually long lines, a shortage of voting machines in Democratic-leaning areas, confusion over provisional ballot rules and computer problems.

The report also contends there were widespread instances of intimidation and misinformation, improper purging of voter registration lists, a lack of inspection for about 93,000 ballots where no vote was cast for president, and vote totals not matching registration numbers or exit poll data.

A January 6 AP article gave the allegations similar treatment, and other papers and news services did this is well, such as January 7 stories by Knight Ridder and the Los Angeles Times.

A January 6 Boston Globe article acknowledged the release of the Conyers Report but downplayed the allegations of voter fraud as "rumors [that] have swirled on the Internet."

The New York Times reported on the release of the Conyers Report on January 6, but did not address any of the report's allegations. The Times did mention the "long lines" and "lack of uniform policies on provisional ballots" in a January 7 article on the January 6 congressional objection, but did not make any reference to the Conyers report. The Washington Post, in its January 7 report on the objection, made more specific reference to three of the allegations without mentioning the Conyers report.

* The allegations, as set out in the report's executive summary, are as follows:

  • The misallocation of voting machines led to unprecedented long lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority and Democratic voters;
  • Ohio secretary of state and Ohio Republican Party co-chair J. Kenneth Blackwell's decision to restrict provisional ballots resulted in the disenfranchisement of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of voters, again predominantly minority and Democratic voters;
  • Blackwell's widely criticized decision to reject voter registration applications based on paper weight may have resulted in thousands of new voters not being registered in time for the 2004 election;
  • The Ohio Republican Party's decision to engage in pre-election "caging" tactics, selectively targeting 35,000 predominantly minority voters for intimidation had a negative impact on voter turnout;
  • The Ohio Republican Party's decision to utilize thousands of partisan challengers concentrated in minority and Democratic areas likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of legal voters, who were not only intimidated, but became discouraged by the long lines.
  • Blackwell's decision to prevent voters who requested absentee ballots but did not receive them on a timely basis from being able to receive provisional ballots likely disenfranchised thousands, if not tens of thousands, of voters, particularly seniors.
  • Widespread instances of intimidation and misinformation in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Equal Protection, Due Process and the Ohio right to vote.
  • Improper purging and other registration errors by election officials that likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters statewide.
  • A total of 93,000 spoiled ballots where no vote was cast for president, the vast majority of which have yet to be inspected.
  • Blackwell's failure to articulate clear and consistent standards for the counting of provisional ballots resulted in the loss of thousands of predominantly minority votes.
  • Blackwell's failure to issue specific standards for the recount contributed to a lack of uniformity in violation of both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clauses.
  • The voting computer company Triad has essentially admitted that it engaged in a course of behavior during the recount in numerous counties to provide "cheat sheets" to those counting the ballots.
Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
2004 Elections
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