James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘voter fraud’

Since your ballot won’t matter, why not vote against both Obama and Romney?

Posted by James McPherson on June 25, 2012

Newspapers tell you every election season that your vote counts. I’ve even said so myself in my pre-blog life, including six years ago with a guest opinion in my local newspaper. But at least I noted that people were “least interested in the local issues they could most influence and which usually affect them most. They’re much more likely to vote in national elections, especially if political ads and talk-show spin generate enough heat (though rarely much light) about inflammatory ‘threats’ such as flag burning, homosexuality, immigration and terrorism.”

But here’s a secret that all those folks who keep predicting (probably incorrectly) a close presidential election don’t mention — however close the election is, your vote probably won’t matter at all. “You have a better chance of being killed by a meteorite than you do of having your vote determine the next president,” I heard a political science professor professor say years ago. With that sentence in mind, I’ve since told my students, “If you go to the polls thinking you’ll affect the presidency, make sure you’re looking up as you go.”

Your vote won’t be rendered meaningless by voter fraud, by the way, or probably by voter suppression (though the latter is far more likely, regardless of what conservative jokers may claim). Your vote probably won’t be negated by Republican-controlled electronic voting machines. No, your vote for president — unless you’re a resident of one of a half-dozen to a dozen states — won’t matter because of where you live.

As I noted in a recent post that contained links to several electoral maps, most states are already out of the running unless something dramatic happens between now and November. That’s why, as CNN noted today, a new Barack Obama ad campaign “will run in Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Florida.” If you don’t live in one of those states, your vote for president likely won’t matter at all.

But wait, you say. A generally “blue state” like Washington could shift, leaning toward Mitt Romney or a virtual tie. It’s even remotely conceivable to imagine that a state such as Idaho or Texas could move toward the Obama side. But so what? If either of those were to occur, it would mean that the election was about to become a landslide. And the winner would be known long before individual Washington or Idaho votes were counted.

I’ve voted in heavily red states most of my life, and therefore have not voted for either major party candidate in most presidential elections. When I lived in Idaho and Arizona, I knew that the Republican candidate would get all of my state’s electoral votes. And since failing to vote at all might be viewed as simple apathy, instead I’ve voted for independent candidates who were most in line with my views. That is an especially appealing approach to me when we have two conservative candidates both fighting for the same corporate dollars, as we do now.

The so-called Republican “war on women,” Fox News, the economy, a gutless Congress, events abroad, the Supreme Court’s immigration decision today or its health care decision on Thursday may change the outcome of the election — but not the effect of your vote. (By the way, the Court ruling most likely to affect elections in general is another from today that is getting less attention that immigration or health care; it states that the court’s previous abysmal “Citizens United” decision overrides state election laws.)

So here’s what I suggest: Unless you live in one of those very few true battleground states, cast your presidential ballot for anyone other than Obama or Romney. Well, maybe not Ron Paul, because he’s crazy. OK, he’s not the only one, so even him. More importantly, how about reading up on your Congressional and local races? There your vote might actually matter.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

ACORN makes GOP & media nuts while others try to steal the election

Posted by James McPherson on October 22, 2008

A recommendation: Before you consider for one more second the potential problems associated with ACORN, read the latest issue or the online version of Mother Jones magazine, which offers “10 Ways to Steal an Election.” Some of the methods are illegal, some are just sleazy, all have been used by conservatives, and all are more insidious and more likely to affect the final vote count than anything ACORN is doing now.

The magazine also carries a story about the Republicans’ cynical last-ditch effort to win the election (or to raise doubts about the veracity of Barack Obama’s victory). Unfortunately, too many of the supposedly liberal mainstream media, not just Fox News, are devoting disproportionate amounts of time and energy to the GOP line about ACORN stealing the election (though they don’t seem to be yet buying the conservative talking point that perhaps ACORN is doing so with the help of Barack Obama).

Perhaps ACORN is worth looking into, though I have yet to see anyone explain how registration fraud equals voter fraud (or point out that inflated registration numbers may do more harm to Democrats, who might have unrealistic expectations about voter turnout, than to Republicans, who should know that Mickey Mouse won’t show up to cast a ballot). A bigger problem, though, is the relative lack of meaningful stories about the real election fraud threats. For those we have to turn to such media as last night’s episode of the Colbert Report (see the video of “The Word“) and Mother Jones.

Speaking of which, you also can see an interactive map of states in which election “shenanigans” are known to have occurred. I doubt that the mainstream media, interested in keeping the election close (and in not creating an anti-media backlash vote), will be moved to carry their own versions of the map. After all, unlike Real Clear Politics and CNN, over at MSNBC and CBS, they’re still running maps that show neither candidate having enough likely electoral votes to claim victory.

I dislike the fact that the media base so much election coverage on polls. But I dislike even more that they they misrepresent their own polling information, which now suggests, barring some nearly miraculous event, that Obama will win big and Sarah Palin will be sent packing back to Alaska (but apparently won’t be packing the $130,000 worth of new clothing bought for her by the GOP since she became the VP nominee).

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

How many cell phone users won’t vote for a black guy?

Posted by James McPherson on October 15, 2008

I raise the above question–not a serious one–to highlight a couple of issues that concern pollsters who worry that today’s political polls may be flawed. The first is the so-called “Bradley effect,” which supposes that many people who tell pollsters they favor an African American candidate will then cast ballots for a white candidate instead.

With Barack Obama we’ve also heard discussion of a supposed “reverse Bradley effect,” which theorizes that some white people might not openly admit they’ll cross racial lines to vote, but under certain conditions (such as a compelling individual candidate or a collapsing economy while the white candidate’s party is in the White House)  will do so in the privacy of the polling booth.

Another issue, raised by the National Journal today, is related to cell phone usage. As I noted back in August when I predicted a substantial Barack Obama victory: “Many surveys rely heavily on phone interviews, which tend to underrepresent college students and techno-savvy people who rely on cell phones and/or computer phone services instead of traditional landlines. Yet those people are the ones who seem to be among Obama’s most enthusiastic supporters. I would not be surprised in this election to see Obama’s numbers underrepresented by 5 percent or more in many polls.”

I actually hope the polls are screwed up (assuming my favored candidate wins, of course); maybe then journalists will stop relying so much on polling for political coverage. Unfortunately if the polls are significantly wrong, many people will suspect another culprit: voter fraud.

Conservatives are now beating a drum about ACORN–despite the facts that the voter registration problems involving signature gatherers were discovered and reported by the organization itself, that no real problem exists (after all, “Mickey Mouse isn’t showing up on election day, and states have safeguards built in), and that the ploy is an obvious Republican smear designed to harm the credibility of the organization.

As Editor & Publisher points out, it is too bad (though perhaps not surprising) that so many in the media have helped hype the story, while turning a blind eye to the type of voter problems that may have cost Democrats the presidency in both 2000 (in Florida) and 2004 (in Ohio), and which Republicans are pursuing for this election, as well. “The allegations can also help cover up actual election fraud undertaken on behalf of McCain,” author Glenn W. Smith writes, adding that the media seem to find the more common situations that limit voter turnout to be somehow less egregious than the remote possibility that someone might accidentally be allowed to cast a vote: “Exclusion is a tradition with deep roots in our cultural narratives and founding documents. Historically accustomed as we are to exclusion, maybe we don’t judge it to be news.”

As for the supposed “threat” of ACORN, John McCain characterized the organization more fairly a couple of years ago as a keynote speaker FOR the group. You can see his remarks, along with more voter fraud discussion, in the first video (from “Countdown”) below. If you have the stomach for it, the second video–with claims similar to those made in an ad that drew a “pants on fire” rating from PolitiFact.org, shows the new, dishonest, attacking McCain perspective. In about an hour from this writing, we’ll see which version shows up for the debate.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »