Last week I seriously pissed off at least one local journalist by posting two competing ledes side by side, and pointing out how they guide readers in two different directions. Apparently, because the facts in the articles were mostly correct, I was entirely “wrong-headed” and “fatuous” (and perhaps drunk) to suggest that reporters might suffer from the same inherent bias that afflicts the rest of the species.
Of course the larger point missed in all the personal offense taken where none was intended, was the impact that ledes have on the way readers interpret the news, regardless of whether the actual reports are truthful or accurate. Take for example this lede from an AP story that hit the wire today:
OLYMPIA — More than 176,000 names were removed from the state’s voting rolls last year under a new statewide voter database that was developed to help counties find duplicate registrations and dead voters, Secretary of State Sam Reed said today.
The purge of illegal registrations is the result of the new system that has consolidated all 39 separate county systems into one database in January 2006.
What will readers take away from this story? That 176,000 “illegal registrations” were purged from the voter roles. That the body of the article tells a different story comes too late — a large number of readers will only remember their first impression, and an even larger number won’t bother to read beyond the opening paragraphs. You put the most important information near the top of the article; that’s Journalism 101.
As the reporter makes clear a few column inches further down, the vast majority of these 176,000 purged registrations were not “illegal.” 39,814 were duplicate registrations, a common occurrence when voters move and fail to notify election officials. 40,105 were deceased voters who had never been removed from the roles. And 91,954 were inactive registrations and voters who requested cancellation or moved to other states.
To say that these were “illegal registrations” would imply that there was some crime committed by the registrants, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Only the 4,500 canceled felon voter registrations could arguably be considered “illegal”, and even then we’ve seen absolutely no evidence that a single felon registered knowing he was violating the law.
These would be more correctly described as “invalid” and “inactive” registrations, and yes, the choice of words is important, as it shapes the way readers perceive the integrity of our elections. A lede like this only reinforces the popular misperception that our elections are corrupt and mismanaged, but as the Spokesman-Review’s Jim Camden points out on his blog, there was virtually zero evidence of voter fraud in Washington state in 2006:
So at most, we had one case of double voting out of 2,107,370 ballots cast. Which is a .00004 percent rate of possible fraud.
Secretary of State Sam Reed said he was “pleasantly surprised” with the results. The state is doing a better job of cleaning up its voter records, but added “we really don’t have a history of voter fraud here.”
Which will come as a huge shock to some of his Republican brethren, who still hope to run Dino Rossi in a gubernatorial grudge match against Chris Gregoire to win the seat that was “stolen” from him. It also might give pause to some of their pollsters, who seem to delight in reporting that people don’t have confidence that the problems of the 2004 elections have been cleared up.
On the eve of the November election, one polling firm said its survey showed that 71 percent of the people lacked confidence there’d be no problems in 2006.
Of course, if people keep insisting there are problems, even if they don’t provide any proof, some folks might just conclude those problems exist.
And some of those folks just might include AP reporters who get the facts right, but the lede wrong.
You are going to get a certain person all riled up again. You should know better than to confuse a True Believer with mere facts. Reality can do nothing to shake the faith of someone who Knows the Truth, that Washington is rife with fraud where elections are concerned. Pish to you and all your data; he knows better.
That’s 176,000 LESS votes for Cheat-O-crats next time around.
Remember the trial about the governor’s election last time, pbj? Check the findings of fact made by the Republican judge in the Republican county: The evidence proved that the only proven vote fraud was three votes for Rossi.
There was no such “finding” and that dippy hippy ear ring wearing “judge” was not a “Republican” judge, whatever that is. You crazy lefist election theftists, think anyone who isn’t as left as Stalin must be a right winger. There are plenty of liberals in counties outside the Soviet of King County.
Unfortunately, too much of the media does this. I’ve stopped reading the first two paragraphs and just skim until I find the actual facts. I’m perfectly capable of making up my own mind about them.
I do find that if the stories on a page are misleading, I come away not believing the advertising around them either.
Just shows you what anti-democratic, fascist pigs people like PBJ are. He couldn’t give a shit about the truth. He’s willing to repeat any lie, impugn any person, to seize political control.
I’m sitting here in Florida, a state that had its recount stopped so as to keep the nation from knowing how corrupt its elections are, and PBJ is fine with that, because it gave the White House to his president. Meanwhile in WA state, we had statewide machine and hand recounts with nothing but a statistically insignificant variance, absolutely proving the integrity of our elections, and he insists on repeating the same old lies that Democrats steal elections.
PBJ hates democracy. PBJ hates America.
Gee, I read the article in the PI this morning, and it occured to me that several members of my family might have been among those 176,000 names which were removed.
Why? Because in 1996 we moved. My wife and I both got new voter cards automatically in the mail (I was surprised I didn’t have to go fill out a form or something). We still get updated cards from time-to-time. But we never cancelled our registrations at our old location. After all, if they know we moved well enough to send us new voter registration cards, they must know to cancel the old registrations, right? Well, perhaps not. I imagine it would be a low priority, as the lists stacked up in boxes in the corner to be gotten to “when somebody has the time”.
Also, my wife received a renewed voter registration card for her mother, because her mail was being forwarded to my wife. Apparantly nobody told the elections people that my mother-in-law had died, so there was an open registration for her on file.
And then there’s the guy I met at church last month. He was convicted of a felony over fifteen years ago, completed a couple of years probation, but hasn’t voted since he was convicted. He also isn’t sure if his rights have been restored yet. Under the old proceedure he had to apply in court to get his rights restored, but under the new proceedure it is more or less automatic once probation is over and fines have been paid. For him, his status is a bit in limbo.
He still gets renewals of his voter registration cards mailed to him regularly, even though he hasn’t voted.
So under the newspaper article, his is an “illegal felon registration”, which is not accurate. It was legal when he registered, before he was convicted of a felony. If he attempted to vote after he was convicted, knowing he was not qualified to do so, it would be an “illegal vote”. But since he hasn’t attempted to vote, there is nothing illegal about him not canceling his existing registration.
By the way, he’s a staunch Republican. He still thinks there are WMD’s in Iraq, but the “liberal news media” is refusing to report it because they don’t like Bush. He lives in Snohomish County. So much for lost “Democratic Votes”, as PBJ likes to claim.
John Barelli spews:
Ok, PBJ. Certainly no hard data will convince you of anything, but just so that it cannot be said that we don’t at least try for dialog, here goes.
176,000 invalid registrations were removed from the rolls.
OUTSTANDING! TERRIFIC! HOORAY!
Here’s more. I’ll even give Mr. Sharkansky a pleasant “thank you”, as at least some of the impetus for this long overdue effort at coordination came from his efforts. I appreciate that someone finally got the Republican Secretary of State to perform this part of his job.
(Note – While he may be a Republican, Mr. Reed seems to have done a pretty decent job overall. I think that he simply did not see this as a major problem, as the actual incidence of voter fraud was so infinitesimal. I will choose to believe that he did not simply leave this problem hanging in order to keep this Republican talking point alive.)
Did they find anyone that voted twice? There may be one, but they’re not sure yet. I’m wholeheartedly in favor of a proper investigation of that person and prosecution as appropriate.
I know that you don’t like to tell average Republicans this, but we all know that there are a lot more Democrats than Republicans. For all your noise about Democrats cheating, we both know that Democrats really want honest elections.
Where elections are honest, we win.
Gee, the Republicans pick a county where there are only two judges, is overwhelmingly Republican, and he dismisses the judge’s conclusions because “that dippy hippy ear ring wearing “judge” was not a “Republican” judge, whatever that is”.
If Republicans can’t win a political case in a two-judge Republican-dominated county, where they choose the county, then the case just isn’t winnable on the facts. Since PBJ refuses to accept those facts, it just goes to show that his “PBJ” handle denotes what his mother makes for him for lunch each day before he catches the bus to school.
Of course, Republicans have certainly been known recently for turning on their own. They have already grumbled quite a bit about Reed and Maleng not taking a sufficiently partison stance on this issue to their liking. It wouldn’t suprise me if they didn’t mount a well-financed challenge against this judge in the next election, to “send a message” to others who might be similarly inclined to act in an independent and impartial fashion.
Tree Frog Farmer spews:
@4 Is just PatheticBlogJockey sticking his fingers in his ears and shouting “Lalalalalalal. I can’t hear you!”.
Some forms of wingnuttery so closely resemble the effects of tertiary syphilis that they are nearly indistinguishable.
You give Stefan credit that he doesn’t deserve. The new, statewide voter registration database was under development way before the 2004 election. In fact, it was required by federal law.
We long knew we had a problem with invalid registrations, and an inability for local jurisdictions to keep up with deaths, change of address, and felon status, but we just didn’t have an effective way to administer the rolls until we centralized them statewide. This problem (which never translated to voter fraud in WA state) was in the process of being fixed before the public ever became aware of it.
Sam Reed was doing his job all along.
John Barelli spews:
Oh, let’s give Mr. Sharkansky a bit of the credit anyway. Yes, it was mandated, but there are lots of mandates that never seem to materialize. He and his little group did some heavy lifting to move this along. It costs us nothing to be magnanimous (even if I doubt they would return the favor).
I think Mr. Reed has done a pretty good job all around, and I do notice that some Republicans are angry with him for not being as partisan as they would like.
Unfortunately, Republicans are not the only folks that insist on ideological purity and party loyalty above all. There are currently a bunch of bloggers in California trying to dump a moderate Democrat because she isn’t left wing enough for them.
The Republicans chase out their moderates, and we have folks that want to do the same to ours. I realize that the fringies on both sides actually consider the vast majority of us to be simply sheep that they can lead with enough lies and money, but they’re wrong.
The Republicans have learned this the hard way. Here’s hoping that we can learn from their mistakes.
13: Not to mention that since there wasn’t a perceived “problem”, nobody wanted to give the Secty of State’s office additional money for the project of “fixing” a “problem” which didn’t exist.
After all, to the Republicans any money spent by government was “wasted”, especially as long as a Democrat was the governor. That is, until it fits their political agenda to argue that the Democrats were at fault for not fixing it earlier, using money the Republicans had refused to appropriate.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@2 “pbj says: That’s 176,000 LESS votes for Cheat-O-crats next time around. 02/21/2007 at 12:21 am”
My own imformal survey reveals that 107.3% of the voting fraud around here is committed by Republicans, but you don’t have to take my word for it. This will be proven empirically in the next election. To wit: Unless Rossi wins by 175,867 votes, you’re blowing smoke out of your ass.
Excuse me, but did it ever occur to anyone that if we just don’t react to flatulence of the wingnuts, they’ll get bored and crawl back to their septic tanks???? I think they just get a lot of glee out of the amount of bandwidth we waste responding to their inflammations. It’s their whole reason for coming here.
re 16: It may not be a conscious ploy, but I think they keep coming back to see if they can find talking points that are easy to make, and difficult to refute.
They are looking for lies that work because the truth won’t get them elected dogcatcher.
They did manage to convince millions of people for decades that their economic woes (e.g., no pensions, no health insurance, and flat wages) were because of unions, minority hiring, welfare queens, and “wasteful government spending” — like that for veterans’ benefits.
Now people see the result of Conservative rule: The rich get richer and EVERYONE ELSE gets shafted.
Chadt at 16: “Excuse me, but did it ever occur to anyone that if we just don’t react to flatulence of the wingnuts, they’ll get bored and crawl back to their septic tanks????”
I used to think that it was better to just ignore people who ignored the facts and argued illogically. I reasoned that intelligent people would be able to see it for what it was, and discussing it only gave broader dissimination fo their views.
But now I believe otherwise. I’ve seen that continuing to tell the “big lie” has an effect, over time. Most people don’t have the time to check the facts. Heck, its hard even keeping up with the outragious claims the wingnuts dream up on an hourly basis. But when you ignore them, they argue that you “don’t have any response”, and use that as an additional argument against you.
So now I believe that we should quickly squash every lie they propogate, as quickly as we would a toxic bug. Let anyone who stumbles onto this site realize how demented the wingnuts are as every lie they make is quckly covered with an avalange of facts, truth, and logical reasoning.
But I also think that it’s not necessary to spend a lot of time responding to some of the more off-the-wall claims of some of the wingnuts. Some ideas don’t need to be seriously discussed, when mere derisive laughter will suffice.
I do, however, think that perhaps we should save ourselves some time in the process. I’ve been thinking about starting a website for the sole purpose of giving the truth about wingnut lies. Then we could just provide a link to the site, without going into too much detail here.
Some of the wingnut lies which were relatively successful until the past few years have proven otherwise:
1. Lie: “Democrats are big spenders”. Truth: Democrats tend to simply have a different priorities, focusing on domestic social programs which help the poor and middle class more than do the Republicans. In fact, the current Republican administration, and the last Republican Congress, were the biggest spenders in U.S. history.
2. Lie: “Democrats don’t believe in a balanced budget”. Truth: The Democrats did more to balance the budget during the Carter and Clinton administration than any other post-WWII Presidents. Pres. George W. Bush inherited a balanced budget, with projected surpluses. It was the Republican presidencies of Reagan and George W. Bush that had the biggest budget deficits in U.S. history.
3. Lie: “Republicans are more moral than Democrats”. Truth: Do I really have to go over the news accounts of the last two years? The truth is self-evident. Res Ipsa Loquiter.
4. Lie: “Dino Rossi won the 2004 Govenatorial election in Washington State”. Truth: Although it was a very close race, with a margin of victory which was statistically insignificant, the Democratic candidate Chris Gregoire won the election, as determined by a Washington State judge after a trial in a Republican-dominated county chosen by the Republicans. Despite Republican claims of vote fraud in Democratic-dominated King County, the judge only found one verifiable fraudulent vote which was cast for Rossi, not Gregoire.
etc., etc., etc.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@4 Now pbj wants us to believe Chelan County is run by Stalinists? You can make organic fertilizer out of this whopper?
Roger Rabbit spews:
@4 Hey pbj, if Bridges is a leftist judge, then shouldn’t the GOP’s $2 million lawyers have done a better job of forum shopping? Maybe the GOP should demand a refund!
Roger Rabbit spews:
@7 Careful Goldy, if you start sounding like me, some stupid trollfuck might think you ARE me.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@16 “Excuse me, but did it ever occur to anyone that if we just don’t react to flatulence of the wingnuts, they’ll get bored and crawl back to their septic tanks????”
Yeah, but there’s a couple deficiencies to this approach. First of all, when we tried that before, the only commentary was theirs and the only thing the public heard was wingnut bullshit. That’s a big part of how we got to where we are today.
The other thing is, trollfucks like pbj are the entertainment around here. They’re lion food in the Colosseum, know what I mean? This blog would be pretty damned boring without any wingnut liars to kick around, so I hope they never go away.
YOS LIB BRO spews:
PBJ? JUST ANOTHER RIGHT WING LIAR.
It took me 34 words to raise pbj’s blood pressure fifty points and get him to bust a vein. The funny thing about is that dear old Judge Bridges has been a lot better Republican than the pbj scum. Thanks for the kind words, folks; Bridges really did make a Finding of Fact (number 22 or 23) that the evidence showed that there had been three felons who had voted, and all three had voted for Rossi. Rossi’s going to have to find more felons than that if he hopes to win.
Jenna Bush spews:
Tee-hee. Well, Scooter Libby’s jury is out. Maybe Daddy can get him to move to Washington. If he’s not in jail, that is.