Editorial by John Ziegler

Media Shows its True Stripes on Florida Vote Probe

6/22/2001

Have you ever visited an auto mechanic when your car was making funny noises and have him tell you that there was absolutely nothing wrong and that there would be no charge whatsoever? How about a dentist when you come in with a minor toothache, or an IRS agent when you get audited? My guess is that not too many of us have experienced such occurrences. The reason is rather obvious. It is hardly in the self-interest of the "expert" to come to any of those conclusions. If anyone tries hard enough (or is willing to stretch the truth far enough) they can find something wrong with almost any reasonably complex process. Given enough information, people will tend to see whatever it is that they want to see, especially when there is money or power at stake.

This is why no one should be at all surprised by the recent findings by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the allegations of Civil-rights abuses during Florida's 2000 election. Their report found that black voter's ballots were disproportionately tossed out in Florida's contested presidential election and suggested widespread violations of the Voting Rights Act. When the results of this probe were released, the "headline" gleefully reported in the media was that the panel had concluded that votes of black citizens were tossed out suspiciously and illegally in a manner that likely gave the election to George W. Bush.

If there was any real evidence that this were even close to being true, every single American should be outraged to the point of action, and the news media should have treated this story as one of the most important of our time. However, despite these "findings" of alleged civil rights abuses in our most sacred of institutions, in our closest election in history, the story was largely reported in a strangely contradictory, almost oxymoronic, manner. In an example of having it "both ways" likely unsurpassed even in this age where such behavior has become an art form, this report was somehow relegated to that of a "minor" story, and yet also allowed to stand largely unrefuted. So which is it? Are these findings real (and therefore of huge importance), or are they fraudulent (and therefore not worthy of the almost reverential respect they received from the news media)?

If the answer to that question lies in the nature of the facts presented to the commission, then it is clear that the news media has elected to take a "pass" on this one for fear of exposing as frauds forces for whom they have sympathy, and irritating some African Americans who seem to want to cling to the belief that they were wronged in Florida. The reality is that, despite plenty of resources and the allure of instant celebrity for anyone who came forward with proof, the six-month investigation did not reveal the name of even one person who was prevented from voting because of their race.

Instead, the commission made up of six Democrats and only two Republicans (can you imagine the outrage in the media had those numbers been reversed?) relied almost completely on statistics in their earnest effort to support a view that they obviously had already come to before they even began. According to the investigation's star witness Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University best known as a liberal television "talking head," the rate of black votes ultimately rejected was sometimes as much as three times or more the rate of non-black votes rejected.

The first problem with Lichtman's research is that, since thankfully we still don't attach an actual identity to each ballot, it essentially presumes that EVERY voter in a "black" district is black and every voter in a "non-black" district is not. But the larger fallacy of these statistics is the absurd and dangerous presumption that the ONLY possible explanation for such a disparity in vote rejection rates is some sort of concerted effort by authorities to illegally and unethically suppress the black vote.

The clearly partisan report (the six Democrats voted to adopt the report, while the two Republicans did not, which I guess means it was the Republicans who were being "partisan") neglects the reality that forty percent of black voters in Florida were first-time voters, whose error rates are always higher. It also ignored the fact that the counties in Florida with the most spoiled ballots also had the highest rates of illiteracy, and that NAACP provided faulty voting instructions to some of its members.

The commission not only decided to disregard these inconvenient pieces of important information, but also decided to base almost all of their very serious conclusions on statistics of broad generalities in a situation that clearly called for specific charges. While such data can indeed be seen as "smoke" and cause for further examination, they obviously should not be used in place of "fire," especially when the issue is of the greatest magnitude and the stakes are so frighteningly high. Isn't using statistical tendency alone to identify possible criminal suspects how the New Jersey State Police got in trouble with the "racial profiling" scandal in the first place?

The real shame of this episode is that once again the Democratic Party has been able to insidiously enflame the passions of its black base by crying "wolf" under the politically correct cover of the label "civil rights," and with the news media as a willing and cowardly accomplice. To make these types of disturbing charges with such transparent evidence is a disservice to the very cause these "civil rights" leaders claim to be defending and needlessly exacerbates the mistrust that many African Americans unfortunately already have in our system. To do so when the facts don't support your case is wrong. To do so for purely selfish and political purposes is just as unethical as these disturbing but unsubstantiated allegations of voter disenfranchisement.

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