KSTP TV spreads voter fraud myth


KSTP TV decided to shock its viewers with the news that 140 Somali voters registered to vote at the same address. OMG, massive organized voter fraud, finally proven! Just like all those other times it was finally proven except, oops, the allegation proved groundless. This are pretty easy to debunk too, at least for anyone who thinks accusations should be accompanied by evidence. KSTP is owned by a major GOP donor, Stanley Hubbard, which often leads to suspicion about its reporting. I’ve usually not seen anything in their reporting that looks like a Fox News wannabe. This looks to me less like partisan bias and more like reporting that is sloppy and sensationalist. Of course, for the people who worked on this story, being sloppy and sensationalist should be pretty embarrassing. I do get how these stories slip through, given the general shoddiness of local TV news that has been the norm pretty much since its invention.

I also get now why so many people in Minneapolis spit when they say Brian Rice’s name.

To the specifics of the allegations:

According to voter registration records from the Secretary of State’s office and the DFL Voter Activation Network more than 140 people used 419 Cedar Avenue South in Minneapolis as their home address, when they registered to vote.

The address is for what’s called Cedar Mailbox Center. The building manager and mail center’s employees weren’t comfortable speaking on camera, but they said they were surprised by the allegations.

They say nobody put the wrong address on purpose. For 13 years, many Somali-Americans from all across the state have been getting their mail there. They say nobody lives there.

Brian Rice is representing Phyllis Kahn, and making the charges against Mohamud Noor, the candidates in the DFL primary in HD60B.

The first problem with the allegation is probably obvious to anyone who has ever rented a mailbox. People who move frequently, which describes many low income people, often rent mailboxes so they don’t have to worry about their mail following them as they move. So having a rented mailbox isn’t a sign of intending to commit the organized fraud Rice is claiming in front of KSTP’s credulous reporters when he said, “I think there is a coordinated effort to use this address to bring voters into the DFL primary election on August 12, that’s what I think is going on.” Notice he said “coordinated effort”. That’s a lot different than some voters making a mistake. What is the evidence of a “coordinated effort”, and not merely just a bunch of people renting mailboxes there? KSTP reported the owner told them they’ve been renting out mailboxes for 13 years: so did the 140 people registered to vote using that address just register, or were they been using those mailboxes prior to the campaign? It would seem a simple matter for either Rice or KSTP to check this out, but they either didn’t, or they’re not sharing the result.

It is in fact the law that voters must register where they actually reside, even if their permanent address is different. Rookie voters, and we are talking about many inexperienced voters in the Somali community, could reasonably assume they’re supposed to use their permanent address, not just whatever temporary housing they’re using now. Registration forms don’t say this. The forms merely offer space for a mailbox if you can’t receive mail at your address, which might imply to a new voter that they should just use their permanent address only. “Voter fraud” requires intent, not merely mistakes. That’s also the law, not my opinion, yet Rice is making, and KSTP TV is airing, a specific charge, with no evidence. Anyone think the voter fraud crazies we call the Republican Party will regard the lack of evidence, or will this be ginned up into the latest national voter fraud scandal, for which most people will never hear the debunking?

Yet Rice can still claim to be a lawyer and KSTP TV can still claim to be journalists. Legally I mean, not in the sense of deserving professional respect.

For full disclosure, I haven’t backed a candidate. I’m still not ready to do that because I have reservations about both.

Here is the KSTP TV report.