Michael A. Memoli’s article in the Los Angeles Times is a well balanced pieced substantiated with evidence and multiple sources and while it makes a sound claim that: “No evidence exists of widespread voter fraud. Such a collusion would be all but impossible, given the decentralized nature of U.S. elections.” It fails to provide any evidence that widespread voter fraud does not exist. Why the article does this is clear, the source (Los Angeles Times) has historically been left-of-center with regard to politics and – presumably – Memoli, the reporter writing the piece, aligns himself with these views as well.
With that in mind, the angle of the article is clear: to invalidate President Trump’s claims that widespread voter fraud occurred during the 2016 US Presidential Election.
Memoli is careful to include multiple sources to verify the statement made in the article and to conversely contradict the claims made by President Trump. He does this by essentially using both Press Secretary Spicer’s words and the evidence that President Trump cites to do convey this message in the story’s fourth paragraph. The source that Spicer uses to back-up the President’s position on voter fraud is a Pew study from 2008 that had reported 14% of people who voted, voted illegally as non-citizens – the research used to draw his conclusion, has since been debunked. Memoli goes on to write that President Trump also used an article from Infowars – a conspiracy-theory website – when making his accusations about voter fraud which included:
- Non-citizens voting
- People registered to vote in multiple states
- Votes attributed to the names of deceased individuals
Memoli provides a link to another article that states the Infowars story was rated “false” by a Politifact investigation.
The article does an okay job at utilizing sources going on to include statements from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) – gathering statements from both sides of the aisle. And then goes on to include a quote from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a democrat, which neither bolsters or diminishes the claim that there is: “No evidence exists of widespread voter fraud. Such a collusion would be all but impossible, given the decentralized nature of U.S. elections.”
What is left out of the article though is rather important – any evidence proving that widespread voter fraud does not exist. While it is true that voter fraud of size as large as 3 [million] to 5 million people would be – to quote one of the reporters at the White House – “a scandal of astronomical proportions,” neither Spicer or the reporter can provide conclusive evidence that it does not exist. The article would have been stronger had the reporter gathered sources outside of the political arena, researchers or learned professionals that could better explain and analyze the US electoral system and address the supporting/contradicting claims that are made regarding the existence of vote fraud. In fact, the article even goes so far as to critique Mr. McConnell for declining to contradict the President, when in reality his statement that, “‘it does occur,’ he said of voting fraud. ‘Most states have done a better job on this front, but the notion that election fraud is fiction is not true.’” McConnell’s statement, though, is arguably the most balanced statement made in the article.
While Memoli did not need to make a ‘slam dunk’ statement à la George Tenet, he should have provided more evidence proving voting frauds non-existence.
I understand why Memoli wrote it the way he did. Saying that there is no evidence is a hedge. In the journalism community, intelligence community, political community etc. statements like ‘plausible,’ ‘best judgment,’ ‘degree of confidence’ are used to provide a layer of protection around a claim that while likely true has the possibility of being proved otherwise. While Memoli did not need to make a ‘slam dunk’ statement à la George Tenet, he should have provided more evidence proving voting frauds non-existence.