Battle of the Ballot Balladeers

So after Robert Kennedy writes a piece on the voting shenanigans in Ohio during the 2004 election, Salon’s Farhad Manjoo comes back with a rebuttal, accusing Kennedy of “distortions and blatant omissions.” Much of what Manjoo categorizes as either a “distortion” or a “blatant omission,” I found to be better filed under “trusting the reader to connect the dots”—it wasn’t meant to be the definitive word on the issue, but rather a primer for the uninformed (which also makes Manjoo’s sniffing at the lack of anything “new” rather irritating and pointless)—but wev.

The thing is, Manjoo seems to have made exactly the type of errors of which he accuses Kennedy, if you check in with Bob Fitrakis.

After reading through all three pieces, and looking at much of the supporting evidence, I’ve got to go largely with Kennedy and Fitrakis. There are two big problems I have with Manjoo’s piece. One, as stated quite well by Avedon:

Manjoo also uses another trick that's become common among Bush-won explainers to discount anomalous results in 2004: dismissing the oddities as being consistent with the 2000 election results.

Has everyone forgotten so soon that much of the result in 2000 was itself anomalous? Don't we recall that Republicans were explaining-away odd outcomes in Florida counties with unsupported claims way back in 2000? Am I alone in remembering that, even then, Democrats were pointing out that this was a new phenomenon? Unless debunkers are prepared to go back to earlier elections when results were not in dispute, we can't accept 2000 as a control against which to measure the 2004 election.
Two, Manjoo continually seems to ignore Kennedy’s premise that it was not any single incident he details that could have thrown the election, but the cumulative effect of many irregularities. Debunking one or the other—even effectively and indisputably—doesn’t nullify the premise wholly.

And, frankly, “evidence” like this from Manjoo is just pathetic:

Listen to the chairman of the board of Franklin's election office, an African-American man named William Anthony, who also headed the county's Democratic Party. As I first pointed out in my review of "Fooled Again," any effort to deliberately skew the vote toward Bush in Franklin would have had to involve Anthony -- and he has rejected the charge that he'd do such a thing. "I am a black man. Why would I sit there and disenfranchise voters in my own community?" Anthony told the Columbus Dispatch. "I've fought my whole life for people's right to vote."
The logistical counter to this is provided by Bob Fitrakis (who also points out that Anthony is the second person Manjoo identifies as the chair of elections in Franklin County; he’s correct about Anthony’s title in this case, at least, if not about the role of the position-holder). I was more struck by his inclusion of Anthony’s quote about his race, which is something Anthony may quite validly feel, but is a far cry from serving as unassailable proof that Kennedy was mistaken. After all, Kennedy’s article largely centers on the mischief of Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who is himself black—and disenfranchising voters is hardly the only conservative policy that would have a disproportionately negative affect on the black community about which he is enthusiastic. Manjoo’s invocation of Anthony’s quote seems to imply that nothing could go horribly wrong for black voters in Ohio under the oversight of a black man, but that’s patently not true of Kenneth Blackwell, so Anthony’s statement is useless. I’m not suggesting that Anthony did do something wrong; I don’t believe he did. I just think it was sloppy and inflammatory of Manjoo to use that sort of thing as a counter-argument when it’s completely irrelevant.

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