Gotta Love the Kennedys

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Robert Kennedy Jr. got on Colbert and repeatedly lied through his teeth tonight. I guess if you're a Kennedy, you can get away with it. The full article he was on to talk about is on Rolling Stone (a bastion of BS, so Kennedy fits right in).

He has two primary claims. First:

There is no dispute that there was a deliberate concerted effort by high-level Republicans to try to steal the election.

Actually, there is a dispute about this. Indeed, most people don't agree with it, and indeed, as there is no proof of it, I consider it to be a lie. So this is a twofer: it's a lie that there's no dispute that it happened, and it's a lie that it happened.

I won't dwell much on this. Read his nonsense if you want to. He goes to great pains to show this was a Republican theft, and none of it is convincing.

His other primary claim is:

There were 350,000 Democrats who either tried to vote or were not allowed to or whose votes were not counted.

And it's a big fat lie. He gets this number (actually, 357,000, see the pretty picture) by adding up a bunch of other numbers, most of them simply wrong.


Let's start with the biggest one: 174,000. He says they were "forced to leave" because of long lines. Even accepting, for the sake of argument, the specious notion that everyone who did not wait in line was "forced" to leave by external factors (job, etc.), this number is still completely made up. The Democratic National Committee report this number is based on says:

Not providing a sufficient number of voting machines in each precinct was associated with roughly a two to three percent reduction in voter turnout presumably due to delays that deterred many people from voting.

So Kennedy takes "roughly two to three percent" and says "three percent," and comes up with 174,000. He takes "presumably due to delays," and comes up with "were forced to leave."

That's how easy it was to come up with a full half of Kennedy's 350,000. But it gets better!


The next biggest number is 72,000, which he said were "disenfranchised" because of "avoidable registration errors." This is a complete misrepresentation of the report of Cuyahoga County. First, despite Kennedy including the 72,000 in the number of voters whose votes were not counted or who were not allowed to vote, the report says 30,000 of that 72,000 were "at risk," while an additional 42,500 "may have been lost." In other words, the report itself does not claim that anyone lost their right to vote.

For example, Kennedy notes that 15,000 "lost their right to vote due to largely inconsequential omissions on their registration cards." In fact, the report says that about half the 15,000 could be corrected at the time of voting (and does not say whether they were), and as to the other half, the report does not imply in any way that the "omissions" were inconsequential, and places most of the blame on voter error.


This is another made-up number, the number of people whose votes were "invalidated by faulty voting equipment." 95,000 ballots in Ohio recorded no vote for President, and Kennedy just assumes "at least" 66,000 of those were incorrectly invalidated. There is no other data to back up this claim.


Yet another made-up number (sensing a pattern?). This is 1/10 the number of people purged from the voter rolls for failing to vote in two previous elections: Kennedy assumes 1/10 of those people would have voted. Further, he assumes those people would not have received the notice that they were removed from the rolls (a perfectly normal procedure, one that should be conducted more often), or would not have re-registered accordingly if they did.


The number of voters who "had ballots discarded because they stood in the wrong line." I don't know much about this election-law issue, so for the sake of argument and because it is almost 1 a.m., I'll provisionally accept it. From what little I know about provisional ballot law (which is more than most people, I suppose, but not nearly as much as the people involved), I'd tend to agree with Kennedy that the decision was incorrect, but a. that assumes I can take Kennedy's word for what happened, as I didn't go back and check it all, and b. I didn't check out the number itself.


Kennedy claims 5,000 voters were turned away by legal challenges, on election day, to their right to vote. I cannot find where he gets this information in the DNC report he cites, but the report makes clear there is no hard data on this. Further, as Kennedy concedes, the Supreme Court upheld the process used, and there's no evidence presented that the challenges were incorrect, so even if the number can be trusted, it can't be reasonably included, as there's no reason to think these were legal voters.

Republicans Fault

Again, I am not going to dwell on the fault issue, but note that there is nothing at all linking the 72,000 to Republican actions (Kennedy assumes that the registration problems were related to Blackwell's decisions, but the report does not claim this); the 66,000 are not linked to anything remotely partisan; and the 30,000/300,000 were mostly removed at the request of Democratic election officials. As to the 174,000, the line length problem is far more complex and involved far more politicians and public officials than the few he mentions, many of them on both sides of the aisle.

Democrat Votes

There is no evidence of any kind presented that the problems caused 350,000 Democrats to lose the vote, which was his claim on Colbert. Further, there is scant evidence that even suggests that Democrats bore even the brunt of the problems.


He claims 357,000 legal voters were denied the right to vote, or did not have their legal vote counted. He has no actual data to justify the inclusion of at least 347,000 of the 357,000, and his claim that this is mostly the fault -- let alone the intent -- of Republicans is, to be kind, specious; his claim that 350,000 Democrats lost their right to vote is completely unsubstantiated.

One more bonus Kennedy claim:

In addition to that, there were 80,000 people in Eastern Ohio who voted for Kerry and had their vote shifted to Bush.

As you should not be surprised by now to learn, this, too, is false. Kennedy claims that because a larger percentage of people in those precincts voted for Gore in 2000, therefore there was something fishy going on. Because ... well, duh!

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"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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