Fox & Friends are very concerned at the low rate of requests for absentee ballots by the military – which just so happens to largely vote Republican – and they were so eager to blame the Obama administration this morning, they didn't have time for facts indicating otherwise. They were assisted in that effort by Cleta Mitchell, a major Republican operative presented merely as an “election attorney.”
As a banner on the screen blared, “WHERE ARE THE BALLOTS?” Mitchell said:
I think this administration has made a calculated political decision, as it does with everything, that the majority of military voters are not gonna vote for this president for re-election and so the administration has not enforced the law and has not opened the military voting assistance centers in more than half of the military installations in the world and has spent zero effort trying to ensure that our military men and women have the right to vote protected and ensured during this election.
Steve Doocy: You know what, Cleta? I think you just included a little bit of news right there. You’ve done some research and you’ve discovered that the administration – despite the law being on the books, that they’ve got to open up these voter information centers – they haven’t spent any money opening them up in many cases?
Mitchell cited a report from the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office which found, she said, that “over half of the offices that were supposed to be opened could not even be contacted” and that military personnel were not being given voter information “in their packets.” That, she concluded, is “why the numbers are so down this year compared to two years ago and certainly compared to four years ago. It’s quite shocking, really.”
Doocy’s entire effort at balance seems to have been contacting a Pentagon spokesman for comment – and then letting the viewers know they shouldn’t trust it. Doocy’s voice was dripping with disdain as he reported the Pentagon explanation for the downturn: that in 2008 there were primaries for both parties, whereas this year there were only Republican primaries.
Had Doocy tried for any real balance, he might have provided the “we report, you decide” network’s viewers with the information, straight from the Department of Defense Inspector General’s report that Mitchell cited, that Congress did not authorize the funding needed for the installation voting assistance offices (IVAOs):
We concluded the Services had not established all the IVAOs as intended by the MOVE Act because, among other issues, the funding was not available. Officials pointed out the law did not authorize DoD additional funding for this initiative and estimated IVAO costs could exceed $15-20 million per year.
Also not reported on Fox & Friends? The Department of Defense thinks other strategies would be better and more cost-effective:
DoD officials also posed concerns about IVAO effectiveness. They noted that younger military personnel were the biggest DoD military population segment and emphasized that IVAOs were likely not the most cost effective way to reach out to them given their familiarity and general preference for communicating via on-line social media and obtaining information from internet websites. They suggested assistance might be provided more effectively and efficiently by targeted advertising, itechnology, like Twitter and Facebook, and online tools, supplemented by well-trained unit voting assistance officers, who are already in place.
Moreover, FVAP officials indicated that investing in intuitive, easy-to-use web-based tools, rather than IVAOs—could substantially reduce cost and improve voting assistance. The FVAP will specifically address that approach in its pending report to Congress, and DoDIG will focus on this option during our on-going assessment and reporting.
Furthermore, the executive director of the Military Voter Protection Project whose statistics Doocy cited at the beginning of the segment, has said, "I simply don't see any politics at play" in voter assistance programs.”
But why go for facts and information when you can promote Republican talking points? Instead of interrupting Mitchell with challenges, Doocy nodded in agreement as she characterized Obama administration efforts to protect voting rights in Florida as an effort to combat “the law against illegal immigration voting, illegal alien voting.”
Doocy even took it a step further by bringing up the falsehood that the Obama administration wants to “block early voting for military members” in Ohio.
At the end, Doocy gave out web addresses where military personnel can get absentee ballots, shook his head with disapproval and said, “Too bad it’s gotten to that.”
By the way, one of the sites given by Doocy was incorrect and he later corrected it. It should have said FVAP.gov, not .org.