More misinformation about Philly election report

    “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” Mark Twain is said to have observed.

    I’ve been trying to strap some sneakers on the truth about a widely-reported study on voting issues in Philadelphia, but Rob Gleason is way ahead of me.

    The Pennsylvania Republican party chairman is again mis-representing the study by Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, this time in an opinion piece in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat. Gleason tries to terrify western Pennsylvania voters with tales of stolen votes in Philadelphia and convince them that’s why we need the state’s controversial new voter ID law.

    Gleason writes that the report released two weeks ago found hundreds of voting irregularities in Philadelphia that impact elections by “by canceling out someone else’s legally cast ballot.”

    Thanks to these irregularities in Philadelphia, your vote in Ebensburg, Johnstown, Portage or anywhere else in Cambria County might not be counted,”  Gleason wrote.

    There’s just a little problem here. The information Gleason cites to support his claim is nowhere in the Schmidt report.

    Gleason asserts that report found that “between 200 and 1,000 voting irregularities were uncovered in fewer than 1 percent of Philadelphia’s voting precincts during the 2012 primary.”

    Wrong. Just flat wrong. The problems cited in the small sample of 14 Philadelphia precincts amount to a tiny handful of votes, virtually none of which would have been affected by requiring identification at polling places.

    The larger number of “irregularities” the report cites, 744, occurred in a citywide review of all polling places, and as I explained in my last piece, they’re very likely clerical errors that occurred well after the election, affecting no votes at all.

    If you have the patience, you can read the full report here, or my explanation a week ago here.

    The debate over voter ID is increasingly muddied by bad information, including what appear to be wildly inflated estimates of the number of registered voters who don’t have the necessary identification under the state law.

    An example: this story in Politico.com which states as fact that Pennsylvania’s “Transportation Department released figures showing that more than 750,000 registered voters in the state — 9.2 percent of voters there — do not have the required forms of ID to vote in November.”

    In fact, the comparison of PennDot and state voter data was never presented as a reliable number, and has since shown to be way off. The Inquirer reported Sunday that among voters listed as not having PennDot ID’s are a former mayor of Philadelphia, four City Council members and a State Supreme Court justices, all of whom are licensed to drive.

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